Entrepreneurs Gillian Scatliff and Tess Stokes are the founders of G&T Weekends, a niche travel company that hosts long weekends at castles, manor houses and chateaux all over the world. G&T Weekend organize private, unique experiences for their guests and custom-built meals prepared by a local chef. For dessert? Dancing, in the ballroom. G&T Weekends is a travel service for Millennials who seek personalized and luxury travel experiences. Here’s more:
G&T Weekends experiences are all-inclusive, guests only need to book their own flight, and once you arrive at the airport every single detail will be taken care of, and they’ll all be luxurious. Funny story: on the first day of a G&T Weekends trip in Tuscany, a guest had his wallet “stolen” by his friends as a prank. He didn’t notice it missing until he was en route back to the Bologna airport for our flight home — that’s how infrequently you’ll want for money.
When was the last time your bedroom was furnished with both a fireplace and a turret, or you dined in the desert under a twinkling galaxy of stars? G&T Weekends revellers have careers that leave them with no time to organize a trip and enough stress that they are looking to blow off some steam. They’ve travelled to New York City, Paris and Rome but are seeking unique travel experience. G&T Weekends secret recipe is to add likeminded people together, who all want exclusive travel experiences and to meet a curated group of people, and the end result is immediate gratification, new friendships and oftentimes romances too.
G&T Weekends is expanding into North America this September with our Glamping trip in Prince Edward County, a weekend of cycling to wineries, visiting the beach, learning to make beer, and farm-to-table cuisine. Learn more about it here.
Do you know where you got your drive from?
Gillian: Both of our fathers are entrepreneurs, always looking for the next business opportunity. My dad loved his work, put in long hours and, on family holidays, was the only guy on the beach with a laptop. Restless in early retirement, he quickly founded a new company. He taught me that hard work and some sleepless nights are part of the life of an entrepreneur. I’ve always thought it important to do work you love – and long hours or weekend work are best when accompanied with a working mate and a cocktail!
How do you stay self-motivated?
Tess: Our trips and the feedback we receive are highly motivating. We are so energised by what we do and the incredible people we meet on our weekends away. The laughs, smiles and e-mails that include “best weekend of my life” are great fuel that motivate us to rise early and work late during the months of planning the weekends.
What would you say is your preferred way to network?
Gillian: I find formal networking events awkward, so I tend to shy away from them. Outside of G&T, we travel and attend events a great deal and meet interesting people. What we do is out of the mainstream and highly appealing to a lot of the young professionals we meet. I don’t have to talk very long about G&T to hear “Where do I sign?” or “I’m going to put you in touch with X, she would be a great partner for you”.
Tess: I love hearing about the latest startups and learning what everyone else is up to. All my networking events are with other entrepreneurs and startup companies. There are plenty of opportunities to network in London.
How would you describe your process for deepening relationships?
Gillian: Our business is all about trust –from our partners, vendors and properties to potential guests looking at booking one of our trips. We like to test out each of our vendors and then ask more of them each time we re-use their services. We’ve built excellent relationships this way, with results even beyond our expectations.
Our potential guests are trusting us that they will have a hassle-free, fantastic weekend with interesting people. We include testimonials on our website and on social media – no one wants to go on holiday with people they wouldn’t want to even have a coffee with!
We treat our revellers very well. A strong testament to this are the numerous bookings from guests who, at the airport heading home after one of our trips, are already on their phones booking the next trip! We reward our guests who book multiple trips (of which there are many!) and refer their friends with discounts off their next trip.
What are your preferred tools for keeping organized?
Tess: Gillian lives in Toronto, I live in London (UK), so organization and communication for us are key! We use Quip constantly: it’s been a Godsend for us to stay on top of the million things involved in travel/event planning and running our business generally. As an accountant, I also love a good nerd tool to keep us going. Receipt Bank is awesome for quickly processing receipts into the accounting software Xero. Xero also provides a quick way to generate valuable data out of our numbers.
Gillian: Our runsheets for the weekends change constantly, so it’s important we have a software where we can both see what’s going on. Our guests are too busy enjoying rosé by the pool to notice, but every minute of our weekends is meticulously planned. My checked baggage might be filled with inflatable pool toys, a Marie Antoinette costume and components for our gift packs but it’s also crammed with highlighters, itineraries, folders and countless checklists!
What is your favourite way to market your product or services?
Tess: We love using Instagram to give people an idea of who we both are and broadcast our weekends live to our followers. We get amazing feedback from our Instagram stories, where we experiment with both video and interviews.
Gillian: Word of mouth is still our biggest marketing force. We hire a photographer to take photos of the weekend to send to each reveller’s mailbox every morning. Not only are our revellers able to have excellent photos of their trip and a new Bumble profile picture (GOODBYE Machu Picchu!), our guests can relax and live in the moment instead of trying to capture it all on iPhone. Of course, our revellers’ friends see the photos, inquire about said person’s fabulous weekend… and book their first G&T Weekend.
Who has been your mentor in helping you find success?
Gillian: I was very lucky to have sat next to Charlie Scott (founder of Trufflepig) at a dinner last year. Charlie has twenty years of luxury travel experience and while living in Morocco for several years, he ran bike tours. We exchanged travel stories (Charlie is not only well-traveled, he’s knowledgeable and articulate.) and kept in touch. In the months leading up to our Easter Weekend in Morocco, he patiently answered countless questions I asked about working with Moroccans, who the best chefs were, activities that would best be suited to our guests, what to avoid and what to absolutely not miss. He has guided me in locating best resources and creating the best and most memorable experiences our guests could only dream about.
What social issue does your organization raise funds and/or awareness for?
