We had the good fortune of connecting with Angela Wilson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angela, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I am the parent of a child with intellectual and physical disabilities. Whenever we travel (locally, domestically, or internationally), there are always additional details that our family requires that are not available on standard travel websites. Pretty frustrated by this lack of information and inclusion, I built Exploryst.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Exploryst is the travel planning site that provides the extensive details that 50 million+ US consumers with disabilities require to successfully research and book their next, best trip, including accommodations, restaurants, experiences, and more. People with disabilities (and their family and friends) control over $8 Trillion in annual disposable income. This is a population segment that should not be overlooked.
Needing to complete hours of additional research for each of our family vacations or local outings, I am also a user of Exploryst. I know many of the detailed nuances of the disability community. I also know that I do not know everything. Exploryst has been built (and will continue to be made) by individuals, families, caregivers, and business owners with disability details and perspectives that I will never possess. Exploryst will be built by the entire disability community.
Beginning a tourism industry business in January 2020 was not the best timing. Still, even during a global pandemic, there are always ways to offer detailed information about experiences for enjoyment in and around the Denver metro area where people could socially distance themselves.
Could you let me know your background?
I have an undergraduate degree in business from The Ohio State University and an MBA from Colorado State University. Even with my educational background, I have sought expertise from many different sources and perspectives. Continually asking for assistance, different views, and disparate opinions have strengthened how Exploryst has grown and will continue to grow. Never stop learning.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is a difficult question since it is dependent on that person’s disability and their individualized needs. It also depends on the time of year for a visit. Please make sure to call ahead for specifics to your disability beyond what is offered on Exploryst.
Catch a major league sports game (Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, or Colorado Mammoth). Each of these venues includes amenities for many, if not all, disabilities. These can consist of low sensory headphones and low volume physical areas, fidget devices for borrowing, elevators, captions on announcements, large print and/or braille printouts, and more.
The cobblestones and bricks on Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder can make visiting uncomfortable for some in wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment. Still, you can get a great feel of this college town by visiting.
Evenings on the first Friday of the month are filled with art appreciation throughout the Denver metro area. Visiting Denver’s art districts on Santa Fe, RiNo’s Art District, Arts on Belmar, South Pearl Street, or 40 West Arts in Lakewood is available on select months throughout the year. Still, each area may not be fully accessible for mobility, audio, or visual disabilities. Parking may also be an issue for vehicles that require van-accessible parking and loading.
16th Street Mall is mostly disability accessible, but some updates could be made for more inclusion. Some examples are audio announcements for street crossings and more tactile paving at intersections. 16th Street Mall includes shopping, restaurants, public restrooms, and festivals.
There are also hundreds of activities in the front range and in the mountains for people with disabilities year-round. Businesses and organizations that support accessible activities include National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), Aspire Tours, Adaptive Adventures, Colorado Jeep Tours in Canon City, and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC).
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I need to send 1,000 shoutouts to Barbara Brooks and Guadalupe Hirt of SecondAct Women. Knowing that other women over 40 were remaking their lives and receiving fantastic support for my idea has always allowed me to be more fearless about my current path.
I would also like to give a shoutout to Entrepreneurship For All Longmont. They saw the promise of my business idea and accepted me into their inaugural English language business accelerator cohort. The mentorship that I received from Scott Gustlin, Adrianne Tracy, and Whitedove Gannon allowed me to bypass many of the stumbling blocks that new entrepreneurs face.
I have also received fantastic education opportunities and mentorship from Arezou Zarafshan, Innosphere’s SAGE program, SCORE, Startup of the Year, iFundWomen, Ad Astra, the inaugural cohort of the USA Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative, and NEWMEDIA.
I also want to thank my husband, Brian, and our son, Samuel, who allowed me to use our story to begin this company and empower the broader disability community.