Company: Randonnée Tours Ltd.
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Owners: Rick Bueckert, 48, and Ruth Marr, 40
Date started: November 1990
Start-up costs: Approximately $30,000
Sales: $500,000 in 1997
"Randonnée" is a French word meaning "to make an excursion under one's own power." And that's the key to Randonnée Tours, a Winnipeg, Manitoba, company that arranges self-guided cycling and walking tours of England, France, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Nova Scotia and Switzerland.
"Self-guided tours are a European style of travel," says Ruth Marr, who co-owns Randonnée Tours with her husband, Rick Bueckert. "You have the feel of being on an organized tour, but also have time alone."
This husband-and-wife team is uniquely qualified to run the business. Bueckert is a travel consultant with a degree in classics and art history; Marr is an environmental consultant who speaks fluent French, has traveled in Africa and Asia, and has written two books on walking and cycling. Marr ran an environmental consulting firm for five years before deciding to follow her bliss in the specialty travel industry.
"We have experience traveling this way, so we know what it's like to spend seven days on a bike. That helps us plan and gives us a better idea of customers' expectations," explains Marr, who makes two or three trips with Bueckert to each destination to work out details before clients arrive.
Most of Randonnée's clients are women in their late forties, although ages range from 20 to 70. The company's fastest-growing market is honeymooners. In the future, the partners plan to create shorter self-guided tours for businesspeople who want to combine work with pleasure--as they themselves have done.
"Adventure travel is a lifestyle," says Marr. "My husband and I get to spend five or six months each year in Europe. [In this industry,] you have to look at nonmonetary rewards as well as monetary ones."