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How Kelly Lewis Built Her Travel Empire

How Kelly Lewis Built Her Travel Empire

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Kelly Lewis is the woman doing it all. She is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the first travel guidebook series written specifically for women. In 2014 she started Women’s Travel Fest, the world’s largest conference for women who travel. She then launched her own tour company called Damesly, which provides trips around the world for professional and creative women. And most recently, she has written a book called Tell Her She Can’t, a manifesto dedicated to every woman who has ever been told she is not enough.

If you think she sounds like a total badass paving the way for women within the travel space and beyond, you’re absolutely correct. Kelly is a leader and champion for other women, who has the uncanny ability to balance a dozen different spinning plates at the same time.

Today we hear how she got her start in travel, how she manages to do so many things at once, and how she finds the confidence to pursue her dreams. If you’ve ever felt trapped by the bigness of an idea — whether that’s starting a new business, writing a book, or perhaps just launching a new tour — this is the episode for you. Kelly is such a go-getter that I promise you can’t help but feel inspired to finally do that thing that you’ve been afraid to do.

Making Her Dreams a Reality

Kelly didn’t grow up in a family that travels. Raised on the island of Oahu, she spent her childhood mostly isolated from the rest of the world.

It wasn’t until she decided to spend a year in New Zealand after college that her passion for travel really exploded. Wishing to document her experiences, she then started a personal blog.

However, everything changed with a dream. In it, she saw herself publishing the first travel guide book for women. The vision was so clear that when she awoke, she knew what she would call it and how it would look.

Though most people would probably brush off this type of dream without a second thought, Kelly immediately went to work on making it a reality. Just a year later the first book in the Go! Girl Guides series was released.

Women’s Travel Fest

The idea for her next big project came whilst she was on a book tour promoting her guide books. Kelly found herself engaging in long, meaningful discussions about travel with many groups of women around the country. Wanting those conversations to continue and realising there wasn’t a space for that to happen, she decided to make one.

Once again, with no experience in event planning and “literally zero money,” Kelly laughs, she founded Women’s Travel Fest, the first and only consumer travel event for women that love exploring the world.

When asked how she managed to put on such a big conference all on her own, Kelly says, “it all happened very organically, which is always my cue that I’m on the right track for something.”

Finding Courage

Kelly admits that, despite her many successes, it was really hard to find the courage to leave her day job. “It was starting to hold me back, and if I didn’t see if my business could be businesses, they would always remain side hobbies, ” she says.

So Kelly did take the leap and it has led to many more doors opening. She’s since founded Damesly, a tour company that fulfills a big gap in the market for professional aged women looking for a group tour option.

Kelly also recently published a book, Tell Her She Can’t, which was released in June 2021 and written while stuck at home during the pandemic. Even more recently, she has founded another company called Women’s Travel Collective, which she shared exclusively with us on the podcast.

But the question remains — how does she do it all and how does she find the confidence to pursue her dreams? “You have to remain super focused on your idea, super dedicated in service to that idea, and remember that you are vessel for that idea, so you have obligation to that idea to bring it to life.”

More From This Episode

How she first published her travel guide book series? How she promoted Women’s Travel Fest with no marketing budget? How she copes with the fear of financial failure? What is her biggest piece of advice for other female entrepreneurs?  Tune in to learn more from Kelly Lewis!

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kara blythe creative

Kara Myers

PODCASTER + WEB DESIGNER

I’m a former tourism professional turned web designer and podcaster. Tune in each week as I interview inspirational women crushing it in the travel industry. 

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