The Anniversary Interview
We just hit a big milestone! Wanderlust turned one! Yes, we are now celebrating our first year in business, and it’s been quite a year. As I paused and pondered the first year in business, I decided I didn’t want to do just a traditional blog of my reflections. Rather, I commissioned a couple of my former students who were willing to interview me about marking this milestone. I thought it would be more entertaining to see what questions they had. They have both been terrific supporters of mine since the inception of the business, and since I never dabbled in social media before creating Wanderlust, they even gave me some social media tips at the start. Hailey and Casey are now high school students, a Senior and a Sophomore, respectively. They were my students when they were in eighth grade, and I am still fortunate to call their entire family my friends. Following are the questions they asked of me, and then I turned it around and asked a few questions of them.
1. What made you start this business?
I guess it’s been in my head for awhile, and it really stemmed from our National Park Junkie design. I’ve been looking to buy “that shirt” for years, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I decided to just create it myself. However, creating the shirt was one thing, but starting a business was something much bigger. The delay to start the actual business was because I always thought, “I can’t start a business; I have no idea how to.” Then, one day, I had a paradigm shift and just said to myself, “Why can’t I start a business?” I decided to just do it. I figured I’d learn along the way!
2. What made you come up with this logo?
I know the hiking imprint is overused. I know the word Wanderlust is overused. That doesn’t change the fact that these two things really speak to me. I love, love hiking. I love the free spiritedness that comes with wanderlust. It felt right to combine them. That is me. The tagline, Where Will You Leave Your Mark? came from thinking about the National Park Service’s mantra, “Leave nothing, take nothing.” In their context, I believe that, but on a deeper level, it seemed opposite to me. I feel that I do take something with me from every place I visit, and I also leave a little bit of me behind. I have been marked by my travels, and I want to leave my mark as well. On social media, I couldn’t secure just Wanderlust, so Wanderlustmark seemed to connect the whole idea to me.
3. How did you get into travel and hiking?
This answer is two-fold. My dad was very outdoorsy, so as a young girl I connected with the outdoors through him. But, then he passed away when I was fourteen, and the outdoor activities sort of stalled for me. I went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons many years later as an adult, and I was just awed in every possible way. I knew I belonged in the outdoors, and I knew the national parks were something to behold. I’ve since spent time in at least one national park every year for almost 20 years. I feel closest to my true self when I am on a trail in a national park.
“I feel closest to my true self when I am on a trail in a national park.”
4. How many national parks have you been too?
I think I last counted 24 out of the 59. I’m not necessarily running the checklist because I don’t want to be a “one-and-done” with some of the parks. I loved Glacier enough to return several times, same with Rocky Mountain National Park. Gosh, Zion -where I feel a strong connection – I’ve been to about 5 times. I just went to the Smokies, and I’m definitely going back! I want to hike as many trails in each of the parks that I can, while I still can. The secondary goal, of course, is to see them all, but it’s not necessarily driving my vacation decisions.
5. What is your favorite park and why?
I think I’d have to answer that the same way my mom answered the question, “Who’s your favorite child?” She would say she loved us all, but that we each had something different about us that she loved more. I love all of the parks I’ve visited, but I love Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons because they were my firsts. I love Zion because it somehow connects to my spirit in a way I can’t even explain. I love Glacier because of the wildlife. I love Olympic because I get rainforests, oceans, and mountains all in one visit. Oh, and the first glimpse of Mt. Denali is literally breathtaking! I could continue…..It’s really just like my mom said!
6. How did you feel when you ran into the person in Alaska wearing your t-shirt?
Hard to describe this feeling really. It was strange and surreal. I didn’t think it would happen so fast, being in business less than a year. Plus, I didn’t think I would react the way I did. It made me a little emotional, but I’m not sure why. I guess it’s true that we are all kids at heart, and when something big happens, you wonder what your parents would think. I’d like to think my parents would have viewed this as a sign of success for me, and they would have been proud. When that feeling passed, it was just cool to see someone proud to wear that shirt – the same shirt I created and am also proud to wear! I really enjoyed the connection.
7. Do you have any plans to expand your merchandise?
I do, actually, but it’s a slow-growth plan. I’m about to roll out a new item soon, but it’s not clothing. We have many ideas for other items we want to create, but it will take some time to get there.
