Food Tour Operator
Photo credit: Noun Photography

Food Tour Operator Theresa Nemetz of Milwaukee Food Tours joins us on the Tourpreneur Podcast. Theresa shares with us how she pivoted her food tour business during the Coronavirus pandemic to generate revenue and grow her business despite the lockdown.

I love working in the tours and activities industry because the vast majority of tour operators are willing to share not just their success story but how they achieved success, with other tour and activity providers.

My inbox blew up with Tourpreneur listeners asking me to interview Theresa on the show following a blog post she wrote titled ‘Three Ways Tour Operators Can Grow During the COVID-19 Crisis.’

Today’s Daily Brief and the Tourpreneur Podcast is kindly sponsored by Checkfront, the booking platform trusted by over 5000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.

I wrote to Theresa and she agreed to come on the show and share more about her pivot. This is a rare success story in these tough times and I can’t thank Theresa enough for coming on the show to discuss how the pivot came about and how she executed.

Taste of Wisconsin

I like this one so much that I bought a Taste of Wisconsin box to support her and thanks to the generosity of our sponsor Checkfront, I was able to pay for this one to be transcribed for your reading pleasure. The transcript can be found after the episode resources link below.

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Transcript of Tourpreneur Interview with Milwaukee Food Tours

Speaker 1:

Today’s episode is brought to you by Checkfront, the booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21 day trial over at checkfront.com.

Announcer:

Welcome to the Tourpreneur Podcast. Travel industry veteran, Shane Whaley will take you on a journey with fellow tourpreneurs, sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. And now, here is your host, Shane Whaley.

Shane W,:

Hello, and welcome to Episode 83 of the Tourpreneur Podcast, where we flatten the learning curve for tour operators around the world.

Shane W,:

Today, I have a success story for you. Remember those? It’s been a while since we’ve had one because we’re in the midst of lockdown, shutdowns, pandemic, crisis, et cetera and the vast majority of us are earning zero revenue. But today’s guest is generating a profit for her tour business. She’s able to pay her staff all because of a pivot she made early on during the crisis.

Shane W,:

Our guest is, Theresa Nemetz. She is the tourpreneur behind Milwaukee Food Tours. And her pivot involved working with almost 20 different local companies selling food, beverages and small goods. She started locally in Milwaukee. She’s now grown that nationwide. She sold over 2000 of these care packages. We’re going to find out how she did it, including the logistics, how she came up with the idea, pricing, marketing, the importance of Facebook, the importance of connection, community and working with mentors. It’s all here in this episode.

Shane W,:

If you enjoy today’s show, what am I saying if, when you enjoy today’s show, could you do a major favor and leave me a rating and review on the podcast app that you use? That will mean the world to us here at Tourpreneur. Show notes can be found at tourpeneur.com/83.

Shane W,:

Welcome to Tourpreneur Episode 83. Theresa Nemetz of Milwaukee Food Tours, how are you?

Theresa  N.:

Great. Thanks so much.

Shane W,:

I am incredibly impressed by what you have been doing up there in the great state of Wisconsin, Theresa.

Theresa  N.:

We have been trying. We have been hustling to pivot and really to honestly launch an entirely new company by doing so.

Shane W,:

Absolutely. So I wonder, for our listeners, if you could share with us or talk us through those early days of the shutdown? What was going through your mind? What was happening to your business?

Theresa  N.:

On March 12th is when it, that evening, there was a press conference by President Trump. And then immediately following that, that’s when the NBA canceled their season or put their season on hold. And then, immediately after that was the news that Tom Hanks had the coronavirus. And I said to my husband that evening right before going to bed, “I don’t think that tomorrow is going to be a good day for tourism.” And I really had no idea how much worse it would be the next day.

Theresa  N.:

In the morning, my very first phone call of the day, we oftentimes use our buses to actually shuttle a company to their office, we pick them up at 7:00 AM from a hotel and we bring them to their office every day, and when we did that, about an hour after dropping them off, the company called me and said, “We need you to go back to the office and pick them up and take them right to the airport.” They canceled a 12 week class immediately. And I realized the impact that this was about to have.

Theresa  N.:

And after that, we received a number of phone calls for conventions and different tour groups that led to us canceling over $200,000 of business in a 24 hour period. So those first couple of days were shocking, to be honest. Every phone call that I received just illustrated even more how bad of a situation we were going into.

