Q&A: Adventurer Michele Rapp

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
By Columbus Alive
From the December 12, 2013 edition

After a while this "dinner and drinks" routine gets stale. With two kids and a full-time job as a home health aide putting strict limits on her social life, Cleveland-native Michele Rapp needed something a tad livelier than the standard issue “girl’s night out.” Rapp took the situation into her own hands, and six months later gave up her day job to start the Columbus Explorer's Club, a concierge service specializing in booking bucket-list style adventures. After skydiving, dog-sledding and beekeeping, that second margarita at Applebee's doesn't sound quite so much like living on the edge.

I was out with a group of friends one night, and I thought, "There has got to be more to life than going to dinner and watching movies." We all decided that each month we would draw a name from a hat and that person had to plan something for all of us to do. I started noticing that everybody would come to me when they couldn't think of anything. The word spread from my group of friends, to their friends, to their friends' friends until I found myself on a repelling trip and didn't know anybody in the group. I like to help people who don’t have the time or feel they aren’t creative enough to plan something really amazing.

My husband encouraged me to quit my day job and plan trips full time. After we started seeing how many people were interested, I said, "I don't think this is a hobby, this is a business." He said he thought I was right and I should pursue it.

Starting my own business was terrifying. I had been working as a home health aide for the Department of Child and Family services. I didn't have a business plan, or know how to make one, and I was sure that no bank would give me a loan to get started. A friend told me about a nonprofit called Bad Girl Ventures that helps women start their own businesses. I entered a contest that I eventually won, which helped me fund my business. More importantly than the money, myself and the other finalists got to do a nine-week program as part of the competition where professionals helped us make business and financial plans.

When it comes to planning the adventure, I do everything. I interview the customer about what they want, and I plan and book the entire adventure. I document all of it for the customer via social media, video and pictures, and I take care of any annoying problems that might come up. I try to take care of absolutely every detail, so the customer can enjoy the adventure and not worry about anything.

The most amazing adventure I've ever gone on was a dog-sledding trip in Michigan. How many people get to say they've driven a sled pulled by champion Iditarod dogs? Locally, the most exciting thing I've done was beekeeping. The group I took actually put on the suits, they were taught to "rob the hive,” we made our own honey and then we sat down and shared a meal with the beekeepers.

The worst part about my job is being away from my family. I have two sons, and sometimes they say they don't like the Explorer's Club because it takes me away from them. I hate hearing them say that, but I want to teach them to not be afraid of anything, and to try everything.

This business has become more of a spiritual journey than anything. More goes on during an adventure than just playing. People are angry. They are wound too tight. I want to teach people the importance of balance. If you don't have fun in life and break out of your comfort zone, life will destroy you. I have had people cry and hug me during adventures before. You never know what conquering a fear or doing something truly original can do for your soul. It nourishes your body and brain and gives you clarity. Being able to manifest a job that is so rewarding and makes me step out of my comfort zone has personally made me a better wife and mother. I am more patient with my kids and more loving toward my husband because I'm not so frustrated and resentful. If nothing else, going on adventures makes you more interesting at the water cooler.