We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Collins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Our travel company puts local impact first. We consider it in everything we do. We started Blue Fern Travel out of a love of travel, but also realized that our favorite aspects of every trip were getting to know locals, their communities and culture, and of course, the food. We take people into local area neighborhoods to experience how those places came to be so unique, and ultimately tell the story of each neighborhood through food.
We are also DC’s only one-for-one food tour, meaning a portion of every ticket sale goes to feed a local in need for a full day, three meals per donation. We’ve partnered with an amazing nonprofit, Bread for the City, to provide those meals, and to date have donated over 27,000. We also only go to locally owned restaurants, and pay full price for all the food on the tour (rather than negotiating discounts as some tour companies do) and tip waitstaff 20%.
Lastly, through the stories, and interactions with locals, we hope to not only support the DC community in real ways, but also inspire a curiosity and excitement around all local communities, so that our guests return to their cities and get more involved in their own communities, supporting what makes them unique as well. We feel its vital to recognize the link between travel and local and use it to support communities across our region.
What should our readers know about your business?
We started Blue Fern Travel 7 years ago, out of a love of travel and supporting local communities. We are proud to be the area’s only one-for-one food tour, meaning a portion of every ticket goes to a local nonprofit and we feed someone in need for a full day. To date, we’ve provided 27,000+ meals to folks in need, while sharing local stories and supporting small businesses in the community. Our biggest challenge to date has been COVID-19, and I can definitively say we were able to get through it because our back end accounting was up to date. This allowed us to apply for government programs very quickly and navigate our changing business model as travel was shutting down. Without strong organizational skills, I don’t know where we would be right now.
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is to get clear on your values. As a business, its vital to know what you stand for. It helps to navigate all the things that come up along the way while staying true to your identity and mission.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take folks to Calabash Tea and Tonic, an amazing tea shop run by a 5th generation herbalist! I would also go to Meridian Hill Park to relax and enjoy the views. For dinner, we would have to go to an Ethiopian restaurant to enjoy the family style cuisine and then head over to one of the local breweries, like Three Stars or DC Brau for a few beers. DC has an amazing food scene, which incorporates so many cuisines from a variety of backgrounds. Its amazing to see it all come together in one place!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband and co-founder, Stefan Woehlke. He has supported the vision and every step along the way has done whatever he could to help and encouraged me to dream bigger. Not only is he our Chief Curator, he’s also pushed us to always dream bigger.