Shane W,:

And how did you cope with that? That’s a tremendous amount of business to lose. How did you cope with it?

Theresa  N.:

In some ways I was a bit in shock, right. I didn’t realize exactly what was really truly happening and realize how much larger this could become. And also, I’m a member of a lot of different member organizations. For example, I’m a member of NTA, the National Tour Association and I’m on a group of business owners within there. And really, we started an immediate chain of where everyone was just talking about what was happening.

Theresa  N.:

And as people were hitting reply all and saying how much money they were losing, I realized that I was really not alone. And seeing the experience that these individuals have had now as we’ve gone for several weeks now and talking to them and seeing their experience, because many of them have gone through the 9/11 crisis, the 2008 financial crisis, so to really just hear their story has really helped me to keep an eye on the end of the tunnel here.

Shane W,:

Absolutely. So you’re in shock, most of us were. And I mean, at least two weeks for most of us were in shock, paralyzed and not sure what to do. So how did you go from that shock and fear and worry to coming up with a care package business?

Theresa  N.:

I think going into the crisis on March 13th and seeing that financial impact, I had already put in my mind how significant it could be. I had been watching other tour operators talking actually on the Tourpreneur website about the impact around the globe. So I saw what was happening in Europe. I had seen what was happening in Asia. I was already putting in my mind that we could be shut down for a really long time.

Theresa  N.:

I think even though I was shocked right at that initial moment, I immediately started making phone calls to our different partners that we already work with in Milwaukee and I said, “How can we work together? How can we find a way to put together care packages?” So that they keep open their businesses and really, I could shift and become really a tool for selling product and moving product, whether it was personally delivering it or shipping that product.

Shane W,:

What was the response from the local vendors when you called them up?

Theresa  N.:

We have worked with these vendors for many years on our tours and the immediate response was, “Absolutely. Absolutely, how can we work together? What do you need?”

Theresa  N.:

And I think that when I first spoke to everyone, I think I had very small ambitions. I was thinking in my mind, I would like to sell 100 gift boxes. And I think that was a very manageable and doable number and really, I was starting very small. And as it grew, I’ve just had to continue to have conversations with individuals and say, “What is your capacity? If I include you in this package, can you produce this? Can we do this together?”

Shane W,:

I guess the question I would have is the logistics of this. So it’s all very well you can create the care package with local vendors, but then you have to get it to people. How did that look like for you?

Theresa  N.:

Every day has been a learning curve, to be honest. Every hour has been a learning curve on some days.

Theresa  N.:

For example, when we first started, we decided to do local delivery and we’ve been using our bus drivers and our tour guides to be our delivery team for those. Initially, I offered only in Milwaukee County. And I immediately started getting phone calls from people saying, “But, I live in the next county over.” And I realize I need to expand my delivery range, which means that I needed to figure out a better system for delivery.

Theresa  N.:

And then from there, we started hearing from people where they said, “Well, I love this Mother’s Day package, but I want to send it to my mom in Iowa.” And we realized that we needed to add a shipping component to it as well. So a lot of our learning lessons have been by talking to our vendors that have already been in the shipping and delivery business and learning from them.

Theresa  N.:

For example, after our very first delivery day, it was a huge delivery day for Easter and we delivered over 260 packages in one day. And I was speaking to a florist and then also another food vendor and they said, “Oh, what tool are you using to schedule all of your deliveries to map them out?” And I said, “What are you talking about?” Because I had scheduled everything just really eyeballing it and it was not the most efficient driving route. They said, “This is how you schedule deliveries.” And I figured that out.

Theresa  N.:

And now with the shipping, the same situation. We are shipping things like chocolate. Chocolate can melt in certain parts of the country in transit. We’ve had to talk to some of our chocolate friends and they have had to give us a lesson on how to ship chocolate around the country via USPS.

Shane W,:

Wow! The thing that fascinates me about being a tour operator, and I say this often on the show is that, there is no real degree or you can’t go to university and learn this stuff. So much of it is on the job training, isn’t it?

Theresa  N.:

Absolutely. We have learned every single aspect of what we’ve done in tourism by talking to mentors and reaching out to people and asking for advice. And now, that’s exactly what we’re doing with the care packages as well.

Shane W,:

Absolutely. For those listening today, what I really like about your website, for instance, is you have the options available for the care packages for local county delivery and then you have nationwide. That I was actually looking at it yesterday. I thought this is a really good idea. I love the idea.

