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Davis, California

Monday, September 27, 2021

UC student launches travel business

While a full-time undergraduate student at UC Davis, fourth-year economics student Ryan De Forest launched his own company in August 2012. De Forest created travel site Bagonize, which features a search engine to plan full vacations.

“I’ve always wanted to be in charge of my own company but always thought it was necessary to graduate first. I saw a problem with the online travel industry and decided to dive in and tackle it,” De Forest said in an email interview.

According to De Forest, his goal for his business is to maintain a more “customer-friendly” travel site than the older travel sites on the internet that are usually outdated. He launched a preliminary site for Bagonize in August 2012, which was replaced in October 2012 with the current site that reflects customer feedback.

He received monetary and advisory support from the ASUCD Entrepreneurship Fund, also known as E-Fund, which is an organization that encourages students to develop business ideas, not only under the motivation of earning profit but also for making a positive influence on the surrounding community.

“We wanted to reward Ryan for his immense passion and commitment toward Bagonize,” said Kate Lin, a fourth-year environmental policy analysis and planning major and chair of E-Fund, in an email interview.

To receive support from E-Fund, De Forest had to complete an online application during one of the funding cycles, Lin said. He was selected as a finalist from the group of applicants and was asked to give a 10-minute pitch presentation in front of the Selection Committee, which determines who will receive grants based on the pitch presentations. E-Fund offered $150 to De Forest to assist him in publicity costs.

De Forest said he read about a past recipient of E-Fund’s help in The California Aggie and thought the program would be a good experience for him.

“E-fund proved to me that my company is a legit idea and I wasn’t suffering from a dream that can’t be successful,” he said.

The idea to generate a travel site grew from a boring Saturday afternoon, according to De Forest. He and his friends decided to do an online search of “things to do in Davis” but found few results.

“I knew there were other things to do, but without a lot of refinement and searching through hundreds of results, good results could not be found. That’s when I knew something could be improved here,” he said.

Currently, he has a total of four UC Davis students working for him in the business that sprouted from a simple Google search. Darlene Megino and Jesse Garcia are responsible for destination gathering and entering, Melissa Uzes is the marketing outreach coordinator and Arjun Bharadwaj is the lead app developer.

Melissa Uzes, a communication and psychology double major, said she wanted to become a part of the Bagonize team when she first heard about it. One of her jobs is to maintain the Facebook and Twitter pages for Bagonize.

Uzes said the most significant benefit of working for Bagonize is the experience she will gain that will help her prepare for graduate school and a career in marketing.

“I am gaining experience in the field of marketing and I am gaining experience working in a team,” she said in an email interview. “The Bagonize team is great — every person contributes a lot and everybody works very hard.”

De Forest attributed much of his progress with his business to the work of his interns.

Managing a business and being a student was hard in the beginning, according to De Forest. However, he said that by developing a routine of constantly planning ahead and making checklists, he realized that balancing his business with schoolwork is relatively simple.

De Forest said that undergraduate students are in their prime time for starting a business.

“Don’t have any excuses. If you say you don’t have enough time, then you are lying to yourself,” he said. “The majority of startups fail because they stay as ideas in someone’s head. Just dive in and do it.”

De Forest’s website can be found at Bagonize.com.

KELLEY DRECHSLER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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