Where You Want To Be Tours
Multiple award-winning tour guide and scavenger hunt company, Where You Want To Be Tours, is an out-of-the-box, outdoor, customized adventure for corporate and leisure clients. Offering experiences like Culinary Team Building and Downtown Urban Scavenger Hunts for adults, to Build A Bike For Charity in which the bikes are built during a team building competition and then given away to charity, Where You Want To Be Tours offers their unique experiences to companies nationwide who are looking to build company morale, unify staff, celebrate special occasions or simply do an exclusive event for their employees. Just recently, with their returning customer Qualcomm, they unofficially broke the Guinness Book of World Records for largest scavenger hunt with over 2,700 people. Tour owners Marc and Darlynne Reyes Menkin, started offering tours around their hometown of San Diego for fun. But what started as a hobby, went from side job to full-time career quickly after being published in the local paper and receiving three hundred calls in one day.
Now, twelve years later, the Menkin’s have customized tours and teambuilding scavenger hunts around the nation, for the likes of Jack in the Box, AT&T, YMCA, Navy Seals, and Sony. They seem to be the go-to people when companies want to stop working and start having fun together. They have been featured on the Travel Channel, Lonely Planet and Trip Films, as well as numerous city publications for their unique offerings. Always innovating, they recently introduced a new experience in which a group takes a “silent walk” along a secret beach, not speaking at all.
The two adventurers sat still long enough for an interview with Risen. They discussed the joy of getting up every day and doing what they love and the faith that it requires to step out of your career comfort zone. Darlynne, who was an award-winning journalist, popular news anchor, and former news director, with several movie roles to her credit, shares how her decorated news career prepared her for her best role yet at Where You Want To Be Tours.
Interviewed Exclusively by Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: How did you two meet?
Darlynne Reyes Menkin: Well…[smiling at each other]…Marc’s twin sister brought him to a party that I was hosting with my roommates. I hung out with him all night because I thought he was very cute. But he was very shy.
RM: Is it true you’re shy?
Marc Menkin: I have my moments. I’d say I’m definitely more introverted.
RM: How interesting then that you work in an environment that you have to be so extroverted.
MM: Yeah, I never thought I had it in me to do some of the stuff we have to do, like the public speaking for instance. And I’m thrilled I get to do it. I always considered myself a creative, but never a public speaker or entertainer.
DRM: But the night we met, he was extra shy. He had recently broken his foot so he couldn’t walk. He was sitting on top of our dryer in our kitchen and I would bring him food and drinks. We really hit it off. But after that I didn’t see him for a year. We went our separate ways then reconnected when we were seniors in college. He asked me to his fraternity formal. But the thing is…he invited me only three days before the formal! So, I was thinking to myself, I must’ve been his last choice. I almost didn’t go. But it was my mom who said to me, “No, that’s why we have the lime taffeta dress sitting in the closet. When a nice guy asks you out, you can go!” [All laughing]
RM: Thank goodness for the taffeta dress otherwise none of this would be happening! But, I’m curious Marc, was Darlynne your last choice to invite to the formal?
MM: [Chuckles] No. I just procrastinated asking. And back then we didn’t have cell phones, so I had to drop by her house. Thankfully, she said yes and we ended up going to the dance together. We started dating after that, then after college, she got a job six hours away in Dartmouth. We dated long-distance until we both landed jobs in Philadelphia, where we got engaged and married.
RM: Darlynne, you’re an award-winning journalist, an accomplished news anchor and former news director. Your resume even includes several movie roles. Tell me about your career and how you landed here. Can you give me a glimpse of how you went from serious journalism to a scavenger hunt and tour guide business?
DRM: I majored in speech communications with a minor in journalism. From a young age, I always liked the idea of storytelling and investigating. I got my first job out of college at a small radio and TV station in New Hampshire. After that, Philadelphia, then Washington, then here to San Diego where I got a job with a show called Consumer Bob, where I went from on-air reporter to producing. After a while, I felt the desire to go back on-air. I had a friend say to me, “You’re not going anywhere in San Diego. You need to go to a smaller market. They only see you as a producer here.” I ended up finding a small cable operation in Carlsbad called Daniels Cable where I freelanced as an entertainment reporter. I was still at Channel 8 (KFMB) and it was a really fun time. Eventually Daniel’s Cable news director moved on and they offered me that job, which was a wonderful opportunity. It was the first time I was in charge of a staff. I got to hone my leadership skills and mentor people. It’s what I really like doing; helping people realize their dreams.