Shane W,:

I’m a big fan of Wisconsin. I had a really great holiday up in Milwaukee a couple of years ago. It was a great time. We went to Milwaukee and then we drove up to Minneapolis, so I crossed of two States and big fan. I was looking at the Taste of Wisconsin snacks that you have, the Bakery Bus in a Box. You have a Chocolate Self-Care Kit, Pretzel Snack Break, Coffee Break. And I love the idea of the Quarantine Birthday in a Box. Can you share a little bit more about that with us?

Theresa  N.:

So many individuals I was watching on Facebook were struggling in moms’ groups and kids’ groups saying, “How am I going to celebrate this upcoming birthday,” or “this coming anniversary?” And I really recognized that there is a need to still continue these traditions because we still have birthdays and we still have anniversaries, but how do you bring the party to you and how do you bring a little bit of levity to the situation as well? And the Quarantine Birthday in a Box just came from that idea of how can we bring a little bit of fun to an individual that can’t celebrate their birthday in person with people?

Theresa  N.:

Once again, really relying on friends and family and colleagues, I actually posted on my personal Facebook page and I said, “I really want to do this Quarantine Birthday in a Box. These are the things I’m thinking about including in it. What am I missing? What would you want?” And from that, one of my friends actually commented and said, “You need a sticker. The sticker should say something like, I’m staying home because it’s my quarantine birthday.”

Theresa  N.:

And that’s exactly what we did. We designed a sticker and we’ve included that in the package and it’s fun. I mean, we’re shipping it all around the country and it’s just nice to know that we’re able to help people to be able to celebrate family and traditions.

Theresa  N.:

We’ve actually spoken yesterday. I was talking to a grandma and the grandma cannot go out to the stores to find something for her five year old granddaughter. And she just loved the fact that we had this package with different, fun things in it that we could send to her house because she felt like she was still able to purchase something to be able to send to that child to celebrate their birthday.

Shane W,:

I love it. It’s a great idea. And I can see why they’re popular. I mean, just looking at the photographs on your website, which everyone can find at milwaukeefoodtours.com. I mean, who wouldn’t like to open this box full of all these goodies?

Theresa  N.:

Right, absolutely. When you were talking about the Taste of Wisconsin package, I really wanted to make sure to have a lot of Milwaukee and Wisconsin products in all the packages. And then with that particular product, I’m really seeing that a lot of people are using it just to say hello to friends that were supposed to be visiting the state to visit them for weddings or for business meetings this year that have now been canceled.

Theresa  N.:

I think it’s a unique way to bring a little bit of Milwaukee to people, even individuals with the Department of Tourism in Wisconsin, needing to be able to no longer talk to journalists around the country in person, and so this is a way to send a little bit of that to them. So we’ve really had a nice time being able to send that to a lot of different individuals around the country.

Shane W,:

And what was your process in terms of what to add into each of the boxes? Did you work with the local vendors or how did you come up with that?

Theresa  N.:

I really just sat down with a notebook and said, “This is what Easter means to me,” or, “This is what Cinco de Mayo means to me.” And I really just started with ideas and then brainstormed with the team and with friends and just quickly moved things to a product available online.

Theresa  N.:

I think I’ve been joking recently that, “This could be a really good case study for a college class on how to not launch a business.” I am not doing any product testing. I am not doing any sort of studies and surveys before doing things. I’m literally using my intuition, thinking about what I think will work, putting it out there and seeing if it works. And as people call me and say, “Oh, could you add this to the box?” Then I start to realize that there is a trend. You know what? I need to change the box and add that in as well. I’m just going with intuition and moving quickly to customer demand.

Shane W,:

And how did you go about pricing each box?

Theresa  N.:

I actually had a chance to speak with some individuals that do care packages because pricing is really across the board. Everyone does it differently. So I was able to get wholesale pricing from many of the individuals just because we are doing larger volume now and then was able to build a price margin off of that.

Theresa  N.:

Other things I had to build into that price where the cost of delivery, so having to pay delivery drivers, the cost of physical boxes. Boxes aren’t cheap, and you have to factor that in, and the crinkle, and the tissue paper and the Facebook ads. So really having to look at all those costs and add them up and then put a profit margin on top of that.

Shane W,:

Sure. So right now, and I don’t want to go into specific numbers, are you generating profits from this?

