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Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Reflecting on this year, strange and challenging as it may have been, I still feel a sense of gratitude this Thanksgiving. At the beginning of the year I was full of optimism, in particular in regards to Off the Mall Tours. I had so many plans and a laundry list of things to do, but I was certain that I would see it through. I had two tours written and tested, the Madams of DC tour and the Ladies of the Georgetown Set Tour. I was working on a marketing plan. I was writing my final two tours and they were coming together very nicely. I planned to launch the company officially in March. Then Covid-19 happened.

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and thank goodness for that. I need a bit of perspective because I remember how dejected and frustrated I felt when everything and everyone went on lockdown and my dream was veritably postponed. It's a feeling I'm sure I shared with many other current and prospective small business owners. Suddenly we were thrown into a situation over which we had no control, over which no amount of hard work and elbow grease could make a difference. I thought my biggest challenge launching Off the Mall Tours was just finding clients and figuring out ways for them to find me, not being shut down due to an entire pandemic.

However, the pause allowed me time to reflect, do some fine tuning, and be more deliberate about the execution of key parts of my business that I had been planning to address as needed. I used the extra down time to learn how to build my own website, to more thoroughly research aspects of my tours, and finally, to take the time to do some outreach to friends and members of the tour guide community to ask for help. And this is what takes me to the point of this blog post: GRATITUDE.

I feel so much gratitude for those who have helped me during this difficult time, in particular those who I know were going through hard times themselves. In no way could Off the Mall Tours have launched in the midst of all of this without the unflagging support of my friends and the advice of people who I met through opportunities that were presented to me because of the pandemic. From close buddies who took the chance to take the tours once lockdown was lifted, to the other guides (looking at you Dawn the Tour Guide and Kaitlin Calogara, founder of A Tour of Her Own) I met virtually through community pages and other means. I'm grateful to the managers of the restaurants that agreed to let me bring people to their establishments. Hill Country was the first restaurant that I approached for the Madams of DC Tour, and from the first tour that I brought in they have always made us feel welcome. Then there was Martins of Georgetown, a place dripping with DC history, and their GM Luis who would give my groups a special little mini tour of the historic people and events that occurred there, some who I discuss during my Ladies of the Georgetown Set tour. Finally, Ben's Next Door, the extension of Ben's Chili Bowl, was where I stop for my Harlem Renaissance of DC tour. Logan Ali, the Grandson of Virginia and Ben Ali, would make a point of coming by and saying hello to my groups. I was amazed that these historic venues would make the time. It made me feel like we were all in this thing together, trying to survive, and doing it as safely as possible.

Finally, I feel so much gratitude for the people who have taken my tours, friends and strangers alike. Even if they knew me before, they were still taking a chance spending their hard earned money and valuable time, hopefully learning something about this beautiful city that was of value to them. Some of those I didn't know before have now become friends and have been spreading the word, bringing others on the tours. And so it continues to grow with their help.

As we're looking down the barrel of another wave, I don't know what 2021 will look like. In the meantime, as I look back with that ever-wise 20/20 vision, I am grateful for the few upsides of this situation and it gives me hope for the future. I am also grateful for my continued health and the health of my family and loved ones. I hope you all have also found reason for optimism in the midst of this strange year. Remember that we will only get through this together. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

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