Startup Stories: Adventure Travel by Women for Women

Riding elephants bareback into the sunset in Thailand

Tell us about your entrepreneurial product or service.
Call of the Wild Adventures has been around for 35 years providing adventure travel for women of all walks of life. Trips range from easy day hiking trips where we stay in lodges and eat at fine restaurants in Yosemite to challenging camping treks up peaks like Kilimanjaro in Africa. It is run by women for women!

One year ago, I left my 17 year career in finance and investments to acquire the company in order to marry my passion and my vocation for the first time. As my first foray into entrepreneurship, it feels very much like a startup as I’ve invested a great deal of time and money in improving the customer experience and operations while maintaining the aspects of the company and trips that old clients treasured. So far it’s been the most challenging yet most rewarding experience in my career, and in my life!

What inspired you to launch your business idea?
While working in finance and investments, I had been volunteering my time leading trips and guiding for a variety of organizations like the Sierra Club and American Alpine Club. I have always loved the great men that I meet along the way who are trip participants or my climbing partners. However, one pattern I noticed was that male participants would come into an outdoor learning environment with a fair bit of confidence, learn the technical skills, and leave with a fair bit of confidence.

The women, on the other hand, would come in lacking confidence, full of worry whether they could hack it, would be a burden, or belonged there at all. When they would be successful during a trip, the increase in confidence and empowerment was palatable. Learning that they could perform in a physically challenging environment seemed to transform them. As one woman said after facing her fear of zip lining, “Nothing at the office is going to seem scary anymore after getting through zip lining!”

I’m driven much more by the potential impact I can have on individual women than the lifestyle aspects of running an adventure travel business. It’s not the most lucrative of business segments, but I feel like the wealthiest woman in the world when I get letters from old clients talking about how their horizons of what they thought was possible have shifted.

What problem does your business or organization solve?
Many active women are intimidated to travel in co-ed groups and try activities that are physically challenging. Going on a trip with all women takes the male dynamic out of the equation. Imagine that you have a tough time on a hike in a co-ed group and require assistance. Often the woman will feel like a burden and the other participants might think, “oh, women just aren’t strong enough to do this hike.” If you are on an all female trip and someone needs help, it’s simply because they were the person that day who needed a helping hand, not because they are a woman.

Having all female guides also provides a sense of empowerment and accomplishment for the participants. It’s not necessary to have men around to help with physical challenges or decision making. If this is the case in the outdoors, it resonates that much more in our daily lives that women can be self-sufficient and empowered to take on different kinds of challenges.

What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur and how are you working to overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been increasing the volume of registrations. Call of the Wild has a great brand, awesome trips, superior guides – the business model is sound. However, I need to have more signups for each trip in order to increase the overall profitability and sustainability of the business.

My biggest learning over the last year is how important developing individual relationships are with my clients. If they want an impersonal experience of picking a trip off a long list of trip options, they would go elsewhere. They come to Call of the Wild to have their hands held and feel part of a growing community of women. Nearly every dollar I have spent on advertising and marketing has been fruitless, but the ROI of a personal phone call to check in on a former client has been manyfold.

How to scale the business while keeping the personal touch will be the greatest challenge going forward, but I’m instilling the importance of the personal touch in all of my staff and guides.

Give us one word that people might use to describe you.
I’m often told that I am inspirational for leaving the security of the corporate world to follow my passion.

How has Project Eve helped you and/or your business?
I’m excited about the Project Eve Shop the Movement campaign! It’s a brilliant way to support the great work that Project Eve is doing while providing an opportunity for great exposure for my business and other women’s businesses among the community.

Give us an insider tip that relates to your industry or startup story.
It’s all about the guide! Having a great guide can make or break your trip. Check on your guide’s certifications and experience. If you are doing adventurous activities in remote areas, your guide should have a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification at a minimum. Call of the Wild guides all have a WFR and are known for being personable and supportive while extremely competent leaders.

Company: Call of the Wild Adventures, Inc.


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