Judy Marrazzo wasn't looking to launch a part-time, second business at this time last year. For two decades, she kept plenty busy as co-owner of the East Norwich, N.Y., advertising agency named after her husband and business partner, Paul Jann.
But last summer her Villanova University-bound daughter, Maxine, inspired Marrazzo to create goCAMPUSing, a new venture that offers college tours to high-school students. The fledgling firm has quickly blossomed into a successful business as well as a fulfilling personal adventure. "This is the East Coast's premier college tour company," says Marrazzo, 57. “It’s also refreshing to take a concept and bring it to fruition.”
It started when Maxine began looking at colleges and Marrazzo couldn't always take time off from work to accompany her. Thinking other parents might be equally time-pressed, Maxine organized a Girl Scouts community service project that took high-school students on a $225 overnight bus trip to six colleges in Delaware and Pennsylvania — with Marrazzo as chaperone.
As the tour ended, Marrazzo realized she could turn college tours into a part-time business. After developing a marketing and business plan, she opened goCAMPUSing and has joined nearly 300 students on 11 excursions to date. Four more campus trips are planned through August.
The company offers three-day, holiday weekend visits to schools in Mid-Atlantic states, New England or upstate New York for $399 to $499; four-day tours to schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware costing $740 to $815; four-day tours to schools in New England for $789 to $864; five-day trips to Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia and North Carolina for $979 to $1,025; and five-day trips to upstate New York colleges for $979 to $1,025. Marrazzo anticipates expanding the business soon, by offering East Coast tours just for guidance counselors.
Early fans of the service include parents like Arun Garg of California's Silicon Valley, whose daughter flew to New York with a friend in February. “She was able to see a maximum number of colleges in a minimum amount of time, which optimized cost,” Garg says.
So far, goCAMPUSing is turning a small profit, says Marrazzo, a welcome development after several years of stagnant revenue at her advertising agency.
But she's discovering other rewards, like the gratification of seeing high-school students accept responsibility for their trip by soaking up information about every school they visit. “If their parents were to come along, the kids would be in the back seat of the car texting while the parents asked all the questions,” she says.
The venture has also experienced a few setbacks.
Marrazzo says goCAMPUSing has been informed it can’t participate in local college fairs; only nonprofit organizations and institutions are allowed. Some families are also put off by the cost of the trips. Marrazzo, however, claims her biggest mistake was underestimating parents’ need for the service.
In fact, if she and her husband ever decide to wind down or sell their advertising agency, Marrazzo plans to continue running goCAMPUSing. “Entrepreneurs don’t ever really retire," she says. "They just do something else.”