We caught up with the brilliant and insightful JARROD RIDDLE a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
JARROD, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Risk taking is something we’re really interested in and we’d love to hear the story of a risk you’ve taken.
Well truth be told, I’m not really a risk taker. I don’t like gambling, I don’t like anything I don’t have some kind of influence over.
So for me, starting this business with a 1 year old daughter at home was terrifying! The reason I chose to take this risk is I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering……wondering what would’ve happened if I just would’ve tried. I had the idea of starting a tour company, based on my love of history and customer engagement for at least 10 years. Ever since I got my 1st tour guiding job I thought I could make it a better, more unique engaging experience for my guests. I dipped my toes in the sand once before, in like 2015ish. I got a really weak website and hit the streets passing out flyers. I thought “my tour idea is so great, people will book the very first day!!”
Not the case.
I got a couple calls the 1st couple of weeks but no actual bookings so I deemed the idea a failure……….after 2 weeks!!
Looking back, that was a valuable lesson on the time it does take to get something like this up and running. I still regret not putting more effort into the 1st venture. I bought the LLC for this company in 2017 but still didn’t have the guts to push forward. I was working for other tour companies at the time. I got promoted at one and after some disagreements it pushed me to get the guts to at least try to get mine up and running.
So in Sept of 2019 Spirit of Arizona Tours was ready for bookings…………6 mos before a global pandemic………
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I’ve always loved customer service. I really like engaging with people and providing a service to enhance their experience. I started as a bartender in college and loved talking to people.
Out of college I got a good job as an academic counselor for a college here in Phoenix. I loved helping my students but at the end of the day it was a 9-5 office job. After about 5 years there I thought, what do I really enjoy. History! But how can I make that a career? In my mind there were really only 3 options. 1. Become a history teacher, but the idea of another 9-5, being forced to teach what the board wanted me to teach, not to mention grading papers, didn’t sound appealing. 2. Work at a museum, but that sounded a little “officey” to me. Or a 3. A tour guide…….and voila…..here I am!
What I love most is being a part of someone’s life experience. People work hard to travel and experience the world. I pride myself in providing a life experience and making Arizona as unique as I know it is. We have a unique history here, having a reputation for being part of the wild west and the home of the Sonoran desert. I love showing off what makes Arizona one of the most culturally unique destinations in the entire world!
There are many different aspects that set me apart from other tour companies. The #1 thing that probably sets me apart is touring with an actual historian. In 2018 I qualified as a historian after co authoring a presentation at the Arizona state historic preservation conference. My best selling tours are the tours I personally curated out of research I’ve done myself. No other tour company offers them. 2nd would be my ability to customize and create a tour based on customer requests. Because I don’t answer to anyone and my extensive knowledge of the state and history, I can create and do almost anything. Other tour companies have to stick to a script and route. I do not. 3rd. I genuinely care about the customer experience. I want them to leave with a life experience when visiting Arizona. I want to thank them for choosing Spirit of Arizona Tours by going above and beyond their expectations. When choosing a tour company I want people to shop and compare. I’m that confident that we, hands down, will deliver the best experience.
I don’t want to show them Arizona……..my goal is to show off Arizona!
The reviews reflect that.
Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?
Easy. Providing the experience, not just taking them on tour. Obviously we are a tour company but everyone of our tours are different based on the guest. There are many times where a guest has mentioned an area of interest and we pivoted the experience to tailor to the guest. We can do that because of our knowledge and experience. As a result we get many returning guests and positive reviews.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
Well for me, hopefully……..HOPEFULLY…..I endured the worst challenge right out of the gate with COVID. I had just got the motivation to start and invest in my idea when 6 mos later a global pandemic erupted. The 2 main things people could not do were travel and get together in groups. Which, unfortunately, are the 2 main things a tour company relies on. It was unbelievably scary to be in this business. Especially just getting started. I thought, I’ve got 2 choices, give up and feel sorry for myself or push forward. I decided to push forward. I’m still building and will probably never stop but here I am. Still delivering experiences!
The challenge that I’m currently facing is a national tour chain has come in and started offering similar experiences. I just want my guests to know that when they choose Spirit of Arizona Tours, they’re touring with a local that genuinely loves this state.
- Website: https://spiritofarizonatours.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spiritofarizonatours/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpiritofArizonaTours
- Youtube: Spirit of Arizona Tours
- Other: We’re working on a tik tok account. It will be under Spirit of Arizona Tours where we plan to deliver fun little unique experiences about Arizona. Same with the YouTube channel. It’s not up and running yet but the goal is provide tips on visiting Arizona. When it comes to reviews, Google and tripadvisor are the preferred locations. Yelp only posts about half the reviews we receive because we refuse to pay them.
Spirit of Arizona Tours