As God works, that year, the station had to make layoffs and I was one of them. So, as God was moving in my heart He was also moving in our jobs. – Darlynne Reyes Menkin
RM: Was being a news director the pinnacle of your career dreams? Had you attained what you wanted?
DRM: Yes and no. I loved my job. But after a while, I started wondering what was next. A friend of mine suggested getting some hard news on my demo reel. She was a producer in Las Vegas and offered to hire me. So, that’s what I did. Monday through Friday I was in Carlsbad. On the weekends, I would go to Las Vegas and get hard news on my tape. I did that for almost a year before it led to a full-time position at FOX5 in San Diego, where I anchored and reported. It’s just so crazy where life leads you if you allow it to.
RM: So, at a young age, you loved to harvest information and learn. Throughout your journalism career you highlighted interesting stories, and managed and mentored people. All these experiences play a huge part in what you’re doing at Where You Want To Be Tours. It’s amazing to see how God used all your gifts and interests along the way.
DRM: Yes! I’m using all the same skills I used as a journalist, but I’m just using them in a different way that’s better designed for me.
RM: Marc, you were in sales when a friend encouraged you to do a tour guide side business. Let’s talk about that.
MM: I was in outside sales, but I traveled a lot to San Diego. Each day I was here, I would take an hour exploring the city and marking out stuff in the back of my Thomas Guide. I began to take my clients to the unique places in San Diego. About sixteen years ago, I relocated here and took regular outings with friends to places like Balboa Park. One day we were walking in the canyons in Balboa Park and a friend suggested I do a tour guide business, and he kept encouraging me to think about it. You always need people in your corner encouraging you. In 2003, we started it.
RM: Did you ever have doubts about leaving your secure job and starting Where You Want To Be Tours?
MM: Well, we were covered immediately by the Union Tribune for an obscure tour that we did. That led to coverage by Coastal Magazine, then by San Diego Home and Gardens. So, we had a ton of media exposure and the company took off really fast.
RM: Wow. So, the company was instantly something that made people take notice. What was the obscure tour that you were providing at the time?
MM: It was called the “Surf and Tiki Tour” and it was all about surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, and popular Polynesian phenomenon’s, like tiki statues and Polynesian pop. But, what was interesting, is that we got this press coverage, but we didn’t have a website yet. We had to make a website really fast. Once that Union Tribune article came out, we got three hundred calls that day! A few months later, we got hired by San Diego Gas & Electric to do a tour for their employees. A few months after that, they called us and asked us to do something different, more like a scavenger hunt, in downtown San Diego. So, SDG&E actually gave us the idea for the scavenger hunts.
DRM: In the beginning of the business both Marc and I were still at our other jobs and working on Where You Want to Be Tours at night. I was still at FOX 5. I had my dream job, but I wasn’t totally satisfied. However, I was always really happy when I was helping Marc with the tour business. As God works, that year, the station had to make layoffs and I was one of them. So, as God was moving in my heart He was also moving in our jobs. That year we went from doing tours part time, to full time. As soon as I stepped away from the news station, we booked one of the largest tours we ever had.
RM: Were you ever nervous that the money wouldn’t come in?
DRM: There was a time when the tour business was doing okay, but it could have been doing better. I had been praying about how we were going to make ends meet. It was in that season that we got a call from a competitor. She was hoping to retire and wondered if we would be willing to buy her business. After that business deal, we inherited a staff and starting doing tours and hunts nationally.
RM: Give us an idea of what happens on a scavenger hunt.
MM: Our signature adventure is the Urban Challenge Scavenger Hunt. There’s also a Foodie Scavenger Hunt and Amazing Race Scavenger Hunt. The other event we love is the Charity Bike Build. This one is popular because teammates build a bike through teamwork and competition, and then donate it to the charity of their choice. Another favorite is the Team Cooking Challenge. It’s got an Iron Chef type of vibe. Teammates get to cook and you’re judged on the taste test. In this challenge, there is also a marketing component where you have to create a commercial for your dish before you deliver it to the judge.
