Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mechelle Martz-Mayfield, Founder of NoCo Short Bus Tours, located in Loveland, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business was a tourism and transportation service within Northern Colorado, focusing on tours of craft breweries and distilleries. Customers ranged from ages 21 to 85 and across the United States. (and even some international ones).
Tell us about yourself
I really saw a niche of craft breweries popping up all around and had been working with many of them within the nonprofit work I was doing. I had mentioned my idea to a friend of mine at the chamber of commerce, and she was instrumental in helping me start pitching to business groups and formulating the idea. What really tipped it over the edge was when the economic downturn happened I lost my job at the nonprofit and was looking for work. I thought, who better to employ me than myself? More than anything, it was the support of friends and local businesses that really motivated me to get my business off the ground. I don't think I would have even tried it if it hadn't been for their encouragement and assistance from small business organizations.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment was partnering with other local woman-owned businesses to create an amazing local event for the Valentine's Day season. My tour business was located in Loveland, CO, which lent itself to some good press for a holiday but lacked good tourism ideas. With my business and partnering with a woman-owned event company and a local travel blogger, we worked together to create a Brunch and Brews tour that lasted for 2-3 days over the Valentine's Day holiday. We worked with a local caterer and many of the local breweries and businesses to create a unique experience that you couldn't find anywhere else. We sold out our package deals 3 years in a row and had customers from all across the United States that came to enjoy the tour. It was the crowning event for my business.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Beyond the general management of all parts, the hardest part of being a business owner is understanding when to throw in the towel. I agonized over the decision of either keeping my business and investing more money into what I was doing or deciding to call it quits and selling off the assets. In reality, I had been working my tour business for almost 5 years, but it wasn't really making much money. Everything I made went back into the business and because bookings tended to be more seasonal, it was hard to make a continuous income with it. I ran the numbers multiple times and made some hard pushes to try to create account deals with companies to ensure some stability, but it just wasn't panning out the way I had hoped. I still kept the business for about 6 months beyond what I should have. Ultimately I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain it any longer, and the reality was putting a large investment into the business wouldn't have been financially sound. I had to trust my gut and let it go.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find a mentor and cheerleader that will help you get started. Look for someone at small business gatherings, chamber of commerce events, or even in your current groups, you might be involved in.
- Don't be afraid to ask other business owners questions. But pay attention to their answers. Not everyone will think your idea is great, but those nay-sayers or what may seem like negative advice might be the information you need most.
- Do your research. Every business has something different to consider. It may seem simple at first, but many hidden costs and underdeveloped ideas fail because someone didn't do their research and was unable to prepare for all they needed to succeed.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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