Theresa  N.:

I am. We just recently received the PPP, but for the first eight weeks, we didn’t know if we were going to receive that. I’m just really beyond happy knowing that we have been able to cover all of our staff’s salaries as a result of these care packages.

Theresa  N.:

That was really my goal going into it was, could this be a feasible idea to pay the bills? And it has turned out to be exactly that. Of course, it’s a totally different model than what we do and know and do well on a regular basis with being able to book business for tours. So we’re just having to change how we do everything, but it is paying the bills and I cannot complain about that in a pandemic.

Shane W,:

I’m really thrilled to hear that, fantastic. Congratulations. I’m not hearing that much out there in our world right now.

Theresa  N.:

Exactly. I mean, I’m really, really thrilled with how the products have turned out because keeping our staff on board is so important to me. They have been there as we’ve grown our company, and I want to make sure that this is a career that they can continue to have.

Theresa  N.:

I’ve always been that person that has a backup plan. And in the pandemic, I have to admit, I did not have a backup plan for something as profound as really 100% loss of business, but we’ve made it work.

Speaker 5:

What can you do with your reservation software, take online bookings and payment, manage your inventory, automate processes and view reports and insights?

Speaker 6:

Yeah, of course.

Speaker 5:

But, can you also send digital waivers, build a stunning website and get help around the clock? What about optimize your booking channels, diversify your distribution, use your favorite tools and choose your pricing model? With Checkfront you can. One booking platform, limitless possibilities. Find out more at checkfront.com.

Shane W,:

And what’s the reaction been from your tour guides who are now drivers and delivery drivers? How did they respond to this idea initially?

Theresa  N.:

Initially, everyone thought, “Oh, okay. That would be a good idea.” But, I don’t think anyone realized that we could actually make a living doing care packages. And as soon as everyone started to see the success and the excitement, we had individuals contacting us and saying, “I want to deliver now too,” because they see as we’re having these bigger delivery days that I need more and more help.

Theresa  N.:

Individuals that maybe still have a full-time job that have been our tour guide on the side, now they’ve come to me and they’ve said, “Well, I can do deliveries for you on Saturdays.” So being able to incorporate them in has been great.

Shane W,:

Fantastic. So you created this, you priced it, you worked on the logistics of this. How did you go about marketing it?

Theresa  N.:

Well, really with marketing, we started with word of mouth. So posting it on our Facebook page and then also using our database to reach out to our customers.

Theresa  N.:

We had just switched over in November to ActiveCampaign actually as our CRM. And we’ve really enjoyed that. And it’s beautiful just to be able to track people and watch people.

Theresa  N.:

For example, those individuals that had come on our Tacos and Tequila Tour, we reached out to them and said, “Hey, we’re doing a care package for Cinco de Mayo. We’re doing a family fiesta. Would you be interested in that?” And so, really being very targeted with whose been on tours and reaching out to those individuals.

Theresa  N.:

Another example, individuals that have been on planning private tours with us in the past, so taking their company out, their teams out on tours with us. Obviously, we can’t take them out on team outings anymore, or at least right now. And so, what we’ve done is that we’ve reached out to them and said, “Why don’t you send a Coffee Break to your team at home? Why don’t you send a Snack Break to your team at home?”

Theresa  N.:

And that’s been successful being able to reach out to individuals because they know us and they’ve already done business with us and they know that we’re supporting our mission and keeping that story of Milwaukee’s food producers alive. And they know that they’re helping a small business as well.

Shane W,:

Sure. I read online that within minutes of you putting this on your Facebook page, you were getting bookings.

Theresa  N.:

We were. We were, and we’ve continued to see that, even we just put a Father’s Day Box on our website. And I’ve not done our e-blasts yet for it. I put it online over the weekend as I was just thinking about my content and what I wanted my wording to look like. And so, I put it online just to think about it. And we’ve already sold gift boxes for it because people are on the website and seen it. So that validates for me, first of all, that it’s a good product.

Theresa  N.:

But, I think there is a real demand. I think that individuals that are looking for something that can support more than one business, this is a good way to do it. And it’s a good way for people to not have to be driving all around town to get their favorite goodies as well. So we’ve been able to do that for them really.

Shane W,:

Yeah. And I just want to go back to your Facebook page. How instrumental was your Facebook page with generating orders?

