Ladies We Love is a new interview series with women from around the world that provide us inspiration through their travels and their personal stories. This month we got to know Maxine Outerbridge of Bungee Girl!
This month we had the pleasure of talking more with Maxine, Founder of the wonderful travel app Bungee Girl. If you follow our Instagram you’ll see we regularly post about this app, it’s our favorite way to meet new girls and gain insider tips while traveling solo. Maxine had a very unconventional start to the world of mobile app development, following a successful career in finance and accounting. She is the perfect example of how a passion for travel and an excitement for inspiring females to see the world can turn into a successful career.
Read the latest in our Ladies We Love series to learn more about this fearless female entrepreneur!
1. For some of our readers who have never heard of Bungee Girl, can you please explain the mission of the company and where you came up with the idea.
Bungee Girl is a travel app that brings together girls who like to wander. As a female-only app, Bungee Girl connects solo female travelers who either have an equal interest in visiting each other’s city or live in the same city and have a shared interest in traveling to the same location. Users get connected when they click on each other’s city, showing a mutual interest.
In one of our newest features, users can also create interactive travel diaries where they capture the best part of their trips. It’s a short and sweet snapshot of key trip information. We call them “postcards” on the app. With this feature, travelers will have a fun way to illustrate their trips while helping other women get some great tips.
Our primary goal is to encourage and empower women to travel more often and particularly alone as we believe personal development is greater on a solo trip. We want to inspire women to get out of their comfort zone, take on new challenges, embrace new people and places and to travel boldly. Women shouldn’t settle for cliché trips or reject opportunities to travel because their friends or family don’t have the money or capacity to travel with them. You should always come back from a trip a different person, a better person. That’s what happened to me, that’s what inspired me to start Bungee Girl.
I was inspired to start this app after my first solo trip. I wanted to create a hub for solo female travelers, a safe space that facilitates global connectivity among like-minded women and brings a social element to travel planning. There are legitimate reasons why women are apprehensive or uncomfortable with traveling alone or to new places. Let’s face it, we don’t have all of the same concerns that men have when traveling. Although there are a lot of resources out there for finding accommodations, meeting locals and getting the best travel tips, a lot of them aren’t designed or tailored to the experience of female travelers. This apps aims to create a product that does!
2. How did you decide to make the leap from the corporate world to starting your own travel app? Were your family and friends supportive of the move?
I really look up to Mark Zuckerberg. He once said “the biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” As a single mother to 2 young kids I wasn’t able to just quit my corporate job. In addition to my full time job, I had to put in a lot of time, energy and money to start Bungee Girl, but I believed it was worth the risk. I know I’ve got a great deal of responsibility and two little innocent people who rely on me. However, I don’t believe that you should let anything hold you back from your dreams. We are all in control of our own destiny. You just have to make it work and fight like hell because it’s not going to be easy. I’ve always been an extremely passionate and highly ambitious person.
My family is used to it so they weren’t surprised at all when I decided to take on this business venture. All my life I had been the typical overachiever and I even seemed to do better when I was challenged or when people told me I “couldn’t accomplish something”.
I’ll give you an example. In 2005, at the age of 16 (turning 17) I was really into fashion and thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. I knew the industry was tough and worried about going to fashion school because such a specialized focus could be problematic for me if I ever changed my mind. I was determined to figure it out before I left high school. I emailed every top fashion design company in New York City, all the big dogs. I really had some nerve, but even so young, I was still quite determined. A lot of people doubted me and thought I was reaching too high with the companies I was contacting. One after the other rejected me. But I heard back from Michael Kors and they agreed to set up an interview. During the interview, I learned that they didn’t have an internship for high school students and reminded me of the conflict with child labor laws. I was so determined to make it work. I went to my high school and convinced them to give me school credit to work an unpaid internship. They found a way to give me 1 class credit through a special program. I returned to Michael Kors and convinced them to take me on as an unpaid high school intern since I would receive educational credit. It worked! I was assigned to the hand bag design group.
It was the best experience ever although I discovered pretty quickly that fashion wasn’t my thing, business was instead. I was a lot more interested in the operations, sales and marketing of the hand bags rather than the design of them. This experience was life changing and I pivoted my attention to business school. Over a decade later I have multiple business degrees and a CPA license. I’ve had a successful career in finance and accounting. Moral of the story: if you really believe in something, and put your mind to it, you can really accomplish anything. You can listen to your critics for guidance and as a sounding board but ultimately your fate is your own. Sometimes you need to just take the risk. Even if you fail, it wasn’t worthless, it’s just a stepping stone on the road to success.
3. You began solo traveling in 2015 and said it was the best trip you’ve ever been on. Why was the solo experience so life changing?
