With her wood-panelled van and “uniform” of shorts and flip-flops, Krystina Rossworm is about as far from the corporate world as you can get.
And that’s exactly how she likes it. After years in the corporate world, Rossworm was ready for a change. She found what she was looking for right in her back yard, combining her love of wine with her love of the outdoors by guiding wine-lovers around the Okanagan with her company, Beach Bum Tours.
“I was in sales for years in the Okanagan, and I knew I was done,” said Rossworm. “I knew I wanted to do something for myself and start my own business. I didn’t even know what the business was, so I gave myself one year from May 1 last year to May 1 this year to come up with a business.
“I already knew the wineries in Lake Country because I live there, and then people kept calling me and asking, ‘would you mind taking my cousins wine-touring — they’re in from Australia — and I remember being in the car, driving people I didn’t know and saying I wanted to start my own business but didn’t know what to do and they’re looking at me, ‘you should start a wine tour company.’”
With encouragement from a number of wineries in Lake Country, who felt Rossworm was well-suited to running a tour company, she turned to Community Futures in Kelowna.
“I wrote up a business plan and I needed start-up costs, so I got my funding through Community Futures,” she said. “They were fantastic, they walked me through so much, it was amazing, and I was really encouraged by them as well. They said they have a lot of tour companies come through, so I was trying to figure out how I was going to differentiate myself.”
With Beach Bum Tours, Rossworm offers a wide variety of packages, combining some of her favourite activities, such as stand-up paddleboarding, with wine touring.
“We aim to create a laid-back, relaxed and fun way to learn about the wine, beer and spirits created in the Okanagan. All of our tours are fun-focused — we aim to make sure you have the best experience while getting to know the wines of our beautiful region. We also feature beer and spirit tasting with tours to Kelowna’s local microbreweries and spirit distilleries. We have partnered up with local business to have a multitude of different tour packages that include wine/spirits/beer along with wake surfing, boating, paddle boarding and yoga.”
For Rossworm, each tour is unique and focused on that day’s particular group.
“I have some basic groundwork that I do, but once somebody is in the van, whether it’s two people or 14 people then it allows me to get the feel of who’s in there, and I create the day for them. It’s all about being able to read people,” she said.
For Rossworm, the timing couldn’t have been better: Beach Bum hosted its first tour April 29 this year, and her one-year corporate contract finished May 1. This month, she celebrated her 50th tour.
“I think I was looking for a way to mix everything that I love, I was coming from a corporate environment and I realized I just didn’t care and wanted to do something fun, as I was coming into my 40s,” said the mother of two teens, who has lived in the Okanagan for 13 years. “I would rather be poor and happy than well off and miserable. I worked for a number of corporations and I never fit in. I love wine, and I started my WSET (Wine Spirits Education Trust), where you get educated to become a sommelier, because I really wanted to be in the wine industry and because I really love wine it would be detrimental to my health if I drank all day, so how would I be in the wine industry without drinking all day? I would be a tour guide.”
With more than 300 wineries in the Okanagan, Rossworm has chosen to focus her tours on the smaller wineries between Lake Country and Naramata. Beach Bum Tours has hosted guests from all over the world, who have enjoyed any number of eclectic tours, from the Surf and Sip Tour to the Twisted Tour, which is a 75-minute private yoga class either outdoors or inside the winery, followed by a farm-to-table lunch and winery tour. All tours include pick-up and drop-off.
“It’s just knowing the wineries and what’s going to fit with who’s in the van. I really focus on the smaller boutique wineries that are funky and unique and cool and eclectic. There are so many small wineries and they need the exposure and I like to build a rapport with them, and I like to make sure my people buy. I encourage a lot so that’s my sales background coming into play.
“The one thing I don’t do is mix tours; the way I look at a tour and what I love about touring so much is that for somebody to book a tour they are celebrating something — a friendship, an anniversary, it could be anything — so the people on the tour can’t be 100 per cent themselves and then I don’t get a chance to develop some sort of relationship with them. Whether it’s 14 people or two people, by the end of the day we’re all best friends.”
During a tour, as Rossworm’s clients enjoy tastings at each of the wineries they visit, she gets busy setting up a charcuterie lunch, to be enjoyed picnic-style.
“I do lunch with them, you have me all day, and I literally entertain all day. I bring all my food and I set it all up while they’re tasting and we just sit and talk and get to know each other. I want it to be super fun, yet educational. There is no tour that is the same, it’s so unique and everybody is so different, and it’s awesome. I have so much fun, and I love it.”
When Rossworm began her company, she knew she needed to stand out from the others. Her “woodie” van was inspired by a surf company in California.
“I took their picture and put it on my vision board and wrote Beach Bum Tours on the van and I said that’s what I’m going to do and that was just over a year ago and every day I looked at that picture.”
She knew that she loved wine and as an extrovert, spending the day with people she has just met is something that comes naturally to her, but other aspects of Rossworm’s business took some getting used to. Bookings are done through her web site or through Facebook and a huge part of her business also comes through Instagram.
“I had to learn Instagram, now I’m getting to know that kind of stuff, but that was a learning curve for me. I hired a girlfriend for three months to teach me how to use it for business, and it’s business but you have to make it sound fun.”
Rossworm hopes to expand her tours to run all year, by including trips to Revelstoke and perhaps Silver Star, and is mulling over different ideas. Her van is four-by-four equipped and can go anywhere, and she has her class four driver’s licence.
“Running a tour company was never something I thought I would do. I actually wrote a business plan for running a yoga studio and that’s what I was wanting to do, but mainly I wanted to do something where I could be myself all the time.
“I’m enjoying this so much — everyone is so happy and I get to be a part of that.”