Theresa  N.:

Well, it’s just been critical. I would say that Facebook has been critical for the entire process. Facebook was critical at the beginning when I started seeing friends that were struggling with how to work from home. And I was seeing bosses that were struggling with how to manage a team from home. And it made me think, “How could I help them get gift boxes to make their workday easier?” Then going to using my personal Facebook page to reach out to people and say, “What do you think of this idea,” and be able to tweak the packages. And then being able to get the word out about the packages.

Theresa  N.:

The ability for someone to just hit that button and share that post has been amazing because even if someone is a fan of ours or a friend, and they see the post, but maybe they don’t have the ability to buy a package right now, they can share that and share it widely. And that’s how I think we’re starting to make really more of a national presence with the gift boxes, so that it isn’t just individuals in Wisconsin that are purchasing them.

Shane W,:

Sure. Are you using any paid advertising via Facebook, or is it all organic?

Theresa  N.:

We are using paid advertising. Ads right now on Facebook are incredibly inexpensive. It’s been able to allow us to do that. We’ve really been focused on whose been on our tours and using that to target them within the ads, as well as just locally within the area being able to target individuals a little bit more.

Theresa  N.:

For example, we’re going to be doing a School’s Out for Summer package. So we’re going to obviously be doing targeted ads for that package to parents and grandparents in the Greater Milwaukee area where we know that they’re within our delivery zone and we’ll be able to deliver.

Shane W,:

Yeah, I mean, it’s remarkable. I was just thinking the other day the Facebook ads, I bought Indian spices and Indian sauces from a Facebook ad. I don’t know how they targeted me, but it appeared in my feed and I took a chance and ordered it, and it’s the best Indian spices I’ve ever cooked with.

Theresa  N.:

Well, and it’s so funny because I have been online and doing research or typing things, right. And next thing I know, I’m getting targeted for ads. I’m getting targeted for so many boxes of things, and it’s amazing. So it’s really cool to be able to see how it works and the reach that it has. It just makes me realize the power of a re-marketing campaign. Obviously, we’re doing that and it’s been successful.

Theresa  N.:

It’s been successful as well because with our tours, if you go back in time, last year was really about setting the stage for us. So we have a brand new website. We had worked with Blend Marketing who we actually discovered through some tourism workshops last year, actually that were done online. I believe through [Tour Entrepreneur 00:22:12], actually. What we’ve done is that we really had set the stage to be able to sell tours and sell them out well. We were doing exactly that. We were selling out our tours. So our next step now is really being able to sell out the gift boxes.

Shane W,:

Sure. So was [Flend 00:22:28] Marketing, did they teach you Facebook ads and that side of the business or was it more?

Theresa  N.:

Yeah, our first step was working with them has been really a brand new website. It’s all new visuals. It was really time for that. We knew it was time for that. And the whole reason for that was to optimize and have high conversion rates. And we’ve really seen that. So we’ve been working with them on those ads. They have shown me how to do the ads and they also work on some of the campaigns for me.

Shane W,:

Brilliant. Because I’m creating the Tourpreneur-Approved Directory right now.

Theresa  N.:

The thing is, is that when I heard them speaking on this online workshop, all of a sudden the owner, Jeremiah, he started talking and in his presentation all of these individuals are doing presentations from around the world. He starts talking about cheese curds and custard. And I start looking this guy up on LinkedIn and I messaged him.

Theresa  N.:

I was like, “Why are you talking about cheese curds and custard? Are you in Wisconsin?” And so, here you have someone that their marketing company is so focused on tourism, but they didn’t really have a lot of clients in the Milwaukee area. They were really international. And so, I reached out to them and it’s just been a great relationship. So definitely put Blend on your list.

Shane W,:

We will. And Jeremiah, if you’re listening as I’m sure you am, you have an open invitation to come on the show and share more with us.

Shane W,:

I love it when I speak to tour operators like yourself, Theresa where you’ve worked with a company, you’ve heard the results and you can share that with others because like you said earlier on, “Word of mouth is so important,” and digital marketing is not cheap. So I get several emails a week from people who’ve had their fingers burned.

Theresa  N.:

And that was important for me when we first started on the venture because I feel like in the past I had, had my fingers burned and I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. But, it got to the point where with the technology side of things, I just needed to take it to that next level and really have an expert available to guide us through that process. So for me, it’s all about conversion rates.

