I am a woman entrepreneur in the travel industry – but my journey to get here has not been easy. In fact, it took me more than a decade working in luxury, tech, and adventure travel to decide to finally start my own consulting firm.
It was this journey that also led me to launch wmnsWORK, a 12-week virtual, global accelerator program designed to support early-stage women and non-binary entrepreneurs during the most critical part of their small business journey through education, mentorship, and peer support. Essentially, we created the program I wish had existed when I was taking the leap into entrepreneurship.
Through my years working in the tourism industry, I always had this nagging feeling that there was more I wanted to achieve by way of helping others. That’s when I started to do the research – and learned some really astonishing facts. Women make up 55 percent of the tourism workforce but represent less than 20 percent of general managerial positions and less than eight percent of existing executive positions, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The UNWTO’s Second Report on Women in Tourism 2019 speculates that “tourism as a sector offers women considerable options for entrepreneurship that do not require heavy start-up financing. However, women’s tourism entrepreneurship is held back by a lack of access to technology, information, business skills, education, and training.” This was a problem I realized I could help solve.
When I first started floating the idea of a program based on education, mentorship, and support for women/non-binary entrepreneurs past the folks in my network, I kept hearing the same stories over and over – women put off turning their business ideas into reality because of fear – fear of failure, of not being ready, of not knowing enough, of not being enough. And you know what? I understood it all because it was these reasons (and then some) that I had also put off launching my company – the systems that tell us, as women, that it’s best to not even try.
But here’s the thing – if we don’t take the plunge, and in doing so shatter our belief in these systems, how many amazing innovations will our industry miss out on? And how will the system itself ever change if we don’t question it?
We’ve just finished our first 12-week wmnsWORK cohort in May 2022, and I could not be prouder of all the participants have achieved for themselves. One participant reached her 2022 revenue goal in the first three months of the year; another is ready to go to investors with her pitch deck for the boutique hotel she’s opening and has a viable roadmap in place, and yet another has gotten her first post-pandemic bookings since relaunching her business. But most importantly, they have all cited more confidence in themselves, and clarity on their dreams and businesses, thanks to the support network they’ve gained.
In our closing ceremony last month, one participant shared, “I quit my job in a company where I had eight years tenure to take a chance on myself and start my business full time. I’m proud of myself for finally taking action instead of just contemplating, which I’ve been doing for many years. I finally feel equipped and supported enough to JUST DO IT!.”
As a collective group, we have realized that if women actually want to be at that top level, we have to take that leap – and we can do that by surrounding ourselves with the right people, the ones who support us, who challenge us, and who see the potential in us to take action and make change.