In February of 2015, I went on my first solo trip which was a 12 day vacation to London and then South Africa. I had a close friend living in each of those locations that I stayed with. It was the best trip I’d ever been on. I had the best of both worlds. I got to do my tourist thing during the day while they were at work or carrying about their lives and then on nights/weekends, they would show me the city “their way”.
My favorite night in London we went to a pop-up food market. The location was in this warehouse-like building but inside it was a really trendy spot with lots of hipsters, a delicious variety of finger foods, great music and amazing drinks. The vibe was so nice and I quickly realized I would never have found that spot without my friend nor would I feel like I “blended” if I wasn’t with a local. It was awesome. She kept taking me to new spots and unique locations only a local would know.
When I returned from my trip, I wanted to replicate this type of travel experience in other parts of the world but I thought “If I don’t know anyone living there how can I do this? I don’t want to just keep going to the same places where I already have friends and there won’t be any opportunities for me to meet new people in these locations”. I concluded, as a young woman living in NYC with this dilemma, there must be a like-minded woman living in the spot I want to visit that has the same dilemma and desire to come to NYC. How great would it be to create a connection to bring us together to solve our problem. That’s where the idea for Bungee Girl came from!
This solo experience was so impactful because for the first time ever on a trip, I was really present. Without anyone there to distract me, I got to truly embrace the environment, culture and people. I remember taking this breathtaking walk for hours through London. It was incredible how receptive I was to everything happening around me. In a short time I was able to learn a lot and gain an enhanced appreciation for the place I was visiting. Not to mention how incredibly empowering solo travel can be. In this peaceful serenity, I was deeply reflective and cognizant. The independence was rewarding and I felt like I became a different, stronger person.
Solo travel isn’t easy, that’s why Bungee Girl is trying to make it better and work for more women. When women stick together and help each other out, amazing things happen. We want women to have the “best of both worlds” experience as I did when traveling.
4. You mentioned not knowing how to code, yet we’ve joined the app and it looks beautiful! How did you create it?
I hired a mobile app development company to help me design and develop the app. I created a mood board to help them understand my style, the color scheme I wanted, the look and feel of the app I wanted and who my target user would be. In my mind, I envisioned what a Bungee Girl would look like and how she would act and I would clearly articulate that to the team. More importantly, I would make mock-ups of the app in Powerpoint to communicate the features I wanted and they would do their tech-magic to develop it. I’m still fairly tech illiterate but I’m not letting that stop me.
5. Who or what inspires you to work day after day to expand your business?
I would say my kids are my biggest motivation. I know that sounds like a typical mom thing to say but for me, motherhood started out really difficult. I found out at 18 years old, in my first semester of college that I was pregnant. It was devastating and I would go on for years after that to struggle and endure extreme hardship.
However, I had a revelation when I found out that I was pregnant. As innocent as missing one day of my birth control pills was, I still believed that it was my responsibility to step up and take on this unimaginable duty. My daughter didn’t ask to be born to teen parents so I promised myself that I wouldn’t become just another teen mom statistic and that her life wouldn’t be compromised because of the circumstances. I was determined to overcome this obstacle and give her the best life any parent could give their child, with every possible opportunity and experience. I am still committed to that every day. So I haven’t and I won’t stop striving!
6. What other apps do you use when you travel?
Guilty! I don’t use many apps when I travel. For most of the day I’m not on my phone when I travel besides to take pictures. I would say the most commonly used apps when I travel are:
- Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger to reach some family and friends
- My bank app to keep track of my spending
- Social media accounts like Instagram and Facebook to post pictures
- Google Translate
7. Where do you want to travel to next? Will you go at it alone, or do you plan to bring along your two adorable children?
I love my kids, but I refuse to travel with them. Unless it’s a family trip, there’s not much I would find enjoyable about bringing a hyperactive 4 year old on a trip. I prefer to either travel alone or with one other person. I have so many places on my bucket list but some areas I have on my mind now are: Iceland, Thailand, Hawaii, African Safari (Tanzania or South Africa).
8. We read this amazing blog post on your experience with Hillary Clinton. How did your work with her change your view on her campaign? What surprised you most about this unique experience?
I had the most incredibly experience that most ordinary people would only dream about. As I mentioned in my blog, as a regular citizen with no political connection whatsoever, I simply wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton’s campaign to show my support for her candidacy as I was growing increasingly frustrated with the narrative that she was doing poorly with young voters. I was very enthusiastic about her campaign because of my own personal experiences benefiting from some of the programs that she fought for in the past.