Theresa  N.:

After we turned on those ads and those websites, we were almost at 100% sellout of our products and that was in the off season. I was really excited for what 2020 was going to bring for us. I knew that we were going to have a phenomenal year. I think that we can still have a really good year or at least break even. I’m just not sure what the rest of 2020 is going to bring for all of us. But, I just keep moving forward on selling care packages because it’s generating money and it’s helping all these other vendors that we work with.

Shane W,:

Incredible. I mean, my heart goes out to all restaurants and bars right now. Our local one, he’s been closed. And I live in a fairly rural area. He had to close down two months ago. I don’t know if he’s going to come back.

Theresa  N.:

I know. And when you hear that 50% of restaurants and tour businesses might not make it, that is a really scary number. And I keep thinking about that. For us in culinary tourism, what does that mean when we are available to do tours and the restaurants that we visit might not be in business?

Theresa  N.:

So right now, one of the projects that we’ve been doing is that we’ve been reaching out to all of the restaurants that we do work with and just saying, “How are you doing? Where are you at right now?” Because I think it’s important to continue those relationships even though we’re not bringing tours there right now.

Theresa  N.:

It’s been really great just to talk with individuals and find out how they are doing. I think everyone is struggling, but it’s been positive to see how many are responding and saying, “We are remodeling our kitchen right now. We are putting in glass counters, so that our staff is separated from customers.” I’m hearing a lot of people that are moving forward and that’s what we need, to be able to be ready when that switch turns on. I think we need to be ready for it.

Shane W,:

Definitely. And also, that I think the challenge for you as a food tourpreneur is a lot of States are saying, “Okay, you can open, but only 25% capacity.” And as you know, getting that table is quite tough, isn’t it? We’re on the food tour, so if they only have a core of their tables available, it’s going to be even more stressful for food tour operators around the world to get those tables for guests.

Theresa  N.:

I agree. And we’ve been thinking about it. Maybe we’re going to have to do our tours at off times. Several of our partners already said, “When you’re ready though, we are going to save those seats for you, so that you can come back.” I think that’s the value of having done tours for 13 years now, right, and having these relationships with people. I think that there’s going to be solutions.

Theresa  N.:

In Wisconsin, we’re coming into finally warm weather now. We’re finally getting past those spring days, right. And so, now we’re going to have patio dining. And that seems to be a solution that a lot of individuals are coming up with right now is we can still do tours, we’re going to do it on the patio. And I think that’s fine. I’m thinking about even changing on our website and doing maybe Pandemic Patio Tour, so that we can be outside and we can stay within all the restrictions and stay safe.

Shane W,:

Definitely. You mentioned the NTA and I’ve spoken to some of the folks at NTA in the past. I don’t know a huge amount about them. I’ve offered them to come on the show, and we were working on that before COVID hit. How has the NTA helped you?

Theresa  N.:

Two years ago, NTA had their convention in Milwaukee, and that’s when I first got to know the organization. And what I’ve done is that I have become a member of the Owners Network, which is a group of about 30 tour operators that are mid-size operators. And it’s really been nice to be able to have that mentoring relationship to have someone to call and talk to.

Theresa  N.:

Within the group, there is a couple of them that have actually touched base with me because they know that I am much younger in terms of the business age than many of the other organizations within NTA. And so, they’re just touching base and saying, “How are you navigating this? Are you contacting your banker? Do you need help?”

Theresa  N.:

I see a lot of advocacy from a lot of the NTA members where they are reaching out to their congressmen and their senators. And that’s something that honestly might not have been on my radar had one of them not told me you should be doing this too, so that’s been something that has really helped me to see that big picture.

Theresa  N.:

With NTA, I think the greatest value for me has just been seeing how they have responded to the crisis and how they keep moving forward and how they’re treating vendors. I think a lot of the individuals in NTA really have been financially smart and they were in a good position to be able to give refunds to their individuals and they’re treating their vendors just top-notch. And it’s really helped me look at how I want to continue running my business as I scale. I want to be able to be in that exact same position if another pandemic hits 10 years from now, and I’m doing $10 million dollars of business, I want to be able to react really well as well.

Shane W,:

Absolutely. So you recommend that our listeners should go check out the NTA website and join their [inaudible 00:29:23]. Do they have local chapters or is it all online?

Theresa  N.:

It’s one organization. And then they actually do events three times a year around the country. They’re doing online trainings and whatnot as well. But definitely, you have things like NTA, National Tour Association. If you do a lot with group travel, the American Bus Association is a very similar, larger organization. That’s a really good organization, a great place to find mentors.

