Close your eyes and imagine a heavenly place you would like to travel to on a luxury ship. The creators of CruiseGuru, Diana and Nikola, can take you there.
Over two cups of steaming coffee at a café near the National Palace of Culture, an idea came into the heads of two energetic enthusiasts, which was destined to make dreams come true – both for its creators and for hundreds of other people. Lucky ones, who were about to have a chance to experience some of the most beautiful places in the world, with the help of the founders of CruiseGuru, Diana Blagoeva and Nikola Nikolov.
The company was registered in November 2017, and five years later, it is among the leaders on the Bulgarian market, offering cruises to fairytale destinations. These include the mythical Greek islands, the Canary Islands, Australia, and New Zealand, Dubai, the Caribbeans, and many more…
“The idea for the company name, CruiseGuru, came spontaneously in a conversation between me and Diana, in the period before we had to dive deep into the complex registration procedures,” recalls Nikola. “We had to produce a ton of documents required to start a business. I have been asked about the greatest obstacles at the beginning of our path as entrepreneurs. For a start, we did not have an office. We worked each on our laptops at a popular café in the capital. We had to face the harsh reality very soon. After we obtained all the required documents and licenses, after paying all sorts of fees, we found that there was no money left on the company account. We were disconcertingly close to absolute zero”.
But this could not dim Diana and Nikola’s faith in success. The business partners turned to the bank they were to work with in the future, full of confidence and hope. Diana and Nikola had some difficulty answering the standard question, “What is your expected income for the upcoming year 2018?” They came up with the amount of BGN 200,000.
“We were wrong. The income in the first year was a few times that,” says Diana. Success did not happen by chance. The founders of CruiseGuru were building on experience gained over years of hard work at one of the large companies in the sector, Premier Tours.
At the prestigious company’s office, Diana and Nikola worked excellently together, and overcame many challenges in the period from 2010 to 2017. They built trust in each other, which is the foundation of their success to this day.
“Every craft is stolen,” shares Diana Blagoeva. “Both me and Nikola learnt a lot from the team at Premier Tours. And from the other places we’ve worked at as well. Anyone wishing to succeed, regardless of the sector they have chosen to grow in, must find the right people from whom to draw knowledge and skill.”
The moment when the future founders of CruiseGuru decided that they will ditch their 9 to 5 and do their own business came when the ownership of Premier Tours changed. Diana and Nikola had worked for long years to establish their names, and at some point, their names started working for them. That is why their first company preceding CruiseGuru was called simply “Diana and Nikola” Ltd. “We had full understanding of how cruises are organized, we had the necessary contacts,” says Diana. “The companies we wanted to conclude contracts with trusted us. As well as the many clients we had known for years.”
Nikola tells with a smile that he was so devoted to his work as an organizer of luxury ship voyages that many didn’t call him by his name. He was known as “the guy with the cruises”.
Presently, the CruiseGuru business enjoys favorable winds, and the sky is azure blue and clear. Interest in holidays on cruise ships is high and there are more and more opportunities.
“I share the philosophy of success of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, who now owns more than 30 billion dollars,” says Nikola Nikolov. “The Chinese magnate advises future entrepreneurs to be good students until their 20th year. That is the time when they need to learn and gain experience.
In their twenties is the period when they should follow the successful example of their mentor. The good leader teaches the young to think differently.
In your thirties, it is best to work for yourself. In your forties, it is right to concentrate on the area you’re good at. Not to take too much initiative. In your fifties, – work for the young people. Because then, they’ll be able to do things better than you. After 60, a person should spend more time on themselves. Relaxing on the beach, for example.”
So far, the story of Diana and Nikola is as if taken from Jack Ma’s parable.
“We had gained a lot of knowledge and skill working as employees. After turning 30, it was perfectly natural to start writing our own story as entrepreneurs,” sums up Nikola.
Now, CruiseGuru offers cruises year-round all over the globe. The ships the Bulgarian company works with cross all oceans, seas, and rivers. They travel to the Far East, the Caribbeans, North America, Alaska, South America, Antarctica, Galapagos, the Panama Canal, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Pacific ocean, Australia, the Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, the Southern Pacific…
And how do the two founders of CruiseGuru offering their clients to crisscross the world like to relax?
“When you have your own business, you work all the time. There’s no such thing as paid annual leave,” admits Diana. “The good thing about our work is that we can do our job from any place. We don’t need to be in a specific office. It suffices that we have electricity and Internet wherever we are. This model has been established a long time ago in our company and it shows results. Within the same week, I worked from Veliko Tarnovo and Varshets, combining different tasks. I love to travel on cruises together with my 10-year-old son. I also like the serenity in the mountains.”
Nikola, “the guy with the cruises”, is a fan of ship voyages to exotic places too. Sometimes, he also gets other ideas for an escape from the daily stress. “I love the Spanish province of Andalucía, and once, I just took a rental car and drove without a clear destination and direction,” tells Nikola. “I would book my accommodations on the same day. Experiences like this energize me.”
What’s next and how far do dreams go for Diana and Nikola from CruiseGuru?
“In our business, attention to detail and knowing well the clients’ requirements are extremely important,” says Nikola Nikolov. “People who are used to a high standard in their own work require the same of others. Every detail is of importance. How a person who has trusted us with their holiday likes to drink their coffee. What requirements they have for the place where they are staying. Their daily habits, rituals. A good professional has this entire array of different skills which make the client trust them. Our ambition is to keep growing in the area we’re best at, and to keep on. The next stages in Jack Ma’s strategy are still ahead of us.”