After hearing of my powerful story of overcoming the challenges of being a teen mom, surviving domestic violence all while achieving great educational and career success, the campaign was eager to reach me. One amazing experience after another followed. I got the opportunity to be a part of various promotional videos and speak at several campaign events (specifically targeting women, young people and people of color). Hillary personally picked me to represent as the youngest delegate from NY at the Democratic National Convention. The DNC experience alone was phenomenal and I got first-hand exposure to the political world.
I was also blessed to be one of her special guests at the first presidential debate. However, the best experience of the year was getting to speak alongside Hillary at one of her rallies in my borough of Staten Island. It was at that rally that I got a first glimpse into her true character. It was the first time I ever spoke in public and her presence alone nearly gave me a panic attack but she was so down-to-earth and approachable. Right before we were about to go on stage, I told Hillary I was so nervous as I had never spoke in public before. She empowered me more than I can explain.
She said “you take as long as you need telling your story. You were able to get through all this. Your voice is so strong and people need to hear it.”
There weren’t any reporters or cameras around to capture that moment. Matter of fact, it was just the two of us and her secret service, stationed off in this room off to the side of the stage. Standing with her on stage I felt this indescribable calmness and I really rocked my speech. After that moment she and her team continued to go out of the way to provide these amazing opportunities and a platform for me to discuss topics that I was passionate about. Her kindness is unwavering, even after losing the election I was still offered an opportunity to be a teller at the NY State Electoral College where I tallied the final electoral votes on Dec 19th. I am still very proud of the campaign they ran. Throughout the campaign, I grew increasingly encouraged by the progressive and inclusive environment that was fostered by her and her team.
What surprised me the most, was how young and diverse her team was. Just a tour of the campaign head quarters in Brooklyn was so inspirational. There were pink flags and gay flags all other the place and a ton of young people of all colors. There were people from all walks of life, trans people, lots of women, it was invigoratingly optimistic.
9. What do you anticipate Bungee Girl will look like in 2 years? What about 10?
I have so many ideas for the app but right now we really need to scale, so user acquisition is key. I really believe that Bungee Girl is going to grow into a real useful product that normalizes solo travel for more women. 2 years from now I’d like to see the app have significant growth in number of users and expanded to larger parts of the world.
As for Bungee Girl the company, I hope we grow to a lifestyle brand that centers around the empowerment and advancement of women. I hope that 10 years from now we are a large scale company that can in addition to profit-making also use its money and resources to impact the lives of women around the world including significant involvement in causes that are important to me like ending violence against women, promoting women and people of color in the tech industry, fighting poverty, opposing all forms of discrimination and oppression especially misogyny.
10. What piece of advice would you give to anyone who is considering leaving their current job to start their own business?
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do your research and vet your idea. As previously stated, I am a big advocate for people who vigorously chase their dreams but that’s doesn’t mean every idea you have is a good one. This is even more crucial for people who have families and would be putting a lot on the line. Do extensive research, test your idea in the market, get as much advice as you can from experienced people (even if you don’t ultimately agree or follow it) and find a good mentor.
11. What advice can you give to our readers regarding solo travel?
If I could give a few pieces of advice for solo travelers I would say:
- Do a lot of research. Don’t travel somewhere without any insight into the place. Use that research to help guide you on your trips but don’t get crazy with the itineraries. Put a few top must-sees but leave yourself open to explore. Some of the best memories I had on recent trips I took were: riding through Santorini on a quad, or a 4 hour bike ride through Paris. All I had was a map and no strict plan (but some top spots on my list). It was awesome!
- Have a great music playlist lined up or some good books to read. You won’t even realize you’re “alone” sometimes when you get into the “zone” while having these amazing experiences.
- Don’t be so shy. Be careful, but not too shy. You should leave each place you travel to with at least one new local friend.
- Be open and leave your expectations at home! Use this journey to really embrace and transform.
- Don’t take any chances and be super prepared. The world is a dangerous place so as a solo female traveler you’ve got to be on top of things. You’re still in a foreign place and alone, so remember that. I once got robbed at gunpoint in Brazil while talking to my mother on the phone. My poor mom had to hear the whole robbery since my cellphone was still on. It was a traumatic experience, but I should have known better. I was walking down the street, speaking English on a cell phone (in was 2006) in a relatively poor part of Brazil. Basic safety research would’ve let me know that that I would’ve have been a major target. Hopefully Bungee Girl will help women feel safer when they travel given the connections they make ahead of the trip.
12. Lastly, we like to end on a fun question – so Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling?!
Should I be embarrassed to say I had to google them? I’ve heard of them, but couldn’t put a face to the name. I would say, definitely Ryan Gosling. He’s got pretty eyes. Eva Mendes has got it going on!