Theresa  N.:

For me, any membership organization that I’m involved with, it’s about finding mentors. It’s less about finding business for me and it’s more about finding individuals that I can call on a regular basis and say, “I’m thinking about this. What are the flaws in that idea?”

Theresa  N.:

We’ve started doing a lot of international trips now. We actually had a group come back from Cuba the week before everything hit with the pandemic. There is a lot more liability issues and things that you need to think about with pricing that and planning those kinds of trips. And so, that for me has been a great opportunity to reach out to the different individuals and say, “What am I missing? What am I forgetting?” Because if you have a group going to Cuba, you don’t want to mess that up. You can’t mess it up and you can’t figure it out on the spot. You really have to think it all the way through. And so, that’s where I found those membership organizations have really helped me think things through as we scale up to being able to offer more of those international trips.

Shane W,:

Brilliant. And I will add links to those organizations on our show notes, which will be tourpreneur.com/83.

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Shane W,:

Just quickly before we wrap up, I read online that you are, I was intrigued by this, that you are a certified tourism ambassador.

Theresa  N.:

Yeah. Years ago, when we first got started, I became a member of the CTA Network and it’s still an organization that’s involved. So in the Milwaukee area, they did trainings with our Visit Milwaukee group. And I don’t know if they still do a lot of trainings. It is a national-wide organization.

Theresa  N.:

But, it’s interesting because now I helped to do similar trainings in the area for individuals that want to become more experienced in customer service. That certification is really about customer service and knowing how to fix problems.

Shane W,:

But clearly, you’re excelling at that, to be making revenues and generating profits from your care package initiative and marketing to your previous guests is obviously a big part of that. So you’re knocking it out of the park with customer satisfaction, Theresa.

Theresa  N.:

Thank you. Thank you. Our mission has always been to tell the story of Milwaukee and to introduce people to food producers. And we’re still doing it, just in a different way.

Shane W,:

See, I feel very embarrassed because when I came to Milwaukee, I just drank beer and ate cheese. Admittedly, it was a good few years ago-

Theresa  N.:

There is so much more.

Shane W,:

… And I couldn’t go on any tours. We were on a soccer trip. Our soccer team was playing there in Minneapolis. But yeah, now I’m embarrassed, so I’m definitely going to have to come back and get on some tours.

Theresa  N.:

See, people think, brats, beer, that’s what Milwaukee is. And we are so much more. And that’s where we come into play and telling that story and introducing people to it. But I mean, we still love Laverne and Shirley and everything else, so we consider it part of our history.

Theresa  N.:

So yeah, let us know. Anytime anyone comes to Milwaukee, check us out, milwaukeefoodtours.com. And if you’re thinking about international trips or even wanting to find out about how to get more into that, our website is traveldeliciously.com for that. And you can see our different trips on there and how we’re working with different food tour operators to do that too.

Shane W,:

Brilliant. Well, I’d love to invite you back on the show once we’re out of this and we’re into recovery and maybe talk a little bit more about that side of your business as well.

Theresa  N.:

Great. Yeah, I would love it. Thank you so much.

Shane W,:

Brilliant. But before we go, last question, what advice would you have for listeners out there who have been really inspired by your story today and what you’re doing and they want to offer something similar in their destination? What advice would you offer that listener?

Theresa  N.:

I would really say, first of all, look at who your connections are. Who are you partnered with? Who can you work with? And then also, really be thinking about what do people need? Now as shelter-in-places are being lifted, are people going to need care packages as much? I’m not sure. But, there are things that they are going to need. So how can you help to facilitate that? Maybe they’re going to need more private tours for friends and family that they can do in a contained capacity. So really looking at what are people talking about and how can you fit that need for them?

Shane W,:

Fantastic. You’ve gone out there and done this. This isn’t theory. This is not some lecture or some pundit talking here. You’ve gone out there and proved that this works, Theresa. I’m really, really inspired and impressed with what you’ve achieved in Milwaukee.

Theresa  N.:

Thank you so much.

Shane W,:

Thank you for joining us.

Theresa  N.:

Have a great day and hope to see you guys in back in Milwaukee sometime soon.

Announcer:

Thanks for listening to the Tourpreneur Podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is Tourpreneur.

Shane Whaley is the Producer and Host of the Tourpreneur Podcast. He is also the curator in chief for the Tourpreneur Daily Brief. Shane has worked in the travel industry for almost twenty years.