Looking back on 2021, with eola CEO Callum Hemsley

by Ed Scott

2021 was a year of considerable growth for eola. 

In January, after a difficult year for the travel and activities sector, our future looked uncertain. But a major funding round secured in February meant it was ‘all systems go’ once more, and we began to invest heavily in expanding our team and developing our platform. 

In this article, eola co-founder and CEO Callum Hemsley talks about how the company has handled transitioning from an eight-person start-up to an international team of thirty.

eola founders dan and callum
eola founders Callum Hemsley, CEO, and Dan Steele, CTO

Enabling excellence

“We’ve always said we want to hire people better than we are,” Callum said. “Four years ago, eola started with me and Dan in a flat bouncing ideas around and talking to people. Now it's a group of people taking those ideas and running with them, far beyond where we started, and into really incredible places.”

Focusing on finding the right people has allowed Callum and his co-founder and CTO Dan Steele to step back from day-to-day problem solving. Instead, they’ve been able to focus on steering the business towards its long-term goals.

“Ultimately, I think my job is to set direction, not make decisions,” said Callum. “This year, more and more, it’s been about everyone driving their own approaches. The more we empower people to make their own decisions, the more we see really awesome things come out of it.”

eola team
The eola team on a beach clean in Newquay

Managing growth

“We are still investment-led,” said Callum, “so we always need to be thinking, at every stage, who do we need to hire? When are we going to hire them? What does that look like for the team? We’re constantly planning out every different scenario, and diving into what each could look like.” 

Thankfully, Callum and Dan are able to draw upon a network of advisors, investors, and board members. Not to mention their own relationship as co-founders. 

“We know each other too well, at this point,” Callum said. “It makes for some really bizarre discussions, because we're essentially just arguing each other's points. Once a month or so, we'll go to a pub, grab a pint, and just list through a series of topics in about five minutes. I’ll say, ‘But you're going to think this,’ and Dan will respond with, ‘No, I know, but you're going to think this.’ It’s wonderful - the most important thing is that we are fully aligned.”

eola playing kubb
Callum enjoying a game of beach kubb in Newquay with the eola team

Building for the future

One such long-term goal is to transition towards a deeply sustainable business model, both in terms of commercial longevity and environmental stewardship. Towards the end of the year, eola began to work with the Future Forest Company, planting a tree for every eola marketplace booking in December. We are committed to deepening this partnership over the coming years.

“There should be no tension between being a good business and being the business we want to be,” Callum said. “Our new initiatives are about asking, ‘What is the kind of business that we want to become?’”

“We see a path where we can become this incredibly positive, environmentally green, carbon-positive business. It’s going to take us a long time, but the fact that we're able to start is wonderful. It means that we are building something much more potent and sustainable.”

future forest company
eola's partnership with the Future Forest Company will grow in 2022

For Callum, whether it’s the day-to-day running of eola as a business or the development of long-term initiatives, it all comes down to people. 

“You always think it’s just going to be this linear path where you start in one place, and you're going and iterating on that. But seeing the way people have brought in their own views on this is remarkable. We’ve found that across the board that if we bring on excellent people, they do excellent work. And it's as simple as that.”

Read more

eola CTO dan steele

Looking back on 2021, with eola CTO Dan Steele

eola green initiatives

Year in review: 2021 green initiatives launched

callum hemsley eola ceo

Callum's column: The story of eola

Enjoyed this?

We have a broad selection of activities you can book right now!

See activities

Next article: Looking back on 2021, with eola CTO Dan Steele