The Holidays are Here and Change is in the Air!
Everyone gather ‘round, because things are about to get different. And hopefully better for it.
First of all, I want to thank everyone who’s been with me on this journey. From the time I was working under another tour company, until the very beginnings of my own little enterprise, and up until today. It’s been filled with a lot of hurdles, fun, and mostly food. If you haven’t yet been on a tour with me, then I hope that we can change that sooner rather than later. (Discount code plug for public tours through December 20th of this year: Fall40 will get you 40% off your ticket which includes all food) Especially as I continue to shift focus with my brand and my business.
Now, before I get too deep. Cuz, I’m GONNA GET DEEP. I just want to say that I’m not going anywhere, and I don’t have any plans (in the near future, anyway) to relinquish my tour guide status. I’ve still got another full calendar year as Treasurer of the Guides Association of New York City, and you know I can’t leave my GANYC Awards behind! Regardless of my adjustments, I hope that I am always your go-to NYC food tour guide. My game-plan may change, but my passion and dedication to this city’s rich and wonderful culinary history will never fade.
As you may or may not remember, back in May of 2011, I gave myself the greatest birthday gift of all—a departure from corporate hospitality after working for 4 years within the Hyatt Hotels world. Funny that it was four years, because it only took me 2-3 years of being a Hotel Management student to decide I didn’t want to work in hotels…just 3-4 years before I actually began working in hotels!
The main reason I got into hospitality was the desire to create and provide memorable experiences for my guests—which, I suppose, is something I carried with me from my acting and performance background. Not to mention my writing and storytelling roots—which got started as early as grade school. Bringing people on a joy-inducing journey with me is something I’ve always been interested in. The only thing that’s really evolved is the how. When I was working at the Hyatt, it became clear that my creative voice was being stifled and that it would be very difficult to ever get it heard. Plus, I was getting real sick of commuting out to New Jersey 5 days a week! I value the learning experience, and the connections I made there, but most of my day was spent doing things that I was good at, but not interested in.
My next several jobs from that point taught me even more about the things that I liked, loved, and hated. One thing remained consistent, however, and that was my need to be around food. When I started working for City Food Tours, it started this awakening to possibilities that I’d not truly nurtured before. I finally found a way that I could exercise my desire to research, curate, create and perform these experiences for people who were interested in participating in them. All while eating my weight in the best and sometimes worst food that our great city has to offer.
When I decided that I was going to start my own company, I didn’t think of it as something bold or extraordinary. I’ve been surrounded by self-starters my whole life, and it just seemed like the natural next step for me. It wasn’t until people started reacting to it that I recognized, even in this age of the entrepreneur, I had something to be proud of for daring to start from scratch. Especially without a business plan, partner, or money. Eventually I did run a couple of crowd-sourcing campaigns, but for the most part, this baby was up and running without much of a platform to start with.
The response from my initial tours was so positive that I knew I was doing the right thing. And when I realized that I’d fallen into a theme of seasonality for my business, it paved the way for the next several tours that became the cornerstones of my company. Every year that passed I learned something new—both good and bad, about myself, about my tours, about my city. And every year I felt that the next year was going to be even better than the last. And that was always the case—except for when it wasn’t.
After generating a pretty steady flow of both public and private tours—based mostly on internet traffic and momentum, I felt I was finally moving in the right direction, and that the three years of hard work had paid off. I worked my butt of to find a balance between running a company while also hustling in the catering world with an organization that feeds the city on the ideal of a female-focused small business, while steadily growing in a way that I began to recognize a lot of the same old things that I’d hated from my previous work with Hyatt. It was time to make yet another move. I felt that between some consulting work and my tours, that I could escape the cater-waiter life.
On March 5th, 2015 I went into the offices of Great Performances Catering, spoke with Kyle (the obnoxious booker) about how I couldn’t possibly sign the new arbitration agreement they were trying to impose on everyone. He wished me luck finding a catering company that wasn’t going to be asking for such a thing, which I merely laughed at knowing that I had no intention of looking for one. I shared the exciting news with the bar/restaurant I’d begun working with creatively. Then, four days later, I went out to try to get some exercise and instead slipped on black ice and broke my ankle. So much for that momentum.
Naturally, since then, I’ve learned even more about myself, about my tours, about my city, and about working with others. While my momentum never fully returned, and I’ve had to try my hand at all sorts of other things since then to make ends meet, I’ve never given up on myself, my brand, and my creation. Of course, I’ve only been able to do that with the support of my friends and family who’ve been there for me through the laughs and the tears. So, I thank you all for that.
