Company: Wild Women Adventures
Location: Sebastopol, California
Owners: Carol T. Rivendell, 51, "Queen Executive Officer," and Martha Lindt, 49, "Queen of Operations"
Date started: May 1994
Start-up costs: $5,000
Their motto is "Insanity with dignity." They pose for their promotional literature in outfits that would make Carmen Miranda turn grape-green with envy. And the names of their tours could win a creative writing contest: Red Hot Mamas Cookin' (a week of cooking classes in Mexico), What's Mayan is Yours (a trek to the Yucatan Peninsula) and Erin Go Braghless (a tour of western Ireland).
But behind the lighthearted facade, Carol Rivendell, a former psychotherapist, and Martha Lindt, a travel agent, are serious about offering women high-quality, guilt-free getaways.
"We created Wild Women for women who want to travel on their own--but not alone," says Lindt, who met Rivendell when their children were high school sweethearts.
Without enough start-up capital to compete with established tour operators and their slick brochures, the partners needed to find another way to distinguish themselves. "We decided to be menopausal bitches from hell," Rivendell wisecracks. They dressed up and had a friend do their photography. Their catalog, reminiscent of Mad magazine, is printed on inexpensive newsprint. Their first clients came from a mailing list provided by a local comedian.
Although they initially targeted housewives and older women longing to see the world, their client base has expanded to include young professionals too busy to plan their own vacations. "We're passionate about travel and feel strongly about women taking time off to do something for themselves," Rivendell says. "This is hard work, but my God, it's fun."