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Roamin' Holiday

Let a vacation put you on the road to a great start-up idea.
September 1, 2003
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/63762

Want another reason to plan that trip to Hawaii? Not only is vacationing good for the soul and great for the tan, but it can also open your mind to new business ideas. Imagine leaving on a jet plane--only to come back home with the seeds of a moneymaking venture planted in your head.

"It's not so much the vacation as the downtime where [you] have fewer distractions," says Carole D. Stovall, a psychologist and business coach in Washington, DC. "People talk about getting some of their best ideas in the shower. A vacation is like that morning shower, where your mind can work through information." In that relaxed state, your mind is open to new concepts.

That certainly was the case for Tia Wou, founder of Tote Le Monde, a handbag manufacturer in New York City. She'd traveled to Bolivia for her friend Anna Aliaga's wedding in 1989 and loved all the rich fabrics she saw at the marketplace. "[Bolivians] have incredible textiles," says Wou, 40.

Wou, who was working in fashion at the time, got a creative spark from that trip. A few years later, she traveled to Japan and was on the hunt for the perfect handbag. Not finding what she wanted, Wou recalled the beautiful fabrics in Bolivia. That's when it hit her: She could design handbags like the ones she was looking for in Japan, using the materials she'd seen in Bolivia, and sell them in America.

"I have done extensive traveling in Asia, South America and Europe," says Wou. "It was the outer areas vs. the cities--where people do things in a different way--that inspired me." She called Aliaga, who was living in Bolivia, and the two teamed up to start Tote Le Monde. Today, the company is a lifestyle brand that sells handbags, housewares and travel pieces. Sales for 2003 are expected to hit $1.5 million.

Vacation shopping didn't just inspire Deborah Mayer to start her business--it is her business. Mayer, a self-proclaimed "serious shopper," started Shop Around Tours Inc. in 2001 after a trip to Italy. On the hunt for the best designer outlets abroad, Mayer had a hunch that travelers with shopping on the brain would love prearranged tours of the hardest-to-find shopping locales. "I always carry a pad and paper with me," says Mayer, 42. "We were in the Florence area, and I started jotting down itinerary ideas." Today, Mayer books tours for shopaholic travelers to destinations in France, Italy and New York City, where Shop Around Tours is based. Her worldwide shopping-spree company is expected to gross sales in the six figures for 2003.

Ready to pack your bags yet? Perhaps Susan Maxwell, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, can shed more light on the idea that vacations can breed ideas. "The stimuli when you're on a vacation is very different," she says. "You're being exposed to new things, new people, new sights, new places and new activities-and I think that triggers other ideas."

Stovall echoes that sentiment. "I think it's no accident that people go to beautiful places in order to think. Our surroundings can impact how much stress we feel," she explains. "[On vacation], our surroundings remind us we're in a place to relax. All of that contributes to being able to think more clearly."