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Meet Samantha Wood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Wood. 

Hi Samantha, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
When my now 8-month-old was a newborn, I put her in a baby carrier and walked around the kitchen island, typing a few words on my computer each time I went by. This is how I wrote emails. Today, it’s not uncommon for my four-year-old to tug my shirt and ask for a snack while I am taking a work call. She makes frequent appearances in my Zoom sessions, sometimes even falling asleep in my lap. All of my business notebooks and materials have crayon doodles on them. My meetings are strategically planned during the baby’s naps. This is the life of a working mother. This is my life currently. It’s messy. It’s hectic. But I am so thankful for it, and each day is a triumph just to get through it. 

I am the owner of Rocky Mountain Food Tours, which operates in Colorado Springs at the base of Pikes Peak. When I started the business 12 years ago, I didn’t have children, or a husband, or an MBA. I wasn’t an expert in food tourism. I actually never even saw myself becoming an entrepreneur. All I had was a dead-end desk job and enough audacity to quit one day. 

My background is in marketing, so the concept of a food tour made complete sense to me: tell the story of Colorado Springs through food. Promote the local restaurants. The little guys. Bring people together to create a greater story that will encourage people to dine and shop local. I’ve always said that we offer tours to the public but are a marketing company in disguise. 

Everyone needs someone in their life who sees their potential and cares about them enough to help them reach it. For me, at the point I started the business, it was my mom. She was my original business partner, and she was the one who actually approached me with the idea of starting the company. Without her, I honestly don’t know if I would have taken the leap. Funny how just one person’s belief in you can change the course of your life. 

Rocky Mountain Food Tours has ebbed and flowed over the years, but today it is building momentum in spite of the current challenges to the restaurant and tourism industries. Last year, in 2021, we broke every record and keep setting high goals. No one knew what a food tour was when we started, but now it’s a movement among travelers, with people seeking them out in cities all around the world. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Entrepreneurship itself is a struggle. In a weird way, I think that’s what draws people to it. Not the struggle itself, but the opportunity to push through and rise above. It’s true what they say: the highs are higher but the lows are lower. It almost goes without saying, but the current pandemic is by far the greatest challenge we’ve faced in 12 years of business. It has taught me that there is very little that I actually control. We’ve had to adapt and overcome in innumerable ways just to stay in business. I know that this is true for so many others. It has also taught me to be thankful for the many blessings and opportunities we’ve had, including a loyal and amazing staff, financial support via PPP loans and grants, and the amazing roster of partners we’ve built over the years. 

Whatever the restaurant industry is dealing with, we deal with, too. Currently, there is a massive labor shortage. Restaurants are closing early, opening late, and not opening at all. This has had a significant impact on our tours, and we’ve been forced to be creative about solutions. But the restaurant world, even when not enduring a pandemic, is volatile and cutthroat at best. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we’ve worked with at least 75 different restaurants over the years that are now out-of-business. Margins are tight. Staff turnover is high. The hours are long. It’s a difficult industry. 

Knowing myself, and creating opportunities to actually be myself, has been an important aspect of my journey. It took a number of years before I realized that I would never be fulfilled building someone else’s dream. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to check off a to-do list and then going home. Sometimes I wish I could do this. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is figuring out what goes on the to-do list, and in what order. That is what an entrepreneur does. That is was a leader does. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I have an undergraduate degree in Business Marketing, an MBA in Innovation Management, and experience in a variety of industries including real estate, professional writing services, non-profit, higher education, and of course tourism. When I am not spending time with my family, running my business, or offering consulting services to other food tour owners, I also serve as a Public Art Commissioner for the Town of Castle Rock where I live, and I’m a member of the Partnership Committee for Visit Colorado Springs. 

I love to create. I have a drive inside of me to build something that didn’t exist before, both tangibly and intangibly. For a long time, “entrepreneur” was one of the top ways I defined myself. When an entrepreneur builds something, it feels like an extension of themself. And in a way it is, but I’ve learned that my value is wholly separate from my business’ performance. I am not my business; rather, I have a business. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a person of faith. These things are what I ultimately want to be defined by. At the end of the day, these are the parts of my identity that matter most to me. 

As a strong person of faith, I believe that God has a plan for my life, which includes my business. I believe that God has given me this business to steward. I pray often that what we do blesses and encourages everyone we work with including our restaurant partners, staff, and tour guests. 

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs, or other resources you think our readers should check out?
I just finished Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by Dave Allen. It’s not a recently published book, but I think the principles Allen writes about are relevant to today’s busy professional. Reading it made me completely reorganize and re-strategize my to-do list. I now use Todist, which is a virtual to-do list management system. It has an app in addition to website platform, so I can manage my tasks on the go. It’s only $3/month and so far, totally worth it. 

BombBomb has been an invaluable tool in communicating with my remote team. I used to spend a lot of time and money on zoom meetings that were difficult to coordinate and far too long. With BombBomb, I record a 2–5-minute video update from my computer and then send it out every Thursday morning. I keep a list of agenda items I know I want to talk about in Todist so I can get through everything quickly. Not only do I get “face-time” with my staff, information flows a lot better internally, and everyone feels more connected. Plus, I save everyone including myself a lot of time. 

Finally, I know it’s not business-related, but as a working parent who also has household responsibilities including meal preparation, I have really enjoyed the books From Freezer to Cooker and From Freezer to Table by Rachel Tiemeyer and Polly Conner. We recently invested in a freezer chest, and so one day a month, I buy ingredients in bulk and pre-make several meals all at once. When live gets stressful and busy, it’s easy to let family dinner time and nutrition slip, so this helps me prioritize what matters to me. 

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Image Credits:

Brenna Skattebo Photography

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