We hope you enjoy our interview with Alexandra Chirila, entrepreneur and the founder of Roaring Romania.
We don’t want to say too much about Alexandra Chirila as you should discover her amazing story in our interview. But, this needs to be said – besides admiring her for having the courage to follow her dream and start the Roaring Romania Tours company, we also admire her kindness and sense of humour. That’s why we’re happy to introduce you to Alexandra, an entrepreneur, a boss and a very nice human being. 🙂
Hi Alexandra! How would you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi! Thank you for this opportunity! I find it really cool to be part of the people that you interviewed on TSD. It’s an honor! My name is Alexandra Chirila. I’m an entrepreneur in the travel industry, based in Bucharest, Romania. I have a travel agency called Roaring Romania Tours that I manage and I work in the business.
What inspired you to start Roaring Romania?
I started Roaring Romania in March of 2014 with a blog and then later in September I launched an initial form of the business. Now, 5 years later, I still find it weird to tell this story but here we go – When I had my Eureka moment I had been working a corporate job for four years already and I wasn’t pleased with what my life looked like nor was I excited about my future. So I was searching for an idea. One night, I had a dream that I was driving on the Transfagarasan Mountain Road in the Carpathians with my friends and I was their tour guide. I woke up the next morning and thought ‘this isn’t actually a bad idea’. Then I went and followed a literal dream. I find this story half inspiring half silly, but so far it worked out for me.
Was it scary to leave a secure job and jump into the unknown territory of running your own company and what gave you the courage to do it?
The courage came from finding the alternative scarier. I had images of doom running around my head, that if I didn’t do something that I would end up living a life I didn’t like. And what’s the point of that? It wasn’t an easy decision to make and there was a long period of going back and forth, weighing everything. I don’t make decisions easily and like to overthink all possibilities, but when I decide, I don’t go back. I spent more than a year preparing for the moment when I would leave my job. Also, I got my license to work as a guide, started the blog to get a bit of traction before launching the tours, closed any lines of credit I had open and saved money. It was scary but I was also ready, and my enthusiasm overcame my fear.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting your business?
Switch in mentality. It’s something that I still struggle with. Five years later and I’m not even close to perfecting it. Going from the structure of a nine to five job, with a job description, clear deadlines, and a manager to keep you in check, to waking up in the morning and not knowing what to do next because you simply do not know how to start and grow a business can be challenging. And if you’re someone like me, not good with organization and hating detailed work, then the struggle is real. Luckily, we live in an era where entrepreneurs are well catered to so if you’re determined (or stubborn) enough, it’s impossible not to find a way.
Were you always interested in traveling?
I’m a millennial, so travel comes with the territory. But I wouldn’t say I had this idea that I’d end up in the travel industry growing up. Travel and foreign countries have been part of my life because my father is a ship engineer, so I grew up with him traveling far away to all these countries and coming back with a lot of stories and bits and bobs that looked exotic. I’ve always been interested in how the world works and traveling is one of the most accurate and fun ways to find out.
What do you find to be the best and worst part of being your own boss?
On one side is the freedom to do anything you want and on the other is managing time properly. It’s a blessing and a curse. I value freedom and working for myself does give me the freedom of time. However, freedom of time does not also mean freedom of income. Learning to juggle these two and splitting my time productively has been a ride for me. There comes a time when one needs to face their shortcomings so I’m looking into delegating this for the future. But even having the freedom to make this choice is a perk of being your own boss.
Any advice you want to share with people who are thinking about starting their company?
The one thing I found useful in my beginning was: focus to get your first 10 customers. It’s very easy to lose your focus when you’re first starting out and you might find yourself tempted to invest in gadgets, online programs, networking events for entrepreneurs, all the good stuff that give you the impression you’re busy building something and you miss the one thing that will validate your idea: people willing to pay for what you have to offer. Leave aside all the noise and focus on those first 10 customers and test out your product. Also, be patient. I feel like Yoda now.
Why should one visit Romania and why should they book a tour with Roaring Romania?
One should visit Romania because it’s an amazing country in terms of sightseeing and landscapes. The history is rich and tumultuous, to say the least, which makes for some good stories and peculiar traditions. The landscape is offering: you have the Carpathians for road trips or hiking, there are the hilly wine regions which are perfect for bike tours, bird watching, and canoeing in the Danube Delta. And I have not yet said anything about the wine and food. In my 5 years of tourism, I am yet to receive a complaint or at least someone saying that their trip to Romania was averagely good.
When it comes to organising tours with Roaring Romania, my priority is quality. I’m very strict with making sure my guests have a good time and don’t feel rushed. The accommodations are quaint and centrally located. My aim with Roaring Romania is to put together itineraries that flow beautifully with the end result of giving the guests a memorable vacation in Romania.
What is your favourite place in Romania and why?
I’ll tell you my favorite place to go for myself and my favorite place to guide. My favorite place for me is in Dobrogea, the region I was born and grew up in, by the Black Sea. In the Northern part of Dobrogea there are these ancient mountains, well they don’t qualify as mountains anymore as they don’t go over 450 m. The landscape there is rocky, arid and a bit lunar. I love driving there for the otherworldly feeling it gives me.
Now, if I am to pick one place that I love guiding despite my many, many, many visits, that is Peles Castle. It’s unbelievably beautiful and I love watching the reactions of my guests every time they enter the Great Hall. It’s amazement in its purest form. Lovely!
What is one spot we can’t miss when visiting Bucharest?
That would be a visit to the Romanian Athenaeum. It’s not common knowledge that the Athenaeum can be visited outside of rehearsal hours. So, insider tip: door on the right side of the building is where you can ask if you can visit. The entrance hall is lavishly decorated, and the concert hall has a 75-meter fresco with the history of Romania up until 1918 which surprisingly survived the communist regime. It’s grand, beautiful and one of those places that make you go “Wow, I did not expect this!”
Describe your country in 3 words.
Traditional. Wild. Fun.
What is the biggest misconception you find that others have about your country and its people that you’d like to correct?
Contrary to popular belief not all of us are vampires.
* We’d like to thank Alexandra for finding the time in her busy schedule to talk to us. If you want to see more of her amazing tours and beautiful country make sure to follow/like her Instagram and Facebook page.