Note From the IDEA Center
Notre Dame startup Tradelasts’ mission is to create memories by establishing a community of trusted vacation homeowners. Recognizing the tireless efforts of physicians and medical responders in this pandemic, Tradelasts has pivoted their business model to match vacation homeowners with medical personnel to provide these first responders and their families a free vacation stay, once the crisis is over, as a gift of gratitude for the care to our communities they selflessly provide.
If you would like to get involved with Tradelasts’ efforts to extend free vacations to our nation’s healthcare heroes as a vacation homeowner, donor or volunteer, please visit their website. You can also connect with Pier White at email@example.com. You're also encouraged to share this story on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram accounts. Following are Tradelasts' social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Pier White (mathematics, class of 1994, Keenan Hall) knows a thing or two about stress. Immediately after 9-11, the former U.S. Air Force F-15E weapons systems officer flew 50 combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq. Flying at speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour with Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters shooting at him, White recognized the inherent danger he faced, yet his training prepared him to remain calm and laser focused on his mission.
It’s a talent the highly decorated military veteran retains to this day. “Completing the mission is my priority. Nothing stresses me. Why? Everything is relative and no one’s shooting at me,” he jokes.
That attitude came in handy two months ago when the coronavirus pandemic brought life – and White’s new startup company Tradelasts (a Notre Dame startup) - to a grinding halt.
The South Bend, Indiana-based company is a membership-based, concierge-style vacation service where participants join a trusted community of homeowners and offer the use of their homes and vacation homes in exchange for points to be utilized in staying at another member’s home on their own vacation. The concept allows owners to leverage unused time in their vacation homes and create lasting memories for their families by visiting other great properties in different locales within the network. Notre Dame's ESTEEM Graduate Program also helped advance Tradelasts through a capstone project that one of its former students completed for the startup.
“We were in the process of working with investors, recruiting members, building out our tech platform and beginning to launch initial marketing efforts, when the nation and the travel industry shut down. Not a good time to launch a travel-oriented business,” White says.
If there’s one thing his 12 years in the military taught this University of Notre Dame alumnus, it’s that no mission goes exactly as planned. You have to plan for contingencies and then adapt when unforeseen circumstances arise … and they always do.
“The military puts an emphasis on developing leaders. An integral part of that is giving people the autonomy to problem solve while planning their mission and then expecting them to adapt to changing conditions while under a high degree of stress. When the pandemic put our launch plan for Tradelasts on hold, I asked myself what I could do to help and how we could adapt as a company. The decision to pivot was the natural answer to both questions,” he says.
Vacations for America’s healthcare heroes
In addition to being the founder and CEO of Tradelasts, White works at Notre Dame as a regional director for development, connecting with alumni, parents and friends to engage them in furthering the mission of Notre Dame, a mission that stresses service to others.
“The coronavirus crisis was totally unexpected and disruptive. However, it created the opportunity for Tradelasts and our members to do great things for America’s healthcare heroes,” White explains. “So we are shifting our focus to connect our healthcare heroes on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus with wonderful, free vacations at Tradelasts members’ homes.”
White got the idea from his own battlefield experience in the U.S. Air Force. Military veterans often return from a deployment traumatized by what they have seen and experienced, making it difficult to return to the normalcy of civilian life and successfully re-integrating with their families. As a result, veterans experience higher divorce and suicide rates due to post-traumatic stress.
“Our healthcare workers are now under the same kind of life and death trauma as our military personnel and their mental health and family lives are at risk. When this is over, it’s going to be tough for them to get back to normal. A free vacation where they can escape to a beautiful place and relax with family is a great way to start the personal healing process. Tradelasts is positioned to make this happen,” he says.
Gratitude that heals the caregivers
White and the Tradelasts team quickly put together the company’s new mission aimed at healing America’s caregivers. The goal is to make participation as easy as possible for as many people as possible to get involved. The main components are:
- Anyone can show their gratitude for deserving medical personnel by donating time in their vacation homes (a Tradelasts membership is not required to donate)
- The public can also recognize others by nominating medical personnel for vacations
- Medical personnel who worked on the pandemic frontlines can sign themselves up for a free vacation.
- The public can donate to Tradelasts’ Gofundme page to help cover cleaning costs and help families with travel
- People can volunteer their time to help make the vacations possible.
“There are many people hurting right now because of the medical and economic fallout from the pandemic. As a society we need a lot of healing and helping our healthcare heroes heal from this crisis is something we can rally around,” White says. “Every little bit helps.”
Another beneficiary of the Tradelasts effort will be the hospitality industry. “If we can get people back to the Jersey Shore, Florida, the Carolinas and out West, this will be a boost for restaurants and other tourism-related businesses and their employees who also need help,” White says.
“With Tradelasts providing a free place to stay, families will have more money to spend on eating out, entertainment, shopping, and other fun. Maybe we can help provide a needed kickstart to the travel and hospitality industry as soon as the all clear is given,” he says.
Ramping up for a hoped for summer launch
Tradelasts’ website has been updated to reflect the new focus. White is currently busy recruiting new members to Tradelasts who are willing to donate time in their vacation homes. Already, people have generously donated vacations to Big Sky, Montana; Beaver Creek, Colorado; Orlando, Florida; the North Carolina mountains; and South Bend, Indiana for Notre Dame football weekends.
White stresses that donated homes will not be made public on the Tradelasts’ website or anywhere else for that matter. As with any concierge service, Tradelasts will match guests to a vacation home and prior to their visit, instruct them to treat the home as their own. After each visit, homes will be thoroughly cleaned.
“The Tradelasts model is based on trust and respect,” White explains. “It’s a privilege to enjoy these homes and our guests appreciate that.”
With the nation just starting to open up restaurants, stores and other businesses, White hopes the healthcare heroes vacations will be operational sometime this summer. Until then, Tradelasts will concentrate on recruiting members, donors and volunteers, and getting the word out to the medical community and the general public about the nominating process.
“We really need to generate a lot of buzz on social media and news stories about Tradelasts and what we’re doing. The more we get the word out, the more people will join us in extending gratitude to the medical professionals who have given so much to ensure people got the care they needed during the pandemic,” he said.
Eventually, Tradelasts will return to its original business model of connecting vacation homeowners with one another to “trade” stays in their properties and create “lasting” memories for their families. However, White anticipates that the free vacations for America’s heroes, whether they’re in health care or in the military, will be an important part of the company’s culture and mission. Either way, Tradelasts will do their best to connect people with their dream vacation.
Asked about his idea of a perfect vacation, White pauses. “I have lived all over the world with the military and seen beautiful places, but it’s hard to beat the white sand beaches and Southern vibe of my hometown, Pensacola, Florida.”
With that recommendation, let’s hope someone donates time at a Pensacola vacation home.