Rita Marques, CEO at Impact+
Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Rita Marques: My story begins quite far away from where I live… With 23 years old I boarded into a solo journey through Southeast Asia for a month. After 6 months working entrepreneurship in Malaysia, I realized I couldn’t leave the continent without exploring the best of it. I travelled all around Southeast Asia and enjoyed every moment.
Was a truly unforgettable trip that ended up changing my personal perspective of the world as well as my professional path. Yes, the landscapes were unbelievable and impossible to translate into words but the people I met along the trip that shared their experiences and beliefs with me, and the volunteer programs I joined. I saw good projects and bad projects so I decided that we should have this concept, well done, in Portugal as well.
This is not a new concept, the Volunteer Traveling. It works in many underdeveloped countries for many years but is mainly restricted to Europeans and Americans going to Africa, Asia or South America. What I understood was that Europe has so many urgent social needs that this would also make sense in several European countries. For me it was very important to transform tourism in a positive social change agent and fight/minimize the negative environmental impact it causes.
That was my light bulb moment. Portugal is an amazing country to visit but has increasingly urgent social needs so tourism can be an important factor fighting social inequality. Was in that moment that I decided to create impacTrip. That was the first step of a long journey that led to the launch of this social travel promoter that wants to change the way people travel in Europe.
When structuring this idea, I met Diogo Areosa and he shared the same vision I did so we teamed up and we are working together ever since. Still today, every time we speak with our social partners and we are able to support them in their mission, we become even more motivated to keep going and grow impacTrip.
Then because ImpacTrip grew so much we needed our own space to host the volunteers in Lisbon and that's why we created Impact House and Impact Beach House, to have an integrated space that reflected our values and sustainability vision.
We work every day to create truly incredible experiences that make a difference in the life of many people. Now I don’t travel as much as I wanted to but I am happy to create authentic experiences for other travelers that think like me.
Great Companies: What are the various services provided by Impact+?
Rita Marques: Impact+ is a B-Corp-certified social enterprise with 3 different brands:
ImpacTrip, a tour operator which develops Responsible Travel Experiences in Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Italy, and Greece.
Impact House, a Hostel, restaurant, cafe with pool, garden and events space in Lisbon dedicated to sustainability.
Impact Beach House, a hostel focused on Climate Action with a special focus on Ocean Protection.
Great Companies: What makes Impact+ different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
Rita Marques: Our mission is to support and empower social and environmental non-profits so that's what we do every day through these different services. We have hosted over 3000 volunteers from 80+ different nationalities who dedicated 100.000 hours volunteering in these non-profits. Each one of these hours made a difference on the life of the communities and on the local environment and that's what makes us driven.
The more growth we have, the more we help. That's why our impact business model is different from other tourism companies.
Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Rita Marques: In the beginning, no one believed us. Diogo and I had to go door by door talking with non-profits and convincing them that we were bringing volunteers that would in fact help them. And for free! It looked too good to be true for them so it was hard in the beginning to explain such new concept but over time and with the great experiences that they had with the volunteers, we had more and more partners asking us to join the programs and get the support of the international volunteers.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Impact+?
Rita Marques: We have so many ideas ahahah.
We are planning to open a new destination in Europe but I can't disclose it yet.
We are always trying to innovate and I really love to co-create with our social and environmental partners so I hope we can create projects that respond to the real needs of the non-profits in 5 years' time. These are constantly changing and so are we.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Rita Marques: Start today. Even if imperfect, even if you are not sure if it will be amazing, start as soon as possible so you can make mistakes, learn from them and do it over again.