8. What are your goals for your company?
Right now, just starting out, I’m thrilled with the success that we’ve had. We haven’t done any advertising other than social media, so advertising is definitely one of my goals. I want to find the right place for us to advertise. From there, I think we’d like to simply continue to grow our presence and increase our sales. That would also give us the opportunity to add products.
9. Where would you like to see your company in a few years? (maybe 5 years)
Good question, girls! I would like to partner with a few more gift stores, and I’d like to look into the possibility of partnering with some other companies. In my head, I can see our logo and tagline (Where Will You Leave Your Mark?) on the back of a JEEP, or perhaps side-by-side with a Merrell hiking shoe, or something. I don’t know if they can see it, but I can [insert laugh].
10. Do you have merchandise anywhere else in the country?
I do! I’m so excited to be partnering with a gift store in Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion National Park. I contacted one of my favorite stores there, Bumbleberry Gifts, and the nicest woman just took a chance on me. She’s been buying merchandise from us since March. I’m also in talks right now with some other gift stores near other national parks. Hopefully, I’ll have something to announce real soon!
11. Is there any other way to get in touch with you other than your website?
Actually, yes. You can email me directly at email@example.com; you can Direct Message me through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – all using the handle Wanderlustmark; plus, you can also use the old fashioned method of sending me correspondence through the mail at Wanderlust, P.O.Box 864, Tinley Park, IL, 60477.
Okay, Hailey and Casey, those were some great, insightful questions. Now, let me turn the table for a moment and ask you gals a few questions.
1. You’ve followed my social media postings from the start. How would you describe my “feed” to someone?
Hailey- I would describe your feed as very unique. It’s for people who love traveling and sharing where they have visited. Your social media allows everyone to get involved and it inspires new places people may want to go.
2. What type of posts from my sites do you personally find interesting?
Casey- The posts I find most interesting are seeing the places where people have been. It’s fascinating seeing that people have actually been to these beautiful and outstanding places. Seeing them there makes me want to visit some of those places, too!
3. Have you been inspired to travel to any of the places I’ve highlighted on social media?
Casey- Yes, I have been inspired to travel to some of the places I’ve seen on Instagram. I would say the top place I want to travel to is Alaska. Seeing those mountains was amazing. Specifically, I want to see Mt. Denali. From the pictures I saw on Instagram, it was breathtaking!
4. I want to grow my following organically, without using companies where you pay to have followers. So, what is your suggestion for me to attract new followers?
Casey- My suggestions for growing your followers would be when you give someone your business card have all of your social media usernames on there so they can look up more information about what your business is really all about and what sorts of products you sell. You could also try putting a piece of paper in all the packages of the t-shirts/decals you sell promoting your social media. For instance, saying something like “You can also follow me @… for more of what’s happening!”
5. I’m obviously a National Park Junkie, and I would love to see more young people excited about visiting the national parks. Do you and your friends ever talk about the possibility of traveling to any of the national parks?
Casey- Somehow my friends and I always talk about traveling. It may not always be to the national parks, but we have thought about going to a place called Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. I’ve seen pictures of people there and it looks amazing. Seeing the waterfalls there seems really cool. This summer my friends and I all went to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We had a blast there, climbing the different dunes then cooling off in the water. These are the only places my friends and I have really talked about.
6. What are your thoughts about our logo and our products?
Nancy (Hailey and Casey’s mom joined our conversation) – I really love your logo. The shoe print is not only adorable and attractive, it’s creative and meaningful to your purpose. The t-shirts offer great screenprints, color, fabric and fit. I would like to see more products in the future including a Wanderlust shoe print Christmas ornament, jewelry, and hiking accessories such as water bottles, bandanas, and a utility bag.
7. What are your thoughts about our website?
Hailey- I personally think that the Website is super easy to access for anyone. It’s very transparent to find information and how/where to buy the products. I like that the Website explains what Wanderlust means and is about.
8. I had the pleasure of teaching you in school, but you guys then taught me about using social media. How have I done, and what grade would you give me?
Hailey- I would say we were pretty good teachers then. But in all seriousness, you have done a fantastic job learning and setting up all the social media accounts. They look great and seem to be getting a lot of viewers. I would definitely give you an A for all the hard work, effort, and how far you have come with this business.
It was such a blast having my former students interview me, and I thank them for granting this request. Teachers will tell you that we are inspired by our students, and that we learn from them, as well. These young ladies are perfect examples of both.
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