Sonia Groot interview

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur, what was the spark?

I kind of always knew that I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I thought okay if I’m going to do that then I probably will be irritated by how everything is handled and I want to do it myself. Then I read an article about how entrepreneurs solve problems and I thought well, what’s an issue that I’ve experienced? When travelling with my mom, who’s in a wheelchair, we always run into issues. So I thought that would be so amazing if I could solve that.

Your mom was a big inspiration for you to start your business, but when you first began at Global School you had a different idea, right?

When I first started at Global School I had GrootTravels written down, but I knew I needed money. And that’s when I got targeted by one of those dropship gurus online. I was like okay well that seems cool I’m going to try that out. That was my first step in entrepreneurship actually, how it all started out. I was trying to sell a shower wiper. I looked at how much money I was actually making and a good amount of that money was going to the other parties, not to me. But at the end of the day, I just wanted to create funding for the business I really wanted to build. 

Tell us what your project GrootTravels is about

GrootTravels is a travel agency that intends to help people with physical disabilities see the world. I believe that it should be done like how everyone else does it. When someone goes to booking.com they find a hotel and then just go. For someone in a wheelchair, it’s calling the hotel, asking for pictures, making sure everything they tell you is true, and still having doubts. They feel the anxiety and I want to remove that, so GrootTavels is basically like a platform that you can compare to booking.com/tripadvisor. People can find a hotel with the information they need; pictures, the right sizes, the measurements completely the way they need it and book their hotel. When I discuss this topic with other entrepreneurs involved in the travelling industry, a reaction I always get is ‘no we understand, we know how it works, we follow the rules, we can do this.’ And then when you start asking questions you start to realize that they don’t actually understand, and when you try to explain to them how it actually is you always get a little resistance like ‘no we know, we know.’ People still have a certain view on disabilities, and from this viewpoint, they start to give advice. Ultimately if that view is wrong then you will be ill-advised. For me, I noticed that quickly because with my experience with my mom you know the wrong words, like ‘oh no we’re accessible.’ When you hear that you already know that that’s not the right place to go, you have to go somewhere that actually explains it.

Can you give an example of something that one would see as wheelchair accessible but in practice may not truly be? 

I have a perfect example. I was in Porto and I did some motel checks and one thing that people always forget is that, even though they have the right amenities in the bathroom, the showerhead is always placed too high. This one was at 160 centimetres and I told the person that was showing me around the hotel to try to put it always on the lowest setting so that it’s for a person in a wheelchair to reach it. Their response was ‘well there’s always someone with them.’ If you have the mindset there’s always someone with them then you don’t look at the person in a wheelchair as capable of independence; that they always have to rely on someone else. I think that really shows that people tend to believe that people with disabilities are not able to do things themselves. So unfortunately even hotels that take disability into account are sometimes just unaware because they aren’t familiar with the situation.

How do you handle ‘being comfortable with being uncomfortable?’

The school really helped because I talked a lot with Marco, my learning coach, and I told him that I had so many doubts and was wondering; am I doing it the right way? Can I continue? What’s happening? I also talked to Thomas Blekman about it and he told me that although the pandemic was taking a toll on my travel-oriented business, it was going to end eventually and to not give up. Marco said to me ‘you really have to listen to yourself, do you really want to quit or do you want to continue?’ It’s like well I don’t want to quit, so I’ll keep at it until COVID is done and continue building.

In order to wait out COVID a bit you started developing another project, can you tell us about that? 

I, along with my cofounder Joëlle, created Dr. Orgasms, a sex toy company. Dr. Orgasms is essentially about giving the right information to people so they can find the right sex toy. When you look now at really big sex toy companies, they always tell you ‘oh you’re gonna have the most amazing orgasm, you’re gonna have multiple,’ you’re gonna do this you’re gonna do that. But you don’t know what you buy, there’s no information provided. If you don’t know what you buy, you just you’re just guessing. If you’re a beginner then it’s like okay well I’m just gonna spend this amount of money and then maybe find out that it’s not even worth it. We want to intercept that, we want to be there from the beginning of your sexual journey; which is when you start buying sex toys to be pleasant. We want to be helpful in that way. So when you go to Dr. Orgasms you will find sex toys that have been curated specifically to suit your needs. And also that they’re fully explained, so you know exactly what you’re buying. We don’t tell you ‘okay this one is going to give you the most amazing orgasm,’ we will give you the information required and enable you to find out for yourself.

“What is your vision with Dr. Orgasms, what kind of impact would you like to make?” – Joëlle Tulling, Co-founder and student at GS4E

So Dr. Orgasms is directed at people that have vulvas. Our toys are for vulvas and we know that women, as well as people that might not identify as women, experience so much misinformation when it comes to our sexual journeys. We’re told you have to do it this way, you have to do it that way, and we don’t want that. With Dr. Orgasms we wanted to create a space that was open to everyone that didn’t feel welcomed by any other big sex story company. We want our customers to feel like they’re safe enough to ask questions and be inspired to start their journey and to really experience it the right way. The vision for Dr. Orgasms is to not only create that space but also to be an example for other companies that say that they’re inclusive. Companies that say they’re empowering women, or people from the LGBTQ+ community when they truly are not. At Dr. Orgasms we don’t talk about gender, we use images of people with different bodies and different colours. We want to have that in our core, and then hopefully inspire other companies to do the same.

With Facebook and Google becoming more prudish with their advertisements and restricting more, how are you going to market Dr. Orgasms?’ – Griffin Dettmer, GS4E student

That’s a very good question, that’s also one we’re still asking ourselves, but we are testing a lot of possibilities. Although I think we won’t outright call them ‘dildo parties’, we are working on having workshops. We’ve done them before and in those workshops, we explained different things about the vulva, about sexuality and intimacy, and right now we want to work together with some tantric coaches (who teach the practice of weaving together spirituality and sexuality). We are also working on the content we can put on YouTube and Spotify, so there will be a five-episode length series about tantric and what they can do for people with fetuses and people with vulvas. We also talked about the possibility of multi-level selling, which is often seen as a pyramid scheme but isn’t always the case.

How will you rise as an entrepreneur?

In the case of GrootTravels, the idea is that people with physical disabilities can see the world without limits. I don’t believe I can do that alone, so I am looking to collaborate with other companies. In this case, I know someone that has been in this industry for 40 years; I think her experience is very valuable and I’m looking forward to starting working with her. I think the combination of our viewpoints, hers as someone in a wheelchair and mine as a caregiver, would allow for us to do great things. That’s actually how I think I will rise with GrootTravels; by taking it to a global level, and by actively seeing collaborations with experienced people. Both GrootTravels and Dr. Orgasms are going to be very important to me, and then after five years or so I might choose one to focus on. I know that I will only leave a project when I’ve put something down valuable enough to step away from.

Erwin Retèl

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