When a young adult sets foot in the workforce right out of school, a kaleidoscope of emotions like excitement, and unexplained trepidation are bound to crop up.
For Michelle Lee, it was exactly like that.
Eager to make the grade in her career in architecture, Michelle was full of sheer grit and determination, and persistently kept her nose to the grindstone.
However, when she discovered that her passion for travel was seeping in bit by bit, it dawned upon her – something needed to be done.
The Big Idea
Like all globetrotters, Michelle has a fondness for pushing past her comfort zone and travelling to new cities.
After stumbling on a variety of unorthodox products while sightseeing, she decided to give entrepreneurship a go; she started an online store to retail these quirky items while working full-time at an architectural firm.
Despite that, there was still a burning hunger in her to get more out of her love of travel.
“I wasn’t satisfied, and I wanted to be able to create my own brand where I design travel products,” Michelle explains. The moment of revelation came to her when she couldn’t find a journal to fit her travelling needs.
Unlike many who would have chosen to blindly forget about it and waited for somebody else to concoct a solution, Michelle decided to take matters into her own hands – she created Travel Bandits.
To Leap Or Not To Leap
Travel Bandits is on a commendable mission: to create innovative products to make our travels easier, and the Travel Bandits Journal marks the startup’s first product.
“The travel journal was created to provide all the travel information you need. From the types of electricity socket to money currency; to how you budget and plan your trip; and to jotting down your travels – the aim of Travel Bandits was to make travel easy for everyone,” Michelle shares.
In this technology era, few people nowadays put pen to paper and Michelle is pledging to change that. “I hope to inspire travellers to sketch and note every details of their dream voyages on paper rather than on electronic media. I always felt that putting thoughts on paper gives better expression to our hopes and dreams.”
The newbie entrepreneur knew she was on to something big and decisions had to be made. It was only a matter of time when she had to pick one over the other. Describing it as taking “the leap of faith”, she gave up being an architect and chose her business.
If you’d thought Michelle’s degree in architecture has evaporated to nothing, think again. Her background in design is still very much relevant in her entrepreneurial adventure.
Structure And Discipline
At Travel Bandits, Michelle gets to marry her passion for design with her business.
“Entrepreneurship is about creating, taking risks, embracing challenges and never giving up. Coming from a design background, I love to design and create items. However, starting a business and being passionate for design come hand in hand. You’ll need to be passionate about the product you design.”
Running her own business has also given Michelle a glimpse into the dog-eat-dog industry – something she initially didn’t foresee.
“I get to learn about the business aspect of running a business, meeting new people, entrepreneurs and other inspiring individuals. It is definitely something I didn’t imagine myself doing! […] All in all, it’s not just about creating a great product, but to elevate your passion into a successful business. [It] takes structure and discipline,” she adds.
Behind The Scenes
Michelle is a fan of the vibrant design industry in Copenhagen and it takes only one look to notice the whiff of Scandinavian’s signature minimalist style in the Travel Bandits Journal. The design of the notebook is as complex as you think.
“There are a lot of trial and error from checking font sizes and making many trips to the printing factory, deciding on the materials and colours of prints. A lot of late nights and hard work are put together and tweaks are done to create a great travel journal.”
Logo-wise, it couldn’t be more different. “I wanted to create something simple and unique to remember,” Michelle shares.
Take a gander at the Travel Bandits’ logo and you’d see it’s synonymous with its name. “I started out with different variations of bears and then decided on this design where I added an eye-mask to make my bear look more like a bandit,” Michelle says.
But, why bears?
“I love bears. They are cute yet adventurous, aren’t they? That is what I want my customers to remember us for – an exciting and unique travel store where you can get original one-of-a kind travel products.”
As the interview began to wind down, Michelle revealed that a new series of travel journals and other travel products were already in the works.
Travel Bandits may be a local brand and barely a year old, but Michelle is setting her sights on going global. “We certainly hope Travel Bandits will be reputable travel brand not only in Singapore but around the world,” she continues.
“With our aim of making travel easy, we hope our travel products will not only impact the lives of travellers but also those who receive our items as gifts, to inspire them to put their busy lifestyles to explore new cities.”
Because this is what life is about, isn’t it? To broaden our horizons, explore the nature of humanity, and fully immerse ourselves in an entirely new world.
Featured Image Credit: Michelle Lee, Founder of Travel Bandits.