Nancy Williams started Gift of Travel and the Travel as a Fundraiser program in 2009 after selling her online travel company of 15 years, HoneyLuna, the Honeymoon Registry Service.
Nancy founded and was the driving force behind HoneyLuna, a company that continues to provide honeymoon couples with an opportunity to register for the items and activities of their honeymoons as wedding gifts. Nancy essentially pioneered the online honeymoon registry market. HoneyLuna’s honeymoon registry concept was written about in publications like Alaska Airlines Magazine, Time, Newsweek and Condé Nast Traveler.
After selling HoneyLuna, Nancy gave serious thought to what she loved doing and where she could channel her energy. An avid traveler and Master SCUBA diver herself, Nancy has traveled the world for both business and personal travel. She also has traveled to Cambodia to help support an organization that brings fresh water wells to villages. Nancy has always been involved in raising money for different organizations and volunteering her time for several non-profits. What she realized was that the organizations she was working so hard to support were really hurting financially. Thinking about her passions and her experience, she hit upon the idea for her business — combining travel with fundraising.
Gift of Travel provides non-profits an additional revenue stream by using the force of consumerism. Gift of Travel takes a product consumers were likely to purchase anyway, a vacation, to generate a donation to a non-profit at no extra cost to the consumer.
Non-profits of any size, from small private schools to large national organizations can benefit from the Travel as a Fundraiser program. Given the drop in donations to non-profits and cuts in government programs, Nancy believes the time has come for Gift of Travel’s Travel as a Fundraiser program.
Nancy Williams has written articles for Entrepreneur PR and other travel and wedding planning publications. In addition, she was asked to present Gift of Travel and to the Carl Wilken’s Fellows of the Genocide Intervention Network.
What are you working on right now?
I keep a very full calendar growing my new business, Gift of Travel. I am always learning about, and am in contact with, non-profits throughout the country to engage them in our Travel as a Fundraiser program. I LOVE learning about all the amazing non-profits that are out there and the passionate people who founded them. I also am still involved in the honeymoon registry world through consulting with HoneymoonWishes.com — a previous competitor to HoneyLuna. My passion, however, is helping non-profits, especially those close to my heart. We have created the Gift of Travel Foundation and donate 10 percent of our profits to our foundation. I volunteer one full day a week or more with the Marine Mammal Center, rescuing and helping to rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals such as California Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals and otters. I am also a Sanctuary Steward for Save Our Shores, helping to protect and preserve the Monterey Bay Sanctuary and educate the public about protecting our beaches and oceans. Finally, my newest “fun” project is learning to surf!
3 trends that excite you?
There are two very important trends in the non-profit world right now that excite me. The first is the consolidation/coming together of non-profits that provide similar services. While each individual non-profit is unique, many overlap producing redundancy in services and expenses.
The second is the growth of passive fundraising opportunities — many supporters of non-profits are experiencing “donor fatigue” and are tired of opening their check books for yet another pledge drive or to write another check. Using products consumers buy anyway to raise funds is an exciting opportunity. Travel is a larger dollar value product that can produce a significant revenue stream for a non-profit. That it is a “passive” fundraiser will help us immensely as more and more non-profits are seeking easy to use fundraising tools to help create new revenue streams.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am an action jackson. If I have it in my mind to do something, it gets done. It’s really that simple. My process though is first talking about the idea with trusted friends, family members and business associates. Talking about it gives it life. I then create a “vision board” using photos and images that show the “end result” of my idea or project. Seeing it on a board as it will be is the best way to motivate me to the next step. Both HoneyLuna and now Gift of Travel were boot strapped. So I plan out what I can do immediately (create a Web presence, submit press releases) and what I need to do longer term (bring on clients, generate revenue) and write out my goals for the next three months, six months, one year and five years. I start each day with a run on the beach, yoga or surfing to energize myself and bring gratitude to the forefront of my mind. I also look at my vision board and set my intentions to keep myself inspired each and every day.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Every day is a learning process, and I have “learning experiences” each day. Looking back at HoneyLuna, there were three key things I learned from:
1. When I received my first round of investment capital I was terrified, inexperienced and overwhelmed. I relied too much on what “advisors” told me to do and didn’t work hard enough to negotiate a better deal with the investor. I felt I “should” just take what they offered and did. Consequently, although I received the investment and ultimately things worked out, there were several things that were not in my best interest — both personally and professionally. Now I know I need to educate myself more and be confident with my own knowledge and instinct and to negotiate if something doesn’t feel comfortable.
2. I do believe in bootstrapping and passion — and at times entrepreneurs do use credit cards to fund a new business — which I did. However, do NOT burden yourself with a high interest credit card and put a large amount of charges on it. It becomes nearly impossible to dig yourself out, and the money you pay to interest could be going back into your business
3. Do not start a business with your husband (now my ex)!
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
A must read is “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael Gerber. The software I rely on every day is my CRM — there is a great FREE CRM for up to three users through www.zoho.com. Not only does this track all my prospects and clients, it creates my daily to do, which keeps me organized and on top of things.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Don’t laugh, but cold water surfers can appreciate this … Selling and serving coffee or hot chocolate in the water where surfers congregate to catch waves. You can have a cart at the street or beach entry that sells coffee out of the water but also that sells plastic chips for the “in the water sale.” Then send your “mobile division” (a large paddle board with a cooler strapped to it) out into the waves to collect chips and serve coffee. It’s a great idea because it’s never been done, and you could make a fortune, because when you’re in cold water you want something hot!
Why are you so passionate about supporting the non-profit community, and why should others become more involved in helping the non-profit community as well?
Most non-profits serve to fill a need in a segment of society or about a specific objective that is underserved. If we took care of ourselves, of children, of our environment, for example, non-profits wouldn’t exist. I’ve come across non-profits that serve abused women, bring fresh water to villages that have lacked access to clean drinking water, that help feed children … I give gratitude each and every day that those have never been my circumstances — but at the same time I’m very aware that by the grace of a higher power I could be in those circumstances. I could be a child in Cambodia that fell victim to a land mine while playing in a field. I could be an unemployed person who lost everything and is now homeless. I could be uneducated and trapped in a cycle of gang violence with no hope for my future. Any one of us could be — so I am passionate about sharing this awareness with others so that they too can reach out and help those less fortunate. It really doesn’t take much to help others — and to help others such as the non-profits who can do so much more. People can have a tendency to be materialistic and egocentric — but if we all look outside ourselves just a bit and give just a little, we can really make a difference.
How do you stay balanced and grounded?
Balance is so important. Taking time to nurture yourself through things you love and self-care is critical and part of my daily life. Yoga, running, meditation, spending time with my wonderful mate, travel, learning … it’s all just as important, if not more so, than my work. Without happiness and joy from within, eventually we feel empty and burned out. People laugh at me, but I am also a very “go to bed early” girl — I must have 8-plus hours of sleep a night!
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.