Tess: As G&T Weekends has been in business for a little more than a year, we are still searching for the right charitable organization with whom to align ourselves. Giving back is very important to both of us. I serve at the soup kitchen at St Peter’s Church in London, and Gillian volunteers at Dress for Success in Toronto. We gladly welcome any suggestions!
How and where do you continue to learn?
Gillian: Feedback is everything in our business and we strongly encourage it from our revellers and peers. Because we are a small company and still relatively new, we are able to adjust and adapt easily. We listen to our guests, make changes where possible, and welcome advice from an outside perspective. So often while operating a small business, I get so caught up in the details, I’m not able to see gaps that someone who works in a different industry can see.
While it is important to develop a strong brand identity, we need to be flexible too.
We scour every resource available to research newest trends in the travel industry, best destinations and what motivates travellers. Then we bounce ideas around and always listen to what people are saying.
Do you have a fitness ritual that you live by?
Gillian: I’m more into the outdoors than I am the gym, and I love horseback riding. I try to incorporate it into every trip I take now – that, and wine tasting. Is bending my elbow considered a fitness ritual?
Tess: I play on a co-ed touch rugby team, which is perfect for me as it combines socializing with fitness!
How do you feed your soul?
Gillian: I started practicing Transcendental Meditation this year, which has changed my life. My stress levels have plummeted, I am immensely more productive, and sleep better. Meditating every morning with our photographer (Katie McKnoulty of The Travelling Light) in a cabana by the pool in the desert in Morocco was pretty blissful!
I’m also a voracious reader. W. Somerset Maugham combines my two passions with his writing on his travels in the 1920s. He was the OG travel blogger!
Tess: I am the Queen of Podcasts – I find my zen in the iTunes store! I keep the escape/ educate balance by listening to This Week in Startups and taking some much-needed down time with Serial S-Town.
How would you describe the eating ritual that makes you feel most powerful?
Gillian: I’m not a coffee snob – I can and do drink everything. That said, the thought of the smell of grinding my own beans from Pilot gets me out of bed every morning, and I adore making a French press every morning. I’m not sure if it’s the ceremony or the caffeine, but I feel powerful!
Tess: I feel most powerful when I’m nailing a balanced diet with lots of home cooking and fresh ingredients (with a few naughty bits mixed in for good measure). I’m a real foodie – the food has to be perfect on every G&T, we spent months to find the best chef for our trip to Mykonos later this month.
Who is your favourite personality to follow on YouTube?
Tess: I grew up going on sailing trips with my family – G&T’s Sailing in Sardinia trip for me last year was a real dream. “Sailing La Vagabonde” is an incredible YouTube channel – two Australian sailors who have a really intriguing story, but are also incredibly relatable. They’re on a contract to sail around the world on a catamaran; I’m avidly watching. I feel like I am on the sailing trips with them, which really keeps the adventure alive in me!
Gillian: I had my first wine-tasting in Tuscany when I was 19 – since then, I have been hooked! I follow “Wine Align” on YouTube and am transfixed by “So You Think You Know Wine?” – a blind tasting test by wine experts. I love learning about new regions and varieties, and I feel like I’m watching Antiques Roadshow when a completely accessible wine is mistaken for a fine one!
What type of content do you find most compelling on Instagram?
Gillian: I’m a fanatic for interiors, so I love following accounts by Architectural Digest, Christiane Lemieux and Tamsin Johnson. Aside from the beauty and creativity on offer, I love seeing inside people’s homes. Maybe it’s the voyeur in me, but I’m fascinated to see people’s art, which books they read, how they position their sofa. The various mansions and castles we stay in for G&T are always completely gobsmacking – I spend the first 20 minutes upon arrival walking around speechless, taking it all in.
Tess: Travel vlogs are my favourite, for both inspiration for G&T and escape from an Excel sheet! The Drone Man’s videos are breathtakingly beautiful and visceral – I swear I can smell salt in the air when he posts an ocean scene. Sam Evans Life has fantastic content, and comes from a super humble and epic guy. I love watching what people create, and how they do it.
Who is your favourite artist?
Tess: Sunday Soul Sessions is my go-to Spotify playlist right now, so I’m being serenaded by a lot of Nat King Cole, Amy Winehouse and James Morrison.
Gillian: I love Toronto-based Erin Armstrong, I’ve got three pieces by her at my home. I just need more wall space and money for more!
What is your favourite meal?
Gillian: One cooked by our private chef on a G&T Weekend, of course!
Tess: Japanese is by far my favourite cuisine. Fresh salmon sashimi always wins for me, or a katsu curry on a cold day.
What is your favourite sport to watch?
Gillian: Basketball – I used to play and Raptors games are so much fun!
Tess: I’m Australian, so I love watching rugby down at the pub with a group of mates – great fun!
Where is your favourite place to unwind?
Gillian: I love a good tequila or mezcal, so Reposado on Ossington is my go-to place in Toronto. A live jazz band, light-strung patio and killer tequila list make it just the place I want to spend my evening after a stressful day.
I go to Tulum, Mexico not just for the tequila, which is excellent, by the way. The ultimate hippie unwind spot, it’s impossible not to feel relaxed there. We rented bicycles, ate organic food and drank cocktails on the beach, did yoga every morning, and even partook in a “musical healing ceremony” at a commune. Keep your eyes peeled for G&T Tulum trip in 2018!
Tess: In London, my de-stress ritual is to walk along the Camden Canals to the local farmer’s market.
My favourite unwind destination in San Sebastian in the Basque country in Spain. San Sebastian is the perfect mix of incredible food (I wrote a blog about my personal food tour here), beach and chill.