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Looking for a buddy?
Before being made redundant three years ago, Toby Gunston was a keen traveller, having visited more than ten countries, from the Inca Trail to the Blue Mountains of Australia.
But since losing his job he has been pinned to his desk, working at home in his bedroom.
He said: “From 9-5 I work from home as a freelance web designer, and from 5pm to 2am I work on my Travel Buddies website.”
His business is aimed at anyone looking for a 'buddy' to travel with.
Toby, 30, said: “I have quite a few friends with scuba-diving qualifications, but even so, I found it difficult to find someone with the right certificate and who wanted to go at the same time as me. And when I was travelling I often met people who would have liked a travelling companion.”
He spent three years planning his website, which went live in February. He said: “It has only been live for three months, but already we have one person signing up every three minutes. And I haven't done any advertising. It is used in almost 100 different countries, from British forces in Iraq to Buddhist monks in Nepal looking for someone to go trekking with.
“It is amazing what people are using it for — to find people going for bike rides or to meet backpackers in New Zealand. It is also popular for diving, of course. We have all age groups, from 18 up to a 56-year-old who is retired and widowed and looking for adventure.”
At the moment, the website is free to use and Mr Gunston hopes to make money from advertising and link-ups with commercial organisations. He said: “You register your travel plans on the site, so a hotel in Sidney, say, could target only travellers who are planning to go to Australia. We have had a lot of interest, from Vietnam to Kuala Lumpur. We have also started working with booking.com.”
He has put safeguards in place so that personal details are not revealed, and says visitor numbers were up 800 per cent in May.
He is being mentored by entrepreneur Leila Wilcox, founder of baby toiletries website Halos n’ Horns. “I have been promoting it on Facebook and Twitter and my mother and father have been helping me e-mail potential advertisers. I think they are looking forward to me making my millions so that they can retire."
But his ambitions are relatively modest.
“It would be nice if it makes enough money for me to get by.” Contact: 07876 595401 Web: www.travel-buddies.com