When Nancy saw a need for well-planned and organized adventures for families, she jumped in to fill it.
When did you start to think about a fresh start in midlife?
After 20 years in human resources, I had the wonderful opportunity to stay at home and raise our three children. Once they got older and primarily needed me during the evening hours, I found myself exploring business ideas that would be both rewarding and beneficial. In planning our travels, I couldn’t find the information I needed to organize a quality adventurous family vacation. There was this huge gap and I wanted to figure out a way to fill it.
What is your next act?
In early 2014, at age 50, I created a website called favitravel, Family Adventure Vacations and Itineraries. It’s designed to share the best family vacations that others have experienced and enjoyed, with the benefit of all their research. Each trip page includes all the essential elements for planning a memorable trip, a complete itinerary with embedded links on topics including how to get around safely, family friendly hotels, outstanding tour guides, best excursions, local eateries, helpful hints, and insider tips – lessons from a parent’s perspective.
I really love it when a friend tells me that they have used favitravel to plan their next family vacation; they’ve always returned with rave reviews.
Why did you choose this next act?
I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana (mobile home capital of the world!) with working parents. Our travel decisions were based on affordability and convenience so our travel experiences were limited to Florida, the Poconos, and Chicago. It wasn’t until I met my husband in my early 20’s that I started to travel internationally. My first step outside of the United States was to Jakarta, Indonesia.
As we traveled over the next 10 years, we hit every continent except Antarctica. This was before the Internet and we were on a very limited budget; our only resources were Lonely Planet and Fodor’s guidebooks. We typically traveled with only plane tickets in hand and a general idea of what we wanted to see, no other reservations.
Our trips included trekking Chang Mai, Thailand through Burma (now Myanmar); hiking the Andes to Machu Picchu; trekking to Virunga National Park in Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas; camping in the Amazon; boating the Nile; and observing mock warfare of the Dani tribe near Wamena in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. We returned with incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, stories.
Our love of travel, and our belief in its importance, grew as our children grew.
Once we had our three children, our vacation planning changed dramatically: We always have a full itinerary in hand with reservations and safe travel plans. We started with easy bets and went to more adventurous destinations as the kids got older. I typically advise families to do the same: Start with Florida beaches and U.S. National Parks, then branch out to international travel like Central America or Mexico, and then move even further afield.
What stayed the same, regardless of where we traveled, was our love of learning about other cultures, seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world, and experiencing adventure together as a family. Our love of travel, and our belief in its importance, grew as our children grew.
How did you figure out which way to go?
In my travel planning, I could not find a comprehensive resource with curated family vacations, including an entire itinerary. I talked to many other well-traveled friends, who, like me, love to travel with their families and discovered that they were in the same boat; they spent countless hours researching books, articles, and travel websites. I learned that, after all that research, they often ended up relying on friends’ prior travel plans and advice.
I feel a sense of renewal knowing that I’m learning an entirely new career.
This convinced me that I should capture their ideas and experiences in one place. An adventurous family travel website would allow me to create a travel community, a place to exchange ideas and learn from other family travel adventures. Because travel information changes rapidly, I thought a website was the perfect forum to stay current.
Once I thought of the idea, I just kept running with it. I feel a sense of renewal knowing that I’m learning an entirely new career.
How did you prepare? What challenges did you encounter?
I have a background in adult education, so I knew I wanted to develop a website that was user-friendly, well organized, and comprehensive. I thought about the important elements in planning a vacation that a parent would want to learn about, so I designed a consistent template for every vacation post. With a website, I could update it to keep it current and continuously add more curated trips to share.
I came up with the name favitravel: Family Adventurous Vacations & Itineraries. I wanted a name that incorporated the word itineraries. I talked with a lawyer friend who shared with me how to trademark the name and copyright the logo.
I vetted my graphic designer through a combination of recommendations and research. My criteria for designing a logo and a brand were to have a clean, organized, and inviting travel theme for the site. My graphic designer, unfortunately, went into private business after she completed the favitravel logo and site design. So, utilizing the same process of research and recommendations, I selected a very efficient and cost-effective web designer and coder. The site is very content-rich and growing, so I knew cost needed to be a factor when it came to coding the site.
My primary resource for networking and finding experts was an entrepreneurial organization that helps small companies get launched. It’s called Up N Running and is led by some fabulous entrepreneurs in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
I now think that starting a business is similar to having a baby.
Luckily, I live in an area where many families really value taking great vacations. It is a community of friends who tend to network and know other well-traveled families, so the word has spread quickly. People have been very generous in sharing their family adventures for the website with details about their trip and helpful hints to make it successful. That is my favorite part about each trip, the helpful hints section. It’s the personal advice on what the family learned about the area and what mistakes to avoid.
The challenge is learning each day as I go into new territory.
I now think that starting a business is similar to having a baby. It’s scary at first and overwhelming. However, it has stages of growth and you learn along as you grow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “plunge.” Favitravel is still in its infancy stage. The idea originally started because I wanted to create a quality product to help my friends in planning a vacation. I’m investing to create a product that I think people will discover is a valuable resource. The challenge is learning each day as I go into new territory.
I’m often asked (especially by men!) how I plan to monetize my website. Honestly, it’s not easy to make a fortune from a website alone. Revenue from Google Ads are dependent on significant traffic volume and “click throughs” and offer only nominal pennies per click. The business model for favitravel includes revenue sources from sponsored advertisers and referrals from those within the travel industry.
Were there times when you thought about giving up? What/who kept you going?
I’m in a low risk model so I don’t think about giving up; instead, I just choose to pace myself. I make small, calculated investments as I go and evaluate potential risks and benefits with each step.
The greatest reward so far is watching my three children grow up to be adventurers in life.
My husband has been very supportive and is excited to continue our adventurous trips. The greatest reward so far is watching my three children grow up to be adventurers in life. I remember asking a friend a long time ago how her children were so close and what made their family so special. Her response was “Quality family vacations with memories that would last a lifetime.”
What words of advice do you have for women seeking to reinvent themselves in midlife and launch a new business?
Embrace learning. Try new things, be comfortable with not having all the answers, and believe in your product. This can be more emotional than anticipated because it requires courage. Learn as much as you can upfront to start on the right path, whether it’s launching a website, a business, or a new career. Find resources that can help you make the right choices and ask lots of questions from multiple sources.
Try new things, be comfortable with not having all the answers, and believe in your product.
Also, think about your core competencies, your natural strengths or talents that can permeate through any job opportunity and help you be successful. In my case, I love to educate. It’s a key purpose with the website: to inform others to help them plan family vacations. Although I have experience in travel, that’s not my primary strength; it’s educating. I used that competency to design a user-friendly and comprehensive resource for others.
What’s next for favitravel?
I launched the site a little over a year ago and I’m still in the content-building phase of the site. I have a goal to post 100 trips by the end of 2015, including new categories entitled “special needs travel” and “service trips.” I have a son with special needs and have a community of families that have taken some very rewarding trips with their special needs child. I plan to post these trips in the next quarter.
I hope to focus on promoting the site sometime this year. I plan to use all elements of social media to bring traffic to the site. I realize it’s important to align myself with the travel industry to build referrals for the business.
What resources do you recommend?
Good Things for a Full Life by Deb Hornell
Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho
For web design, Tim Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Nancy Hoying at email@example.com