Sometimes, the greatest business ideas have their roots in non-work-related life experiences. Such is the case with Dave Green, creator and “chief mysterious officer” of Mystery Trip, an award-winning, experiential event planning company that creates adventures for groups looking for something out of the ordinary.
In short, Mystery Trip is an event planning company that creates team-based events— with a catch. The mystery is that the guests don’t know where they’re going until they get there.
“Mystery Trip started off an annual summer party that I did for my friends. I had moved to Los Angeles a few years before, and being the curious and adventurous type, I wanted to explore the offbeat parts of the city,” Green explains. “I thought it would be fun to drag my friends along for the adventure. Every year, it kept getting bigger and bigger.”
Green adds that, at the time, he was in a difficult life transition and “looking for happiness,” when he realized that Mystery Trip was something he truly enjoyed.
So, he took the plunge and made it into a business. “I sent an email to everyone I knew and told them to spread the word. I had my first client within six weeks,” Green says. “Shortly thereafter, I won the inaugural grant from the L.A. chapter of the Awesome Foundation, and was featured in LA Weekly's ‘Best of’ issue, which helped grow the business.” While building the business, Green continued to work as an executive recruiter until he jumped into Mystery Trip full time in 2015.
Today, he maintains a global client list of companies that includes Google, Facebook, YouTube, Airbnb, Netflix, Twitch, NBCUniversal, Lyft, TOMS, Kaiser Permanente, Cisco, TechStyle and Tiffanys. Event themes include creating music videos, Amazing Races, tours of odd museums, NBA basketball hoops play, old-school roller skating at a converted church and a trip to a wildlife sanctuary. While the original premise for Mystery Trip was to introduce guests to offbeat places, the concept has now expanded in scope with regard to destinations.
Green explains that he and his team have created what he describes as a “gigantic” database of unique destinations over the years, which is constantly being adding to through intensive research including the reading blogs, local independent papers and other sources for the new, unknown, weird, fun, unique experiences the clients have come to expect from his company.
While based in Los Angeles, the Mystery Trip team has been doing trips nationwide for a number of years, Green says. We've worked in a dozen cities so far, and have a few more already lined up for this year. Green cites the Velveteria (a museum of velvet art) in L.A. as one of his favorite spots, as well as a bowling alley in Chicago that happens to be located in the basement of a funeral home as two of his all-time favorite Mystery Trip destinations.
“Though the bowling alley is closed on days when they hold memorials,” Green adds. And while the destinations have evolved over the years, the surprise element of not knowing the destination remains the crux of the concept.
“Because the "mystery" of Mystery Trip is that no one (from a VP down to an EA) knows what they'll be doing, the entire group has this shared visceral experience together,” Green says. “Stepping onto a bus—destination unknown—is a great equalizer, and it organically lowers the walls between people as they go through the event, allowing them to bond in a unique and memorable way.”
There are many factors that set Mystery Trip apart from other event planning companies, Green explains. First, each of the events is custom-made, starting with the "why" and working backwards to create unique experiences for the guests.
“A post-sales meeting offsite has different needs than a client appreciation event, which has different goals than a conference networking event,” he says. As far as the takeaways for guests are concerned, it’s a lot about experiencing the new, Green says, and that means getting people a little out of their comfort zones. He adds that it’s also a way for the participants to experience something they wouldn’t do on their own and to have fun and learn a little bit about themselves in the process.
“The thing I hear the most is that they [meeting planners] are looking for an experience that will bring their team together,” Green says. “Too often, people are in their own lane not paying attention to others around them, even if they ‘know’ them, they don't really know them.”
Finally, Green says, a goal of Mystery Trip is to have people learn more about themselves, and to bond with unfamiliar colleagues. He says one way is to let them divide themselves into groups of five.
“They'll inherently group up with four friends,” Green says. “We'll then give each person in a group a number, and then tell them to find the similar numbers, so they are then grouped up with people they wouldn't necessarily have ever chosen to team up with. This opens up organic interaction and dialogue.”