Travel Business: Sēkr
From Instagram influencer to entrepreneur, we speak with Breanne Acio, co-founder of Sēkr as the mobile platform establishing a diverse community for the Great Outdoors
Writer: Phoebe Harper
Type ‘vanlife’ into Instagram, and you will be met with almost 13 million posts labelled under that hashtag.
Over the past decade, the hype of the vanlife movement has amplified as a lifestyle choice that seeks adventure from the everyday, living in a nomadic way and reassessing what is truly meaningful in your life.
Whilst not for everyone, it was this captivating way of living that set Breanne Acio and Jessica Shisler – co-founders of Sēkr - on their own career path.
“My co-founder Jess and I were part of the early vanlife scene and had established ourselves as micro-influencers on Instagram,” Acio explains.
“We were both living the full-time vanlife separately and saw first-hand how hard it was just to find a safe place to camp overnight, and how difficult it was to understand which campsites would have amenities like showers, WiFi etc.”
The idea for Sēkr was born, and in 2018, the two women joined forces to combat this issue and launched a platform that would bring digitalisation into the outdoors space – an area that is relatively behind in its incorporation of technology despite huge demand.
“Sēkr is a women and minority-founded crowdsourced mobile platform that was created with everyone from the full-time nomad to the occasional road-tripper in mind,” she continues.
“The platform makes the entirety of the outdoor travel planning process easier and safer by connecting travellers to the campsites, resources, and outdoor communities they’re looking for.”
Differentiated by its celebration of diversity and laudable stance on sustainability, earlier this year the company was officially recognised as an honouree for FastCompany’s World Changing Ideas 2022.
Based in America, Sēkr primarily focuses on the geological wonders of the US National Parks as a playground for adventure that can feed the spirit of any traveller. To date, the platform hosts over 50,000 campsites nationwide, including the largest available database of free campsites.
It is an easy-to-use resource that endeavours to get everyone outdoors and enjoy the huge benefits that such experiences have to offer.
“There is a wealth of academic literature to support how being outdoors is associated with positive health outcomes, like boosting your immune system, preventing dementia and improving heart health,” comments Acio.
“According to a 2019 report in Nature
, spending two hours per week outdoors is associated with improved health and well-being.”
By placing accessible technology at its user’s fingertips, Sēkr exploits a niche in the market whose real potential is yet to be fully explored.
“We digitise the campsite inventory at scale and transform the outdoor travel planning experience from a clunky and time-consuming process to something simple and streamlined.
“The 200+ listings on Sēkr’s platform are created using public data from the government and other databases, and are then enhanced with crowdsourced information from our members. We have a growing team of Sēkr ambassadors who scout locations for us to verify information and take photographs to share with the community.”
Aside from addressing the camping industry’s relatively nascent adoption of technology as a hospitality vertical, Sēkr endeavours to create a diverse community in a field where representation is truly lacking.
“The outdoor industry has a lot of work to do to address the diversity and gender gap, from a business leadership standpoint, from an inclusion and safety viewpoint in outdoor spaces, and from a product development perspective,” she says.
“The industry is archetypically characterised by older, wealthy Caucasian men, but the data supports that the largest growing demographic in the outdoor industry is people of colour.”
As such, Sēkr encourages a huge swathe of the market that currently is not being supported by the outdoor industry, creating access to opportunity and information in an inclusive manner that gives everyone the confidence to enjoy such experiences.
“Women and people of colour have long been underrepresented among campers and hikers in the US — an issue especially close to my heart as a queer woman of colour — and Sēkr is changing that with easy-to-use resources like our database of campsites.”
By so doing, Sēkr is creating a community of like-minded travellers, leveraging the force of technology as a power for good in order to accomplish this.
“Sēkr sets itself apart from other RV and camping apps through its social features, which create an environment that encourages community initiatives and enables users to connect with other travellers through outdoor events and forums.
“The social features allow for knowledge-sharing among our members — they can add and read reviews on campsites they’re interested in, find secret spots and hidden gem campsites you’d typically only see on Instagram, and meet new friends,” Acio explains.
Sēkr’s mission goes hand-in-hand with sustainability, ensuring that the destinations it promotes are left intact by travellers.
“We’re passionate about promoting responsible recreation and the conservation of the outdoors. Sēkr is a public benefit corporation and we’re committed to protecting the places we share by educating our members. We partner with non-profit organisations like Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly! to ensure our public lands stay clean.”
Both Acio and Shisler use their role as trained Leave No Trace educators to advise the community on how to treat such spaces with respect, ensuring they are left in good condition for the next camper. This is also achieved by hosting regular clean-ups of campsites and natural areas.
With the company still in its infancy, but led by a crystal-clear vision, the future is looking bright for Sēkr.
“We envision the future of outdoor travel to be as simple a planning experience as booking a hotel or rental vacation,” concludes Acio.
“We are building the go-to place for every outdoor traveller. Sēkr will become synonymous with camping and outdoor recreation.”