Inspired by ship chandlers who supply provisions and services upon arrival at port, from staples to specialty items, Trip Chandler supplies the everyday to the extraordinary to visitors and residents of Houston. Founded by Dana DuTerroil and Joni Fincham in 2015, Trip Chandler offers a combined background of experience in the fields of writing, editing, and marketing.
Dana, a Houston native, served as the book editor for Texas Lawyer, a division of ALM Media, and had a lengthy career as a staff attorney with the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Joni, a Houston transplant, has used her MBA and marketing skills working with small non-profits and start-ups to create and execute both internal and external strategic communication plans.
1. Can you tell our readers about your backgrounds?
Dana: I grew up in Houston and later lived in New Orleans as a student and then a lawyer. I've always loved doing research and writing whether it's the law or travel. I learned my tour guide skills from just living in New Orleans because there are so many tourists wandering around asking for advice!
Joni: Houston was my fourth move in 8 years, so I had learned a thing or two about exploring new cities and finding your niche. When the opportunity arose to partner with Dana to combine my city exploration expertise and my business background, I jumped at the chance. It's been an exciting adventure helping other fall in love with Houston.
2). What inspired you to start your business?
Our love for travel and the city we both now call home inspired us to help others do the same because we have so many new residents who move here for work as well as business travelers.
3). Where is your business based?
We are based in Houston.
4). How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
We brainstormed a lot and we came up with a clear idea of our business. We also met with an accountant to determine which type of business would be best for us. Taking care of the practical stuff first made it easier to focus on the fun side!
5). What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Meeting with people face to face - from concierges in hotels to the staff at the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau. A in-person meeting is really crucial when you run a business based on personalization. It helps us generate positive word-of-mouth and referrals.
6). What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Mastering the ever-changing social media algorithms! Talking to other business owners and getting their advice has helped us figure out the system (and commiserate!).
7). How do you stay focused?
After every project, we discuss what worked and what we could do better and record our personal notes so we can use that for the next client.
8). How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Our level of personalization really sets apart from other tours that focus only on highlights or what they like to show people. We really want people to learn about the city through what they like to do. Additionally, our services are versatile and flexible - we write about the city and create personalized guides for people to use on their own or we can go with them.
9). What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Word of mouth and partnering with other Houston bloggers on a blog series has helped us with exposure.
10). What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Hang out with other entrepreneurs! Running your own business can be isolating so it's important to talk to others - it can really help you get through a rough patch.
11). What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
Google Maps is pretty indispensable for us because it makes it easy for us to map out a tour route. We have lots of local Houston blogs that we love, but for the business side of things the blog at Duct Tape Marketing has lots of great tips for small businesses. "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon is an inspiring quick read about creativity.
12). What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
We couldn't run our business without Google Drive. It's pretty basic, but we can share all our documents quickly and easily. Plus, it allows us to work virtually, so it's no big deal for one of us to spend a week at the beach!
13). Who is your business role model? Why?
We find motivation and guidance from other women who have made the leap into running their own small business. We're huge fans of the Radio Cherry Bombe podcast because the interviews of women in the food industry are so inspiring. They all start with a dream just like us and just go for it. Hearing their struggles and successes is like a daily pep talk to keep at it.
14). What do you have planned for the next six months?
Focusing on set tours of iconic Houston destinations like NASA and downtown Houston with a Trip Chandler twist!
15). How can our readers connect with you?