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 Food and Tourism Entrepreneurs in North Carolina

A Program of the Center for Sustainable Tourism and the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, East Carolina University


Entrepreneur Profile:Chris Cavanaugh, President & Founder

Entrepreneur Organization:Magellan Strategy Group

Chris Cavanaugh founded Magellan Strategy Group in 2004. The firm provides consulting services to the wide variety of stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry. As a generalist drawing from a range of skills, Chris works to combine good marketing strategy, planning and research for all of his clients. Cavanaugh and his team at Magellan counsel their clients on how to allocate their resources to realize their goals for growth and prosperity. 

Chris's Entrepreneurial Traits 

Chris describes his experience starting up Magellan as a leap of faith, delving into the unknown as many entrepreneurs do.While he admits that going out on his own was an intimidating venture, Chris was undaunted, finding that, "you never know until you try."In addition to taking the financial and public risk of starting his firm, Chris shows other classic entrepreneurial traits as well.He is great at tracking economic, cultural, and societal trends and applying them to local tourism activity as well as tourism on a larger scale, making projections about where the industry should be heading.Seeing opportunities and figuring out how to harness the resources needed to meet the opportunity is something Chris does for his clients, and in his own business.

Challenges in Business

Chris quickly discovered the value in separating his personal time from his professional time. He makes himself available to clients, even while away on vacation, but still makes time to enjoy a break from the office. He also finds a bit of a challenge in networking, as it can be hard to know who to turn to for advice, or even use as a sounding board when making tough decisions. He does note that while many of his fellow entrepreneurs share a similar mindset to his own, it can be invaluable to seek advice from peers who approach problems in a much different way.

While Chris expected to find his biggest challenge in finding new customers, his full roster of clients has delighted him. He finds that his job is very rewarding, as it allows him to work on many cases that he enjoys. 

Strategic Partnerships and Key Collaborations

Magellan boasts an impressive list of strategic partners. Chris notes that many people will judge a firm based on the performance and reputation of its partners, and that the respect associated with strong partnerships must be continually earned. Networking is an essential element of business at Magellan, as Chris values the ability to call on someone in his network to glean information or data. He nurtures his networks through sharing this data whenever possible. Chris refers to many of his fellow entrepreneurs as friends, rather than network contacts. It is perhaps this personal touch that has fostered his ability to establish genuine relationships within his network. Balancing an array of contacts who think differently and similarly to him allows Chris to reach out to a variety of resources for professional advice or support.

What Inspires Chris

Chris defines his success in terms of "three indicators." First, he asks himself if he helped his clients and if he really made a meaningful positive difference to their business. Second, he weights his success based on the level he is able to provide security for his family. Third, he asks himself if he is personally fulfilled. Chris defines his personal fulfillment in terms of being challenged in an enjoyable manner. Meeting these three criteria is what enables Chris to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Chris finds it useful to remind himself that, "most organizations don't lack for ideas. What they do lack is time and money. Therefore, what you really need is the wisdom to decide how to spend the time and money that you do have." This mantra encourages Chris to seek out clarity and organization, which is one aspect of his work that he particularly enjoys as it allows him to help his clients make the most of their resources.

The Entrepreneurial Climate

Magellan is located in Asheville, a community known for its arts and food, located in the mountains of North Carolina. The town is also known for its culture of entrepreneurship, and growing tourism market. Chris describes this entrepreneurial climate as a deeply layered system, constantly challenging him to "get the knife out and dig really, really deep, and understand what's below that first layer." Getting into the roots of the community has proved fascinating and exciting to Chris, as he has been greeted with a strong and supportive infrastructure for entrepreneurs in the area. The combination of "location specific" and "location neutral" work that Magellan does allows the firm to function successfully in Asheville, while also keeping a market presence in other locations. Networking in his local community has also proved beneficial to the firm, as Chris notes the political climate of the area. A rising support for "going local" has benefited Chris as he promotes Magellan within the Asheville community.

Sustainability Factors of Magellan

As many of Magellan's clients are looking for opportunities in 'greening' their business, Chris is charged with the responsibility of explaining the value to the organization, the client, and the consumer in terms of Sustainability.Chris recognizes the potential for a competitive advantage that being more environmentally sustainable might provide some of his clients. The challenge here is for Magellan to equip its clients with the information they need to make decisions for sustainability. Chris believes that within the next five years green initiatives in business will only increase, but cautions his clients against empty gestures and actions in greening their companies. He feels that authentic sustainability will become a criteria that many consumers demand, and finds himself engaged in preparing his clients to fit sustainability into the "authenticity puzzle," joining the growing number of businesses that are taking real and tangible steps towards sustainability.

Focuses for the Future

Looking towards the future for Chris means nurturing his network. Chris makes an effort to stay informed about issues that shape travel and tourism, such as unemployment rates and gas prices. Sharing this information with potential clients and partners helps Magellan to create and foster new relationships. As a self-described 'entrepreneur in the classical sense,' Chris looks forward to a bit more risk taking in the future. Like many entrepreneurs he recognizes the potential benefits in risk taking and plans to take advantage of the small business supportive climate in Asheville as time goes on. He is also excited about the potential to grow Magellan in the future. While he admits it is easy to be "small" he looks forward to the opportunities for growth, and increased contributions to his community and to the tourism industry.

 

Sustainable Tourism | Tourism and Entrepreneurship | Cavanaugh

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