Andrea Guthrie on Gyde & Seek Becoming the Global Go-To Brand for Travelers

Andrea Guthrie is the Co-Founder of Gyde & Seek, a disruptive travel tech startup connecting discerning travelers with rigorously vetted guides and specialists in 20 global destinations across 4 continents. She sits on the Board of Directors of Shoe Carnival, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCVL), a $1B family footwear retailer, and serves as the Chairman of the Board of PandoLabs in Park City.

Previously, Andrea was Senior Vice President of Strategic New Businesses at Claire’s Inc., a $1.5B global retailer, where she led the development of global corporate strategies and drove large-scale growth initiatives for both the Claire’s and Icing brands. Prior to Claire’s Inc., Andrea was a Principal with The Boston Consulting Group in New York, Melbourne, and Boston, where she focused largely on retail, consumer, and travel industry clients. She started her career as a Buyer and Merchandise Manager at Saks Fifth Avenue and A|X Armani Exchange in New York.

Andrea holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and an AB from Duke University. She has lived around the world in countries including Germany, Austria, Argentina, Senegal, Kenya, and Australia, and now resides in Park City, Utah, where she spends her time supporting the local entrepreneurial community (especially female entrepreneurs!), and taking full advantage of the ski slopes, cycling routes, and hiking trails.

When did you launch Gyde & Seek? How and when did you come up with the idea for the business?

We launched Gyde & Seek in 2016. The idea came from my brilliant business Co-founder, Vanessa Guibert Heitner, who had spent many years working in high end luxury travel. After 15 years of working with extremely discerning VIP clients, she realized that what distinguished extraordinary trips were the incredible guides who helped clients experience destinations in a deep and meaningful way.

The Gyde & Seek concept grew out of that – our objective is to give a much broader base of clients access to these incredible guides and experiences via a modern technology platform where pricing was transparent and fair (i.e., not marked up by 3-5x by middlemen), you have access in advance or on short notice, and can communicate with your guide directly instead of via multiple intermediaries. On the provider side, the objective is to give exceptionally qualified guides access to high-quality clients, more work opportunities, and fair remuneration.

Where do you see Gyde & Seek five years from now?

In five years, we expect to be operating in at least 100 destinations across continents. We hope to be the go-to global brand that travelers seek out to access exceptional-quality, authentic, insider-access experiences on which they’ll see and do things they couldn’t have done on their own. Supporting sustainable, non-exploitative tourism is also at the core of our identity, so we also expect to be actively giving back to the destinations in which we operate through our Give As You Go program, which sets aside 2% of net revenues to help support organizations doing meaningful work in those parts of the world.

What are some of the challenges you've faced being a female entrepreneur? What have been some of your positive experiences as well?

As female entrepreneurs, we simply don’t have access to the same networks and ecosystems that our male peers do. I do believe this is changing, but the reality is that in almost any room we walk into – whether it’s a pitch with an investor, a pitch competition, or an educational startup event – we are in the minority. This impacts the tenor of the communication and the nature of the questions that get asked. I also think we often fight against a perception that simply because we are women we are building a lifestyle business – there is an automatic assumption that we value other things above our work and business and therefore won’t make the necessary sacrifices to be successful entrepreneurs.

On the positive side, I think it’s actually a very exciting time to be a female entrepreneur in this country and also in our Utah entrepreneurial community. There is a real groundswell to create more opportunities for female entrepreneurs to gain access to better exposure, legitimate support networks, and funding. We have an amazing group of women in this community working to create change – it’s something I’m truly energized to be a part of.

What are the challenges that face women in UT based on your experiences and observations and what are some suggestions on how we can address those issues?

The challenges I mentioned in the previous question can often feel magnified in Utah. There are even fewer women role models in senior leadership roles and in decision-making positions on the funding side, and there are fewer established support networks. Culturally, it does sometimes feel like there’s another level of disconnect as a successful female professional striving to build a business instead of focusing solely on family.

To address this, we need to work to create strong support networks among ourselves, and with our aligned and aware male peers. We need to mentor younger women to show them what opportunities exist, and be role models for what they can achieve. We need to look outside our state for great examples of how to support a strong, equal-opportunity entrepreneurial ecosystem and bring those learnings back here to Utah and put them into practice.

What are some of your favorite go-to spots in Park City?

My #1 go-to place is anywhere on the mountain. I am grateful every day to be living in such a beautiful place where I have access to all the outdoor activities I love, so I try to take as much advantage of that as possible. When I’m not outside playing, you’ll find me rejuvenating at the Good Movement Studio, taking in the Sunday Park City Film Series movie at the library, or sharing a good meal or glass of wine with friends at Handle or the Wine Dive.

Where would you most like to live?

Where I am right now, Park City. If I couldn’t live here, who knows?! I have already lived on 6 continents, but there are so many more places to explore – I’m pretty adaptable and tend to appreciate the specialness of a place no matter where I am.

What is your most treasured possession?

My tribe of girlfriends. Those relationships are gold and I can’t imagine navigating this life without them.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

When the people you love are sick or suffering, that is the worst for me. I can power through my own issues, but when those around me are struggling, that is truly devastating.

What is your favorite occupation?

On the work front, I am most motivated when I’m constantly challenged and learning – I love building things, which makes Gyde & Seek a perfect match. I also love to work with and mentor younger professionals.

Outside of work, my favorite way to spend time is exploring new parts of the world / travel (of course!!!), and anything outside (skiing, cycling, mountain biking, hiking), bring it all on!

What is your most marked characteristic?

Probably my ability to stay calm through ups and downs. I’m a naturally optimistic person, so I tend to believe things will work out, which helps me not over-react to the surprises that pop up every day, especially as an entrepreneur.

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