I’d like to introduce Kim Giovacco from Veg Jaunts and Journeys.
What was the ‘Aaahaaa’ moment when you decided to go Vegan?
My first attempt, it was hearing a speech by the founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in Woodstock, New York. Unfortunately my first attempt only lasted several weeks. My second attempt was watching the movie Peaceable Kingdom. At the same time, I had excellent support from fellow vegans who are members of a social group near Boston, Massachusetts. I’d like to mention that I had been vegetarian for 30 years already. I had no idea what went on in the dairy industry, though.
When did you embrace a compassionate Vegan lifestyle?
Two years ago, in 2015.
What were the reactions of family and friends when you first embraced Veganism?
My family and friends were used to my being vegetarian for a very long time. I’m so fortunate in that some of my closest friends are vegan. Our friendships developed after I became vegan. These are the people that I enjoy spending the most time with–compassionate souls all of them.
Why did you start your business?
I live to travel, and I know that some vegans find traveling abroad difficult. I don’t feel that it has to be hard–there are now so many cities and destinations that are vegan-friendly. I’d like to empower those who might not have the confidence to travel alone. The small group tours that Veg Jaunts and Journeys offers are a great place to gain some confidence. As well, I serve as a bit of a clearinghouse for information on traveling as a vegan. I’ve been collecting resources for ages, and can share this helpful information with anyone who is interested. Also, it can be a lot of fun when a group of like-minded individuals decides to travel together.
What problem are you trying to solve? (Or – what’s wrong with the status quo?)
The majority of group tours include very limited food options for vegans. Why would a vegan wish to join a tour where everyone else has loads of options, but the vegan meal options are extremely limited, or missing components? I personally do not want to pay for food that I can’t eat. As well, there are many mainstream group tours that partake in activities and visit attractions that exploit animals. Instead of making do and taking away bits of a mainstream tour, the tours of Veg Jaunts and Journeys add in special local vegan activities such as walking tours and cooking classes.
What’s your point of differentiation over your competitors?
Veg Jaunts and Journeys’ prices are geared toward solo travelers. Almost every tour company out there penalizes the solo traveler by charging a hefty single supplement. Our tours are based on one person in a room, and not based on double occupancy. If two people are traveling together and wish to share a room, they can, but no one has to pay extra when joining the group as a single on our tours. Also, our group sizes are much smaller than the industry norm, with only 8-14 participants per tour.
What’s the reaction to your product/service been like?
The reception has been great. Vegans are very happy to know that there is an option for them.
What is your most popular feature/product/service and why?
So far, our 8 day tour to Berlin, which is often considered the world vegan capital, has been the most popular.
Tell me about your journey to get to this point, what have you done?
I’ve been traveling as a hobby for over 30 years, always arranging my own independent travel. I’ve had several jobs in the tourism industry. I starting arranging the small group tours for vegans, and they I was contacted by some honeymooning couples who asked me to help plan their trips. I really enjoyed doing that, and decided then and there to begin my training to become a travel agent, a dream that I had put on hold for 35 years! So now my business has two parts: the small group tours and the travel agency/travel planning. To get the word out about my service, I’ve been attending vegan festivals all over the country, where I have a booth so that I can talk to potential travelers in person, to find out where they’d like to travel and what type of travel they’re interested in.
What mistakes have you made?
I spent money on print advertising in vegan magazines which in retrospect should probably have been spent attending additional vegan festivals.
What have you learned, and what would you differently next time?
I’ve learned that it takes a long time for people to get to know your service and remember it, and that you have to have patience. I’m an introvert, but I’ve learned that having conversations with people can open up lots of doors and possible collaborations.
What advice would you give to people thinking of entering this area?
It’s a good idea to have a niche specialization, as you can’t be an expert in all areas.
What type of customers do you attract?
My tour participants have been all types of vegans, with a wide age range.
What features/expansion are you planning in the next 12 months?
I’m partnering with some vegans in Europe who can help me co-lead tours in destinations where I don’t yet have personal experience. I also work with the non-vegan community when someone needs help planning their dream vacation.
How did you get started online and what technical challenges did you have to overcome?
I hired someone through Upwork to create my website. I’m very happy with the site, but for me making updates using WordPress can be challenging sometimes.
What did you want to be when you grow up?
What do you do for fun?
I like to be active in the vegan community, read, and plan travel.
How do you spread your message about veganism?
I post photos and videos of adorable animals on Facebook, and try to feed my family and friends vegan food.
How do you think the Internet and Social Media has impacted on the Vegan World?
I can’t imagine our world without it, but I find I need to spend an inordinate amount of time every day to keep up with what’s happening. That’s a good thing, though!
Do you follow business influencers online (e.g. Blogs, Podcasts, etc) and if so who?
Easy Vegan with JL Fields
Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan
Vegan travel bloggers:
The Nomadic Vegan
The Vegan Word
My Infinite Adventure
A Southern Gypsy
Bounding Over our Steps
World Vegan Trekker