THE BLOG
09/25/2014 03:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wife, Mom, Bootstrapper: One Woman's Journey to Success

2014-09-25-largephotoPaulaHonrothsummer2014.jpg

Women entrepreneurs used to be a rarity, but in 2014, that's a thing of the past. From 1997-2014, almost 600 women-owned businesses opened, on average, each day. In the last year alone, that number has jumped to 1,288*! Together, these female-owned firms employ nearly 7.9 million people and generate billions in sales.

One woman's journey

Paula Honroth is part of this growing league of women entrepreneurs. She's living her dream: Spending plenty of quality time with her family while running a successful travel agency from her home near Seattle, Washington. She's been featured in Forbes and Best of Western Washington King5. She's also the recipient of several awards, including the Norwegian Cruise Line Marketing Dash Award in 2011 and the Top Merchant award for 5 consecutive years.

Paula's independent spirit, coupled with a passion for web design and travel, first motivated her to follow her dream back in 1998 when she started a successful web design firm from home. Paula's interest in owning her own business grew from her desire to have more time with her family, including her husband of 19 years and their two daughters. Owning her own business gave her freedoms that working a full-time job could not, and even though she was working more than 40 hours per week, she'd never felt better.

Challenges into triumphs

Every business owner experiences triumphs and challenges. Paula's had her share of both.

After running her web design business for 10 years, Paula saw an exciting opportunity developing in the travel industry. In 2009, she decided to combine her experience in web design and her love for exploration and adventures to create Wild Fun Travel, an online travel agency with a personal touch.

Entering a new industry meant that she would have to adapt to the rapidly shifting world of advertising and marketing and come up with new, effective strategies. But Paula's all about a good brainstorming session: "My brain is always inventing... so many ideas and not enough time!" Determined to make Wild Fun Travel a success, she dove headfirst into the challenge of learning how, when, and where to advertise.

When Paula meets a challenge, she doesn't back down. She just turns her challenges into triumphs! Because both her daughters have special needs, Paula understands the unique challenges of traveling with special-needs children and adults. Her personal experiences inspired her to become an SNG Certified Accessible Travel Advocate, which allows her to help other families get the most out of their vacation and time together without worrying about accessibility. Paula is one of only 1600 Certified Accessible Travel Advocates, total. Making travel accessible for all families, regardless of ability, is certainly a triumph!

If you want it done right...

Paula wants things done right, so she takes the hands-on, do-it-yourself approach in her business. While she was building Wild Fun Travel, she scoured the internet to find the best and most helpful tools for business owners. She created her company's logo using the free logo and website service at LogoGarden.com, saving the cost of paying a professional graphic designer by the hour. She also holds the reigns of her company's social media and marketing, and has since the beginning, which helps her stay in tune with Wild Fun Travel's clients and their needs. And when a client has a travel emergency in the middle of the night, it's Paula who jumps out of bed and answers the phone!

Realizing the American dream

Paula recently celebrated Wild Fun Travel's 5th anniversary, an exciting entrepreneurial milestone. She's looking forward to many more years of providing great service to travelers from the comfort of her home, surrounded by family. Paula's words of advice for entrepreneurial success:

"Keep your head level and be willing to answer questions. You have to earn loyalty from clients."

With female business owners growing in numbers each day, inspirational stories like Paula's are popping up everywhere. They serve as a reminder that, with the right skill set and drive, the American dream of owning a business and prioritizing family time is within reach. According to Paula and Wild Fun Travel, all you have to do is "Dream, smile, and go!"

Ready for a vacation yet? Visit Wild Fun Travel to start planning now!

*Statistics from American Express Open's The 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.