I hope you enjoyed Jackie’s blog of her and her brother’s South American adventure. Jackie’s back in school, and Andy’s in Prague today. I just got off the phone with him, and he’s in the middle of a different kind of adventure…an entrepreneurial one. Fresh out of college, he is starting up his own tour business, and I’m proud as a Dad can be.
Andy’s business niche: to help American students on their European study-abroad programs enjoy efficient, fun, meaningful, and economic three-day weekends in his favorite seven destinations. He’s organizing €150 student tours of Prague, Rome, London, Paris, and more. Each tour includes meals, two nights in hostels, major museum admissions, and local guided tours.
Andy conceived this exciting business plan while taking a Notre Dame semester abroad in Rome and seeing how the students had to scramble to put together their weekend adventures. His company name describes the niche he’s filling: Andy Steves’ Weekend Student Adventures (WSA). While in Rome, Andy found himself helping friends organize their plans for three-day side-trips (biking in Sicily, chartering a sailboat from Athens, and jetting off to the Alps, Paris, Prague, and Dublin on dirt-cheap discount flights). And he saw the frustration, and mistakes, and lost opportunities fellow students with less experience endured as they fumbled around the Continent, eager to come home with lots of great experiences.
I’m enjoying tracking Andy’s business evolution and remembering what it was like when I started my business. While there are clear parallels, he’s light years ahead of me when I was 23. While I was a cash business without a hint of Internet, insurance, or even a plan, Andy is going through all the business hoops in a much more solid and formal way. He’s had to get insurance and negotiate with a bank to accept credit cards. And he’s built a website enabling students to click over to wsaeurope.com and book a tour as easily as they might book a theater ticket online.
While Andy has competition, other companies seem to cater to students’ interest in just partying. Andy hopes to distinguish WSA by appealing to the interests of parents and school administrators, as well as those of the students. Parents and foreign-study program coordinators want to economically and safely enhance their students’ study abroad experience with educational and meaningful weekends. And students want to party with other students in exciting foreign capitals. It’s Andy’s challenge to come up with a good mix, satisfying students, teachers, and parents at a great price.
While Andy has traveled solo nearly each summer since he graduated from high school and has experience assistant-guiding our tours, his real tour company experience is being gathered this fall as he’s spending two months in his target cities, fine-tuning his three-day tour plans, making contacts, and becoming the necessary expert in student travel there. He’s offering one shake-down tour (which he’ll personally lead) of each of his destinations this November at a no-profit intro price of €150. Prague sold out practically overnight, Paris and London are nearly full, and other destinations have plenty of seats open. When Andy gave talks directly to students in Rome, he sold piles of tours. But he doesn’t have the web traffic yet to sell well without personal appearances.
Check out his website, wsaeurope.com. Any feedback or constructive suggestions to make it better would be appreciated. And if you know any students in Europe this semester (or next) looking for lots of fun, Andy’s Weekend Student Adventures promises to offer a great experience.