RM: Have you ever run into trouble with the city or businesses during the hunts?
MM: On the logistics side, sometimes we have to get a permit from the city or permission from a hotel. But this is an adventure that highlights local businesses so most of the owners are happy to cooperate.
RM: Where You Want To Be Tours is all about team building. How important do you think team building is for the sustainability of a company?
DRM: For a company to succeed you have to have a strong foundation. You must have a team that’s cohesive and on the same page. A team that communicates and recognizes each other strengths and weaknesses can be a well-oiled machine. But without that chemistry, a business could easily fail. Where You Want To Be Tours provides an opportunity to work on those skills while getting out of the office and experiencing fun communication through silly games. We also focus on takeaways. At the end, we facilitate conversation around what team members observed about each other and how those observations can help back in the work environment.
RM: Have you ever witnessed one of your team building challenges be a catalyst of change for a struggling work environment?
DRM: When a company first calls, we ask Why do you want to do this? And we’ve had a number of people say because their staff is not getting along. The sales department is bickering with operations, for instance. They hope a team building experience will help communication. As leaders, going into their day of team building, we are aware of who is fighting or having challenging relationships. We let our staff know as well. The language we leaders use becomes intentional for that group as well as custom building a scavenger hunt that meets their needs. Positivity is key in those environments. At the end of the day, there is always a wrap-up that reinforces what the group experienced and accomplished together.
MM: If you were to take two bickering employees to lunch, they might act civil for an hour’s time, but nothing may change between them. But take those two employees and put them on the same team on one of our scavenger hunts, working together trying to win, things are usually different. Then they receive photographs two days later, reminding them of the great memories they made, and they usually see each other in a different light. We hear that from people all the time. Companies like Qualcomm, Kaiser, and Cricket – these large businesses come back multiple times because they know they are going to get that positive influence for their team members.
RM: Let’s talk about your one-for-one bike campaign.
MM: We’d been doing Build a Bike Team Building for years and years. Like we mentioned earlier, this is a competition between two teams in which they have to complete a task, and for each task they complete they get a piece of a bike. Whoever can assemble the bike first and complete a series of tasks, wins. And we donate the bikes to the charity of their choice.
RM: I heard one of the tasks is to get on the bike and be the last person to cross the finish line?
MM: Exactly! It’s hilarious to see grown adults going the slowest they can on kid size bikes. But, I recently read a book about Tom’s shoes where I was introduced to the one- for-one concept. If you buy a pair of shoes, Tom’s gives a pair of shoes away. We loved that idea. So, we decided to give a bike away for every team building experience we booked.
RM: How have your lives been affected by waking up every morning and getting to do what you love?
DRM: I’ve always felt very blessed throughout my life. But, I would say after starting this company, the joy surpassed all of that. I’m excited to get up in the morning. There’s not anything in my life that I’m dreading. I look forward to working with my husband, who is my best friend. To use my creativity and see those creative ideas come to fruition is so rewarding. And, to know that in our small little way, we’re making a difference.
I’ve always felt very blessed throughout my life. But, I would say after starting this company, the joy surpassed all of that. – Marc Menkin
RM: Do you have any regrets?
DRM: Yeah, that I didn’t listen to God and do this sooner. Throughout my life, He had been talking to me to step out in faith, but I continued to do things my own way. I made a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided because of that. But, I learned through them.
RM: You two are running a company that requires high energy and stamina, and let’s face it, you’re not in your 20’s anymore. How do you stay so young minded and innovative?
DRM: We absolutely love what we do!
MM: Its funny, some of our friends still think we just do a little tiki tour business, the tour we started with. They don’t realize we do massive scavenger hunts. These hunts involve emcee’s, opening numbers, a whole village of different areas, and multiple scavenger hunts being run at the same time. The one we recently did with Qualcomm unofficially broke the Guinness Book of World Records for largest scavenger hunt with over 2,700 people! And to think…we just started out with taking our friends on walking tours to secret canyons and now some of the largest companies in the nation trust us with the biggest events of their year. That’s mind blowing to me.
For more information visit www.wheretours.com
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