Ed and Deanna O’Connor, Pioneer Valley Tours
Job title and company: Ed and Deanna O’Connor, owners of Pioneer Valley Tours
When business opened: Spring 2013
Your duties: We provide private tours of local wineries and other attractions in a 1964 Ford Galaxie convertible.
How did you start your business? The idea came to us in the summer of 2012 when we first visited Black Birch Vineyards in Southampton and Mineral Hills Winery in Florence. We knew there was something special about those places, and while relaxing over a glass of wine we hit upon a unique way to share the experience with others. The idea evolved into providing a livery service in an old-fashioned convertible. We bought the Galaxie that fall, and in the spring of 2013 we gave our first winery tour. Since then, we’ve given several tours, including scenic foliage tours and visits to “Art in the Orchard” at Park Hill Orchards.
What’s most challenging about your work? Although we knew we had a great idea, turning that idea into a viable business was a lot of work. Financing and marketing were two of our biggest challenges. Fortunately there is help out there, including the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, which gives free counseling to small businesses. We also asked friends and family for input and received a lot of support from our friends at Black Birch Vineyards and Mineral Hills Winery.
What do you like about it? We really enjoy giving the tours, meeting new people, and helping create fun memories for our customers while sharing places we’ve come to love.
Why did you choose to do business in the Valley? We grew up here and make our home here, and the Pioneer Valley has so many great places to visit.
What has surprised you most about your new or expanded business endeavor? The amount of work needed to get started was a challenge, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the satisfaction we’ve gained in getting it done. We’ve also been grateful for all the people who have been willing to help us get up and running.
Name a few of your goals for the coming year: Our goal is to increase the number and variety of our tours as well as to be able to accommodate larger groups.
Tell us a little-known fact about you: We both love old cars. When we were younger Deanna drove a 1963 Impala and Ed drove a 1965 Chevy II.
What is your advice for others seeking business success: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, be flexible with your business plan and find a way to enjoy what you do.