“Trader for 9 years, I launched my adventure travel agency”

Stanislas Gruau a quitté le salariat et lancé son entreprise en 2018.

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Posted on Jul 1, 2021, 5:51 p.m.Updated Sep 17, 2021 11:46 AM

“My first daughter was born when I was 30 years old. It was the trigger, the moment when I said to myself that I had to change my professional life. At the time, I was at the head of a team of 150 traders in Geneva, Switzerland. A job in which I did not recognize myself completely.

I had started working as a trader at 22, after graduating from Edhec, knowing that I would not be doing that all my career. At the beginning, this job attracted me because I imagined an ultra-intense, varied profession, at the heart of the reactor of the economic machine. It was just after the Kerviel affair and I wanted to see what was going on in the trading rooms. And then, it was socially valued and it seemed like a job with which you could have high salaries quickly.

My career started at BNP Paribas, where I was trading stocks. I liked the analysis side, but I felt like I was speculating without adding any added value other than profit. I needed something more concrete. A year after my arrival, I preferred to join the American group Cargill, the largest trader in agricultural commodities in the world.

Astronomical stakes

Based in London, I was a wheat, rapeseed, corn and soybean trader. My mission was to buy merchandise at the best price to resell it as much as possible. I contacted local cooperatives to tell them: “Do you have 30 tonnes to sell?” I buy! I send you a truck and sell this merchandise to a factory. “ I quickly rose through the ranks. Two years after my arrival, I became responsible for the London office. I was then transferred to Geneva, where I ended up becoming head of the European office.

The more I rose in responsibility, the more colossal the amounts, volumes handled and stakes were. So much so that I was no longer able to segment my professional and personal life. I was always screwed in front of my phone to follow the evolution of the markets which never sleep. In the evening, on weekends, at night, I scrutinized the courses and exchanged with other employees of the group to find out whether to buy or sell. On a daily basis, it was an emotional roller coaster. I could be congratulated in the morning for having made a superb financial transaction and threatened to be fired the next day because I had messed up on another.

My entourage started to get fed up. My relatives thought I had changed. They were right: my life was all about trading, I had no other things to talk about, I was on edge and aggressive. I was making a lot of money, I was out of touch with reality, and was out of step with the normal life of someone my age.

A project matured for years

From the start of my career, sport has been my stress reliever. I ran almost every day, I did marathons, alone, on weekends, and took on some crazy challenges. I had become addicted to running, as I was to the adrenaline rush of the markets. In 2011, I ran across London to set a record in two weeks. That's when I thought to myself that there was definitely something going on in the great outdoors.

I began to imagine a travel agency specializing in expeditions in the wilderness. I noticed that this sector was underdeveloped in London, unlike the Anglo-Saxon countries. On the English territory, the actors of tourism had aging offers, not community, and were not very present on the web. For years, I thought about this project alongside my work as a trader. It has become a kind of carrot to keep me going.

In 2017, a few moments after the birth of my first daughter, I once again had my eyes riveted on my phone, to follow the prices of commodities. I realized that it wasn't a life, that it didn't make sense. So, five months later, I resigned, knowing full well what I was going to do next: launch the entrepreneurial project that I had been maturing for six years. I already had in mind the logo, the prices, the organization of the agency, of the team …

Guided stays

During the summer of 2018, I founded Explora Project, in Annecy. Alone at first, I then joined forces with Alix Gauthier, founder of the Copines de voyage agency. Since then, the start-up has become a company with a mission and counts employees (eighteen full-time equivalents if we count the freelancers).

We offer group expeditions of four to twelve people, to fifteen countries in Europe. All take place accompanied by local guides. They last from two to thirty days and are aimed at everyone, beginners as well as experts. Our range of offers is varied, ranging from weekend trekking and yoga in the Vosges to crossing Iceland from North to South in autonomy. What these trips have in common: their limited carbon impact.

I must admit that I had little ecological awareness when I was a trader. It was when I started working on this agency project that I told myself that my life afterwards was beginning, that it was time to compensate for my past environmental impact. What I wanted was to offer a form of tourism turned towards nature and which does not disfigure our planet.

I am very confident in the development of the company. Since its inception, we have managed to maintain a hypergrowth of over 300% per year. We completed a fundraising of 1.7 million Pounds in 2021 and will be thirty employees in Annecy next January. Our ambition is to become the benchmark for sustainable adventure travel in London in the next two years. My standard of living has significantly decreased, but I now feel in my place. This is what matters to me. “

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