Meet Lynde Vespoli, founder of Discover My Cleveland
(DMC), a destination management company that is a one-stop shop for meeting and conference planners who are not familiar with the city to which they are bringing a group of people. DMC provides a local expert with the resources and knowledge to design and implement tours, transportation services, activities and events. From concept to completion, the company plans and manages every detail of the group’s visit. Discover My Cleveland has nine part-time tour directors and one fulltime employee.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I was working as a tour director for a local tour company, taking people on trips out of Cleveland, when the resurgence of downtown Cleveland and northeast Ohio began. I proposed to my employer that I launch a destination management division, to accommodate the expected growth in local tourism. They weren’t interested, so I left and started Discover My Cleveland a short time later.
What was the highlight for your business last year?
There were two highlights in 2013. The National Senior Games
, when thousands of senior athletes and their travel partners came to Cleveland for two weeks in July. Discover My Cleveland was the exclusive provider of tours and excursions for the visitors, which was quite a coup for a new business.
The other highlight was providing the Shore Excursions for the Yorktown
cruise ship the four times she arrived in the port of Cleveland. Each time we took 150 people on a day-long Cleveland City Tour, which included stops at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
, the Cleveland Museum of Art
and the Botanical Gardens
What is the biggest struggle or hurdle you've had to overcome?
Getting the word out about the new business was the largest hurdle I faced. However, I joined a number of organizations and attended every networking event they held. It didn’t take long to discover that the tourism industry in Cleveland is a very supportive one.
What is your personal favorite tour stop?
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
on Public Square. With the recent renovation, its history, the fact that it’s free and the passion of the guys who run it, it’s a true gem in the center of Cleveland.
How is the Cleveland tourism industry growing?
It’s growing so fast that it would make your head spin. The city is getting a lot of positive media coverage, which has put Cleveland on people’s radar as a place to visit. After they do, they are so impressed that they go home and tell others to visit.
A version of this just happened to Discover My Cleveland. We offered a “Cleveland from Above & Below Tour” to the Cleveland State University Alumni Association
. It included a presentation at the Old Stone Church
, a visit to the Terminal Tower Observation Deck
, and an exclusive visit to the tunnels under the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument. One of the attendees extolled the components of the tour to a friend, who told a tour operator from western Ohio. Earlier this month, we provided the same Above & Below tour for that tour operator.
What is a good activity or place to visit that many Clevelanders may not know about?
Walking out to the end of the Superior Viaduct, there is an unbelievable panorama of Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River, a myriad of bridges, downtown, the Flats and everything in between. It’s a terrific view of the city.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
Just launching the business was an entrepreneurial risk, because I funded it myself, instead of requesting a small-business loan. However, at the end of the first year, I was able to reimburse myself for the start-up capital, and this year’s revenue so far is 33 percent higher than last year’s. There definitely was a need for a destination management company to open in Cleveland!