Siblings Rhanda and Peter Mansour, both CPAs, didn’t let their lack of web design experience stop them starting an innovative networking website for travellers.
It was while holidaying in Hawaii that Peter Mansour first came up with the idea that would become one of Australia’s most promising social media ventures. He had just arrived from Alaska when he met a fun group of fellow Australian travellers. It dawned on them that they had shared the same itinerary.
“After that trip I realised that I could have got so much more out of my travels if I had only connected with them before I started,” he says.
Later, when Rhanda learned that she and her cousin were planning a trip to the same resort in Fiji at the same time, the idea for a new type of website solidified. “We had to do something,” Rhanda says. “We both love to travel, and part of travelling is meeting new people.”
Only one small hurdle stood in their way – neither was an experienced web designer. Undeterred, their idea became Q2Connect, a web-based service that enables people to add details of trips and connect with fellow travellers.
“The pain of failure isn’t as great as the pain of regret.”
What got the Mansours most excited was the potential to extend the website to the conference and event industry, enabling delegates to connect before, during and after events.
Peter is a CPA and public practitioner with 30 years’ experience, practising in Burwood in Sydney’s west, while Rhanda is also a CPA within the business, specialising in servicing clients in the arts industry. “We’ve got no design skills and we’re not developers,” says Peter. “But we represent a lot of extremely successful clients, and as CPAs we are highly trained and skilled.”
While the pair learned to create “wireframes” for the website to increase its functionality, they outsourced the software development. “We saw what we couldn’t do and we could see what others could do to help us,” says Rhanda.
The service was launched to friends late last year, and to the public in January. The pair has spent the past six months signing up corporate supporters, including the helloworld network of more than 700 travel agents, the Women in Media networking initiative, and Fostering NSW.
“They have come on board to run all of their workshops and conferences, in terms of providing the networking platform for everyone to connect,” Rhanda says. “Q2Connect is an opportunity to partner with the whole travel industry and also the whole MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) sector.”
Q2Connect can also integrate with existing social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn, but with additional tools specific to travellers and conference attendees.
“We have built amazing features such as comments and surveys, and all of the content on the page, including the advertising, is from the event planner,” Rhanda says. “Every week we are implementing new things. It is like a child – it is continually growing.”
Now the pair is focused on increasing user numbers, as well as adding corporate partners. Q2Connect has been built using their own money, but Peter says he does not regret the risk.
“The pain of failure isn’t as great as the pain of regret,” he says. “It’s on the internet, which means anybody in the world can go to our site right now. We think it’s got huge potential.”
One piece of advice
“The most crucial thing in a start-up is you have to see the end from the start. If you can’t see the end from the start you’ll never get there.”
This article is from the September issue of INTHEBLACK