Tobias Guld and Anders Thomsen from Torii Travels
June 15, 2023
BY Ida Marie Wøhlk Vilbæk
Meet Tobias and Anders:
Founders of Torii Travels, a startup organizing language trips and working holidays in Japan for Danes between the age of 18-30 years old.
Tobias is enrolled in the Bachelor’s degree program in Business Administration and Economics. Anders is taking a Master’s degree in Psychology.
Founded Torii Travels in 2021 and launched to the public in 2022.
Both lived in Japan on a working holiday visa back in 2018/2019.
How did the idea of becoming an entrepreneur arise?
We became entrepreneurs to promote an opportunity we had cherished ourselves: enabling fellow young individuals to experience the wonders of traveling to Japan and immersing themselves in its culture for an extended period. The journey towards our current startup, Torii Travels, started back in 2021 when we discovered that there were no longer any companies in Denmark offering this particular service. This realization fueled our conviction to step forward and help other young Danes in obtaining the same incredible experience that we had during our own working holiday in Japan in 2018/2019. Driven by this vision, we turned to entrepreneurship, determined to bridge the gap and create opportunities for young people seeking a transformative year in Japan.
How did you get started with your entrepreneurial journey?
After we found out there were no companies offering help with working holidays anymore, it dawned on us that the project was actually a little bit bigger and tougher to start than we had first realized. Getting partners while not having a registered company or any customers yet, and not being able to go to Japan and visit them – that was difficult. Therefore, just getting to the point where we had our minimum viable product was a struggle.
What has been the biggest challenge in the process?
Launching a travel agency during the pandemic posed significant challenges. Our focus on Japan as the sole destination made it even more daunting. At the initial stages of our business, Japan had completely halted visa processes, rendering it impossible for us to establish partnerships on the ground. Moreover, when Japan eventually reopened, navigating the intricate web of documentation required for our travelers to obtain visas proved to be a complex and time-consuming task. But we persevered, adapting to the changing circumstances and working towards understanding and fulfilling the necessary requirements for our clients to successfully obtain their visas.
What does a typical workweek look like in relation to combining your startup with your studies?
During the previous semester, our team acquired an office space at The Kitchen, which has become our primary hub outside of our academic studies. This is where we typically do most of our work. We use the space to focus on an individual basis, but also to work next to each other and talk things through as they happen. Balancing a startup with your studies requires efficient time-management. Weekends and evenings often become a valuable extension of our workweek. Fortunately, we have discovered that entrepreneurship consists of an array of different tasks. Some are creative, some are active, some are boring and some are fun. The non-repetitiveness of maintaining a startup makes it an exciting and healthy break from studies with – at times – dull theories and long lectures.
Your best advice for other students who are considering becoming entrepreneurs?
Do it now. There is no better time to build a startup than while studying. The activities involved in entrepreneurship and studying are in most cases extremely flexible endeavors. At the same time, students enrolled in Denmark are privileged enough to get paid for studying in the form of SU. This means that early startups aren’t forced to cripple their own growth by paying wages or to be put under the knife by make-or-break conditions. On top, students at Aarhus University have a broad variety of offers that help grow startups. Mentorship, network, free office space and individualized study plans are all available depending on your level of ambitions and work effort. In our case, The Kitchen has supported our journey from a good idea to a serious contender in the travel industry.