Dynamic Foundations Institute Presents The 2020 Entrepreneur Showcase featuring Female Founders
Welcome to DFI’s interview series, featuring female founders. Today our interview focuses on Kalee Wulfers, Owner and Operator of Grapevine Food Tour, in Grapevine, Texas. Kalee is a serial entrepreneur with a true passion for connecting authentically with people. Read on and learn more about Kalee’s business and how she and her team are navigating the issues facing many entrepreneurs, including Covid-19.
DFI: So, tell me about yourself? What is your background or passion that led you to start your business?
KW: First and foremost I am a people person. I love being around people and I love connecting people with one another. I have always centered my activities and career choices around being involved in a community. This passion for people led me to being a community volunteer who served in many different capacities while I stayed at home with my children for 13 years, and then helped me choose my career once I resumed working outside the home. I worked for a local Chamber of Commerce, and a women owned and women focused media group before starting my entrepreneurship journey. I always had the desire to do my own thing but I could never pin point just what that “thing” would be. In 2012, I formed my own non-profit. This was the start of where I am today. The non-profit quickly morphed into another company that although having the same mission and vision as the non-profit, it allowed for further growth and unique opportunities the non-profit didn’t offer. It wasn’t until a few other start-up failures and life changes that I ended up with my company now: Grapevine Food Tour.
DFI: What do you think your unique skill(s) is/are that has/have helped you become successful?
KW: What I know I am very good at is making people feel comfortable and welcome. I never realized this was a gift of mine until it was the one constant feedback I would receive from people. I now embrace it and I now know it is what has helped me create a successful food tour. After all, eating food is a social activity and people are what create the atmosphere. The right mood sets the whole experience up. Creating a welcoming and intimate environment for all of our guests is a top priority for me at Grapevine Food Tour. It is more important for me as a business owner and food tour operator to read my guests and accommodate how they are feeling versus strictly providing great food and drink.
DFI: Looking back on your startup experience now, is there anything that you would have changed?
KW: Looking back on the few different start-ups I have created to where I am now with Grapevine Food Tour, there really isn’t anything I would change. For me, I had to have the setbacks and failures of earlier companies in order for me to have the success of Grapevine Food Tour now. I learned how to navigate through business protocols and although I am still learning, the experience of failure has helped me become only stronger and better as a business owner. Failure has taught me to be flexible, and that is key for any business owner.
DFI: Based on your experience during this startup time, what wisdom could you impart to other upcoming women entrepreneurs?
KW: I would recommend anyone who is looking to start their own business to do their research. I would say make sure you are filling a need in your community or the world and be very clear about how your value is different than other like companies. I would also highly recommend they invest in the business from the beginning. I did not do this with some of my other companies and it felt like I was playing catch up once I got some traction with the business. With Grapevine Food Tour I started from the very beginning with paying for a bookkeeper (do not do your financials yourself if you are not a financial person!), investing in quality marketing materials, and surrounding myself with people who had gifts other than mine. I no longer try to do everything in my company but focus on what I do well and then surround myself with others who do other things that need to be done. Although you may spend a little more money, in the beginning, to get up and running, if you invest in the right things for your company you will be much better off in the long run.
DFI: What is your business offering during its normal operating state?
KW: Grapevine Food Tour offers one-of-a-kind walking food and history tours along historic Main Street in Grapevine, Texas. We partner with locally and family-owned restaurants that give our guests a variety of food and drink tastings. In between the tasting locations we talk about Grapevine’s rich history. We currently offer three different tours: Original Food, Wine & History Tour; Beer, Bites & History Tour and a Wine & Chocolate Happy Hour Tour. We also offer custom private and corporate tours.
DFI: What does the business currently look like, in terms of customers and product or service offering, now that we have a pandemic that has shuttered businesses?
KW: Due to Covid-19, our tours stopped operating on March 14th. As with other businesses we were greatly affected. We quickly shifted our focus 100% on supporting our tour partners and other local restaurants and specialty shops in Grapevine. All of our social media posts focused on sharing updates from all the restaurants and supporting the message of “eat local”. It was important for us to stay active on social media during this time, not to promote ourselves, but to promote being part of a community that needed the support. Again, remaining people-focused and community-focused is our core value and being authentic in that mission has helped us grow our online community during the pandemic. Even though we have resumed tour operation (as of June 5th) we will continue to promote the local businesses on our social media channels along with our own tour pictures. After all, we are better together!
DFI: What does the future look like for you and your business?
KW: Currently, due to Covid-19 we are operating our tours at half capacity, following all social distancing guidelines and strictly following all minimum required health and safety protocols. My goal for Grapevine Food Tour’s future is for it to be a sustainable and long-lasting company that offers people the experience of Grapevine’s unique dining scene on Main Street, all the while celebrating its rich history. My goal for myself is to not only operate a food tour in Grapevine but to also own and operate other food tours in other local areas. Stay tuned.
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