In 2010, Michele Rapp was juggling a hectic work schedule and two young sons, and, as a result, her social life had taken quite a hit.
Once a month she’d manage to squeeze in a meal or happy hour with friends, but she usually found those outings to be unsatisfying. So she took matters into her own hands, hosting a dinner party at her house.
She only served meatless dishes that pleasantly surprised her unsuspecting guests and primed them for her business pitch about a club for Central Ohio women who were eager to step outside their comfort zone and get some unique experiences under their belt. She called it the Ladies Explorer Club.
Today, Rapp coordinates six to 10 adventures a month for the club, with six to 15 women attending each. The small groups keep logistics manageable for her and the venues they visit, she says.
To learn what Rapp has to say about creating a business from the ground up, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: You founded the Ladies Explorer Club because you wanted a more exciting social life. Have you always been adventurous?
Michele Rapp: No, not really. Not up until my 40s, when I started to feel like I was missing out on what life has to offer. I was beginning to think, “Gosh, there has to be more to life than dinner and a movie or carpooling the kiddos around.”
[M]: Since your first event in November 2010, your club has grown from five women to more than 200. How did that happen?
MR: It really happened by way of word of mouth. I think a lot of women are feeling like me. I didn’t t know it at the time, [not] until I started getting phone calls and emails from women who were friends of so-and-so’s and asking if they could come along. Then I was featured in The Dispatch and I couldn’t keep up with all the responses.
[M]: In the letters wrote about themselves, what did they tell you?
MR: The letters described how they too were missing something out of life and that they wanted to live their life to their full potential, but didn’t know how to go about fulfilling that need. Or they too are the woman who tries to get their friends to do something other than dinner and a movie, and either their friends look at them like they’re crazy or say they want to do it, but it all falls apart when they try and coordinate schedules.
Now they will always have someone who is like-minded to experience new adventures or travel with and they are just a couple clicks away from making it happen. No stressful, time-consuming planning. I do it all for them.
The greatest thing that they email me about is how different they feel− more empowered and inspired. One member even said, “This is great. This is cheaper than going to therapy!”
Or thanking me for showing them how to balance their life through fun. Or thank you notes for planning the activities because they aren’t planners or don’t have the time to plan.
[M]: You’ve made it a point to explore local businesses. Why is that important to you?
MR: For one, I was tired of hearing that there is nothing to do in Columbus and, second, this is where I live and I think it’s very important to support local business, especially in these tough economic times when people are not spending money on entertainment. Some, if not most, of these businesses would go out of business without local support.
[M]: As a business owner yourself, what’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
MR: Besides being a stay-at home-mom of two boys under 10, it would be the learning curve of running a business from the ground up. There is so much to learn it can be overwhelming. I have had to come out of my comfort zone and ask for help, and realize that I only have so many tools in my toolbox.
I immediately joined the Upper Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which has an excellent advisory program that has been a tremendous asset in helping me set up a strong business foundation. I also joined Dames Bond, a women-to-women networking organization that offers affordable marketing, educational programs, and business resources.
By going on the adventures with my members, I have more self-confidence than ever before, too. When the thoughts of “I can’t do this or that” or just being afraid to sell this business to someone, I just think to myself, “This is nothing. I just did a high ropes course 60 feet off the ground and if I can do that, then I can succeed in this, too!”
[M]: What would you say to someone who is just starting a business?
MR: Make sure you have a solid business plan because this will keep you on track, especially when you get overwhelmed. Get plugged into local resources, network, never be afraid to ask for help, and never let anyone steer you away from your dreams!
MR: What are your goals for the Ladies Explorer Club?
MR: My goal is to have a Ladies Explorer Club chapter in every city across the country, create jobs for women in my organization, and use adventures as the vehicle in which to empower and inspire women; create a 501c where I can help women who need funding to start their own businesses and to teach our young women how to be empowered and self- confident.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
MR: Yes, to the other half of our species, there will be a leg of my business that will include men so stay tuned.
To learn more about Ladies Explorer Club, visit LadiesExplorerClub.com.