When trying to figure out what else I could do to make money without tossing this business in the trash, a very good friend of mine asked why I wasn’t considering writing. Ha! Well, there was no way that I could possibly start a writing career at this point in my life. In my 30s? I mean, who does that?! After all, I was rejected from two of the top journalism schools in the country when I was interested in getting my masters right after undergrad (over 10 years ago). Naturally, I would have to start from the very bottom of the totem pole. My insecurities told me that most writers have the right education and start super young and know their path from childhood (all false). Despite my protest to the impossibility of this idea, her suggestion stayed in the back of my mind.
I embraced a request from my bosses at the time to write some copy for their cocktail company website, and they would pay me! As I wrote for them, I wrote more for myself—with this blog, for my show, through all the other blogs I started. I began to think that this was something I could do legitimately. So, I gave my notice to Hella Cocktail Company and slowly started putting some feelers out there. I also started to completely re-arrange my apartment. And I drank a lot. Apparently, these are very common steps of procrastination for someone who’s retired, or suddenly decided to go full-time freelance.
I sat down with a family friend who’s a freelance writer to get some feedback, tips, etc. She was very helpful and got me connected to the right networks to build myself a semblance of a career. Obviously, step one was my resume.
It wasn’t until I sat down to start pulling together my work portfolio that I realized just how much of it I had over the years. As I built my resume, I realized that I was not the newbie writer I had claimed to be. In fact, I had been paid for my writing skills since I was in college—when I got hired to work at my school’s Writing Center which helped other students. I had also joined the newspaper and was a student editor and contributor for the literary magazine. But because the school was not a liberal arts school, I never took myself seriously—nor did I allow anyone else to.
Since college, I’d managed to find side projects for most of my employers that utilized these skills one way or another. When I worked at the Hyatt, I helped with some of their social media before that was even the monster that it is today. I also came up with a fictional story about the pop-up happy hour bar and where it got its name, Jaxx. I also then had to format it so it would fit on the brochures. I worked with an author to help her put together her book tour, I consulted with several restaurants, bars, and brands to help them with their marketing, I even researched and wrote up some script additions for the initial food tour company I worked for. And then, of course, I did everything from the ground up for my own company and website. I went from thinking I only had a couple of credits here and there, to realizing that I would have to consider what not to include.
Today, I work for a chef who’s had her own interesting career journey with food, that I’ve helped her put into words for a 2nd cookbook proposal, as well as assisting with her blog, newsletter, and social media. I also work with a very well-established bakery from Brooklyn that’s looking to launch a new brand line of snack products. And while my title is Marketing Coordinator, the role is much more. I’ve been writing pieces for the I Love the Upper West Side Blog in exchange for advertising of my food tours—let’s see if my next sponsored post gets any bites (pun intended). AND I’ve reunited with a connection I made, on the evening I quit working for Great Performances, to help create content for an up-and-coming food start-up that’s got so much potential that they’ve been invited to SXSW!
Over the last few years, I’ve watched as the tourism industry has continued to grow and change. I’ve realized that I have quite a lot to offer anyone who’s interested in stepping into my world and a lot of people are interested. But, my current business model is not set up to give myself or my guests the best version I can offer. I would love to one day have a business that’s able to employ several guides who can run my tours every day—perhaps multiple times a day, but it doesn’t seem to me like it’s going to be a reality any time soon.
With that said, here’s the news: I’m not putting any public tours in my calendar for 2019. Not yet, anyway. It’s evident to me now that the people who come to me, are those who want something more specialized than what I may be able to offer several days a week. It’s also become clear to me that the kinds of services I can provide for people go well beyond my abilities to put together a walking food tour.
Over the next few months you’ll see some changes to my website—I’ll be unveiling a new layout and making a slight name change, so I can more clearly demonstrate all the ways in which I am your favorite fun foodie. I will continue to offer private tours to those who are interested, and I plan on putting together a few specialized public events at least once a quarter. I’ll also be scheduling and creating some more original content about my favorite topics.
Join me this month for my Festive Food & Holiday Food Tour. Regardless of whether I’m able to offer the tour again next year, it changes with every new set of vendors that come to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. This year there are a lot of great new eats and windows to take in. PLUS—if you pay full price for the tour, we’ll celebrate the season with a cheer as they’re finally offering booze in the market!
Feel free to reach out and let me know your thoughts. Am I missing something? Are you?
Let’s get festive together and toast to 2019!