Jen Loong is the creator of the Wandersnap, an online service that allows people in a location to connect with local photographers for everyday and event photos. She traveled a lot with her family growing up, which helped fuel her love for travel and led her to accepting a job in Shanghai soon after she graduated from university. After some initial culture shock, Jen grew to love her new home and made it a priority to visit as much of China and Asia as she could.
After working for a few major North American companies and an experience on a photography project in Nepal, Jen realized she wanted to pursue a career path where she was able to make more of an impact, which led her to start Wandersnap. She and her team developed the service always keeping people in mind, and pride themselves on prioritizing usability for the client and bringing creative jobs to people who may otherwise not have the opportunity to pursue them, as well as helping to provide vocational training for these individuals.
On this episode we talk about Jen’s experience moving to Shanghai, some of the more unique experiences she’s had in Asia (like running a marathon in North Korea!), how she started Wandersnap and the mission and values that drive the company as it expands through Asia.
What we talk about in this episode:
- How Jen created Wandersnap, an online service that allows consumers in a location who want a photoshoot to connect with local photographers
- How Jen’s love of travel began at a young age thanks to her dad having a job that caused him to travel a lot, and him taking the family along whenever possible
- How Jen started traveling as soon as she was out of university by way of a job in Shanghai, and how her travel style evolved from fast to “collect” places into a search for true adventure and places she could call home
- How she felt moving to Shanghai, how the cultural environment growing up in Vancouver caused her to initially experience some culture shock, and how living in Hong Kong finally allowed her to embrace life in Shanghai
- How she enjoyed working for Western brands in Shanghai for 6 years, and the modernity of the city that many Westerners may not realize
- How she prioritized traveling outside of Shanghai to see China and parts of Asia during her downtime, and how diverse the country is
- Some of her more unique experiences, like attending a marathon in Pyongyang, landing in Myanmar on an important night soon after it opened up for international travel, and visiting a matriarchal tribe
- The feeling of the unknown and being unable to plan ahead when running the marathon in North Korea, and some of the bizarre things she saw
- How working for a few major corporations inspired her to apply the entrepreneurial skills she developed to starting her own company
- The challenges and experiences breaking new ground in a place trying to replicate a business that was successful elsewhere
- How fast Shanghai seemed to evolve around her, and went from a place where you had to shout for a cab to essentially a cashless city (everything’s associated to your QR code) at the forefront of technological advances
- Some of the key elements that led to Jen deciding she wanted to start Wandersnap, including a photography experience in Nepal that led her to realize that she wanted to do something that would have an impact on the world, and the value of creating quality content for companies
- The importance of the little moments in life and how these can end up eventually inspiring significant changes down the road
- The evolution of Wandersnap as a service that was initially primarily used by individuals and families, to a valuable tool corporations could use to fulfill their content creation needs
- Some of the exciting new technology that is being developed to help provide their customers access to high quality content almost instantly
- The logistics of how to use Wandersnap as a customer, selecting a photographer based on elements like budget and style, and the company’s focus on usability for their customers
- Some of the lessons that Jen has learned along the way in terms of identifying and addressing customer needs, including understanding that every client’s event is important and means something significant to them
- Some of the unique challenges that come along with running a global startup, including trying to hire people that will share your passion, as well as needing to support clients and educate a team that are located around the world with different languages and cultural backgrounds
- The importance to Jen of bringing creative jobs with income potential to more corners of the earth, especially where they may otherwise not be encouraged or available
- Wandersnap’s work with NGO to help provide photography related vocational training
- How Hong Kong is very conducive to setting up a new business as a foreigner, and how expanding Wandersnap to Hong Kong compares to her experience in Shanghai
- The benefits of running a location independent business and Jen’s dream to eventually move to Bali
- Some of the things Jen misses from Canada, including snow, sushi and the Tim Horton’s French Vanilla
- Jen’s advice to listeners thinking about starting a travel startup, including assessing whether starting a business is in fact the best way to achieve what you are looking for, and if so to always keep your vision and goals in focus
You can also check out our new travel community on Facebook where you can ask questions, get travel recommendations, and find community members in your area!