Once you have a cool idea and a reasonable combination of money and experience, the start-up plan has to be worked out in as much nitty-gritty detail as possible.
Cost-effective advertising and marketing is the greatest challenge once you've launched your venture. Cohen of InnerQuest found mailing lists of supposed "adventure travelers" worthless and now primarily relies on features in magazines like Men's Health and GQ to find initial contacts. Most of his business now consists of happy repeat customers; his brochures feature their testimonials.
Sinem Iber, 27, took a different approach when she started North Star Tours Inc. of Houston in 1995. She began by going to Turkey and spending a lot of time checking into location details for her highly personalized cultural tours; she then spread the word about her service and primo guidebooks by giving free lectures at bookstores throughout Texas. At the end of each talk, someone in the audience always wanted her help.
Suriel invited travel writers to take tours and ended up with rave reviews in places like The New York Times. She also developed a colorful, thorough Web site (www.iguanamama.com), where she posts all the articles for prospective customers to read.
Suriel exhorts those who want to go into adventure and specialty travel to stick with their vision. It took her five years to make a real profit, but now she's flying high. Says Suriel, "Too many travel entrepreneurs fail simply because they don't listen to their gut and they give up too soon."