Almost every girl’s dream is to travel and shop, so you can understand when I say Renee Lodens is definitely living the dream, travelling to different exotic locations and shopping her little heart out, all as research for her website Travelshopa (www.travelshopa.com). Born and raised in Sydney to a Greek father and Spanish Australian mother, Renee (aka Triantafillia, nee Kiosoglous) describes her childhood as “colourful”. Her mother died when she was nine years old, so she and her brother were raised by their late father, Michael, who successfully juggled a nine-to-five job, the family-run café and the role of Mr Mom.
As soon as Renee finished her university studies in Modern Greek and sociology, she headed off on a Grecian adventure, as many of us do. She was based in Athens, working in a frondstirio (English language school) and travelled to Thraki, Kastellorizo, Santorini and Rhodes for work and play for four years.
Upon returning home to Sydney in 2002, she began working in digital satellite pay television, then manufacturing and IT in marketing and business development roles. By 2010, a lingering love story took her to Singapore, where she married her brother’s friend and started a family.
In 2012, Renee identified a gap in the market for connecting independent fashion brands with consumers and started a blog. This was how Travelshopa was born.
Renee physically took to the streets of Singapore and discovered independent brands and small retailers that produce products on a small scale and began to write about them, photographing their wares and publishing them on her site. Within three years, Travelshopa covered the local shopping scene in nine cities in Asia and seven in the Americas.
Travelshopa aims to provide better shopping experiences for tourists and locals alike, connecting shoppers with local business they may never have come across or known to exist, meaning a more authentic shopping experience in that city. This also helps shoppers to avoid tacky souvenir shirts as ‘authentic’ holiday gifts, which we have all resorted to at airports in the past for those people we never found something for while on holiday. The Travelshopa story was recently published by BBCNews, and Travelshopa was named one of Singapore’s Hottest Startups in 2014.
Renee and I had a very funny conversation via Facebook Messenger from her home in Singapore sipping on a Campari to my very glamorous home in my fluffy pink robe. We were two mums who seemed to have a lot in common and ended up chatting away until 11.00 pm. She was so genuine, funny, clever and composed that it wasn’t hard for me to see how she has been so successful. Renee told me that Travelshopa Sydney and Melbourne will be launching in November and I look forward to picking her brains more over a drink when she gets here.
Other than everything I have already mentioned, here are some more serious questions I asked:
What do you think made your idea so successful?
In the early days it was purely a personal anecdote that sparked the idea of Travelshopa. I did a lot of research about shopping in Singapore and destinations in South East Asia, and I realised that there was no existing resource with the information I was seeking.
The initial plan was to create a resource for independent brands in Singapore and perhaps a few other cities. But the more I worked on things and travelled, I quickly realised there was an opportunity to go further. I think its success has been attributed to the fact that we are solving a real problem for consumers and businesses – where to shop in City ABC ?!
What drives you?
Passion and purpose have been the real drivers for Travelshopa. A unique idea coupled with clear goals, passion and a well-defined purpose have made the execution of Travelshopa a whole lot easier. We have taken our time to grow, allowing me to visit and get to know each destination. I genuinely want to see independent brands succeed, and enable people to have more fulfilling shopping experiences.
What has been your most memorable moment in your accomplishments with Travelshopa?
There have been many wonderful moments in the life of Travelshopa. Adding a new destination is always a great milestone for the company, however, it’s generally not the most memorable. It’s those moments when I discover a true hidden gem in the back streets of an unfamiliar city, connect with talented designers and retailers, or randomly meet an avid reader (aka − a Travelshopa) that I treasure most.
Do you have any role models?
I come from a long line of hardworking people – on both sides. My yiayia was one of the hardest working, independent women I have ever met, and my father inherited her tenacity and work ethic. Both mother and son were mentally strong, fiercely loyal and overly generous. My mother was one of those people who could light up any room, and left a lasting impression. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been guided by such sunny, positive go-getters, who each taught me to believe in myself and that I could do anything that I put my mind to.
Are there any plans for expanding worldwide eventually?
We are definitely expanding quickly, with Australia being our next chosen destination. I am always looking out for new destinations, and dream of the day we can do justice to a shopping mecca like Paris. I’m not sure when that will be, but I hope that day comes soon.
How would you describe your work ethos?
Never, ever give up.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am really looking forward to spending more time working in the Australian market. There is a lot of exceptional talent that I think Australians need to discover, as well as global audiences. Likewise, there is a lot of talent that I have already seen in all 16 of our cities that should be further discovered. I would like to foster those cross-border opportunities and ultimately unify independent brands around the world.
If you would like to find out more about Travelshopa head to www.travelshopa.com or look them up on Instagram @travelshopa