I run this with Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton.
Running a business

Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton are blazing trails for women

In honor of Women’s History Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting the success of small businesses by women, for women. Check the Small Business Stories hub all month to read their stories and find inspiration.

Names: Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton

Location: Jersey City, NJ

Business: WHOA Travel

Tell us about your business. 

WHOA travel curates Women Powered Adventures. Above all, we’re a community that brings women together to connect and share life changing adventures on all seven continents.

What makes your small business unique from others?

We prioritize people. On every WHOA adventure we connect and give back to the communities we visit. Whether it be helping train female guides in Peru, sponsoring local women to climb Kilimanjaro, or connecting with trail building initiatives in Patagonia—leaving places better than we found them is one of our core values that sets us apart from others. 

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

We had such a transformational experience climbing Kilimanjaro together the first time, we knew it was something we needed to share with more women again and again. I think it was on our way down from our very first Kilimanjaro summit that we looked at each other and knew this was going to be our life's work from now on. 

quote image
Make mistakes. Learn from them. Keep going.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?

Make mistakes. Learn from them. Keep going.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?

The most surprising thing about becoming a business owner has been how much we really lean on each other. Running WHOA wouldn’t be half as fun or possible without each other.

How does running your own business make you feel?

Running our business makes us feel like we can do anything!

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome?

Not surprisingly, surviving a global pandemic was the hardest thing we have had to overcome during the past ten years. That said, as with all challenges, it definitely made us stronger.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?

The timing will never be perfect — now is as good a time as any. Find people you trust to share the journey with you.

What is your best advice to other small business owners for hiring and retaining staff?    

Hire people smarter than you and give them room to shine and grow.

For Women’s History Month, we’re talking a lot about the importance of finding a supportive community. Are there any communities or resources that have been a part of your journey? 

One of the biggest rewards of our work has been the community that has been built as a result of it. We have women in our WHOA family from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, and from all over the world. When you share a life-changing experience, like climbing Kilimanjaro together, the bonds and friendships are deep and last far beyond the trail. 

What challenges do you feel are unique to women business owners?

We‘re both moms, so finding the time to “do it all” can be a challenge. That said, being a mom is the most incredible gift. It has added new, deeper meaning to our work, and motivates us even more to make this world a better place for future generations.

What are your proudest moments?

Seeing women realize their full potential through adventure always fills us with an overwhelming sense of pride - it never gets old! We’ve summited Kilimanjaro multiple times, and each time, experiencing the pure joy and sense of accomplishment with others feels like the first time.  

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

We recently launched a non-profit that we‘re really excited about called the Carabiner Collective. Through Trailblazer Grant Programs our goal is to help make adventure experiences more affordable and accessible and create a more diverse and welcoming outdoor community.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

Our WHOA family. They remind us each day why we do what we do!

How do you maintain a work/life balance as a small business owner? 

Getting into nature! The outdoors works wonders and helps us reset, recharge and put things in perspective. We always have our best ideas on hikes together.  

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“The Climb,” by Miley Cyrus. The lyrics say it all.

To learn more about WHOA Travel and support the business, visit their website or follow their adventures on Instagram.

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