Growing up watching your mother and grandmother travel across the United States and Europe each year with students from their cooking school seemed pretty normal to Molly Crist and Katerina Clauhs–so normal that they decided to make a career out of it. Onward Travel Co. was inspired by trips that their mother and grandmother took students on from their cooking school, The Cooking Cottage. These week-long trips to culinary destinations, usually in Europe, gave their students the opportunity to get a hands-on experience that went well beyond the classroom.
The Cooking Cottage, located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, worked with a travel company to help plan the activities and logistics for each trip. Cornell graduate and owner of the former Grand Rapids Silver Spork Food Truck, Molly Crist, saw a career in planning these trips. Having completed internships in Ireland, Alaska, and Costa Rica, she was well versed in planning and travel logistics. In April of 2012, she planned her first trip to New Orleans for the Cooking Cottage, with which her sister, Katerina, has since taken over. After a successful trip, her and her sister officially founded Onward Travel Co. in October 2013.
According to their website, Onward Travel Co. hosts customized trips for organizations to extend to their community. The goal is to encourage businesses and organizations to create a way for their members, employees, and followers to experience the passion that fuels the business. Global exploration elevates the brand experience, promotes customer loyalty, and creates a network of bonded, inspired travelers.
Crist and her sister don’t expect business owners to seek them out though. “Business owners and managers aren’t thinking about travel, they are thinking about running a business, ” Crist said. To get businesses and organizations thinking about travel, Onward Travel Co. will proactively create itineraries and pitch them to the businesses.
Each itinerary takes on average over 40 hours to create. Once it is shown to the client it takes another 40 hours to finalize and book the reservations. One of the big challenges that Onward Travel Co. has to overcome is the idea that group travel equates to riding around on a greyhound bus all day. In reality, these trips of 10-15 people are designed to ensure that travelers aren’t wasting any of their precious vacation time reading the guidebook and figuring out what the next activity is going to be. All of the activities and logistics are carefully crafted to create an authentic, engaging trip that exposes the destination and roots travelers to the place.
Onward Travel Co. has two trips planned for this spring. Grand Rapids Italian restaurant, Amore Trattoria, is partnering with Onward Travel Co. to host a trip to Italy this spring. The Chef-Owners who visit their Italian homeland every year wanted their friends and fans of the popular restaurant to join them and experience amazing food, cooking classes, markets, art, and Northern Italy sightseeing.
Secondly, AIGA West Michigan is hosting an international experience open to all members for the opportunity to visit Iceland’s annual design festival. The week will be packed with exciting lectures, tours, events, and outings to engage and educate.
Although there are currently only two trips planned, there is a lot in the works for Onward Travel Co. Partnering with a brewery to do a beer trip to Germany, Belgium, and Prague could very likely be on the horizon. Additionally, partnering with university hospitality programs to take students on a spring break trip to experience cultural immersion is in the brainstorming phase.
To get the business off the ground, Crist and Clauhs are currently working with personal contacts to find businesses and organizations to partner with, but have visions of growing their business around the country.
Andrea Filter, Contributing Writer