Ole Miss Student Starts Guided Tours Travel Business

Ole Miss senior Hamel McGraw is not only a hard working student but an entrepreneur. Over a year ago, McGraw began brainstorming about a potential business idea and decided to set it into motion, thus forming his company called Ventrek. 

Ventrek is an exotic travel and event coordinating group dedicated to offering once in a lifetime trips for those with a passion for travel and the outdoors. At the start, McGraw was not sure what direction he wanted the company to go. 

“The original idea was that we ourselves would bring the customers on these guided trips by hiring certified outdoor guides,” McGraw said. “However, [I] decided against that particular idea due to liability and insurance restrictions. What Ventrek does now is partner with companies who are already established in guiding outdoor expeditions and market these trips for them and bring in customers to book their trips.” 

McGraw said that Ventrek is still a work-in-progress while they continue to partner with guiding tour companies during the start-up process. Once Ventrek partners with a company, the company then informs McGraw about what trips it would like to have featured on the website, the price point it is willing to accept and the dates it needs filled.

“After we gather that information from the company, Ventrek designs the marketing campaign, promotes it on the website and social media platforms in order to attract an audience and make a sale,” McGraw said. 

However, trip packages and tours are not the only products Ventrek offers. On their website, they have outdoor gear, merchandise and clothing. They are also a partnered affiliate with Montem Outdoors, which is a new outdoor retail and gear company. They offer products such as waterproof packs, tents, sleeping bags, and nylon hammocks.

“The Ventrek brand merchandise was actually designed by myself and made at the local Oxford T-Shirt company,” McGraw said. “Those guys really know how to take care of you and do a great job.” 

But, starting a company in his early 20s while balancing his senior year of college turned out to be quite the challenge. 

“The timing for me is hard because I have to put in a lot of effort into finishing strong with a diploma, but on the other hand being that Ventrek is a startup company you have to constantly keep up with everything in order for the company to survive,” McGraw said. “Things such as designing the website and keeping a strong online presence is crucial today in order to keep a business afloat. Every night I am looking online for new potential partner companies and send out emails describing our service and what we can do to help generate a larger customer base. I try to keep a consistent schedule and put my school first, but sometimes I just get so wrapped up in Ventrek that I lose sight and have to tell myself to take a break and get back to my studies.” 

With McGraw graduating in August, he said the the future is looking bright for Ventrek. 

“The main goal is to grow our brand name and exposure in order to generate a large enough customer base to meet our partners booking needs,” McGraw said. “I do believe in this company and believe that the future is bright, but like anything else it will take hard work and dedication. In the future I want Ventrek to be the premier booking site for outdoor activities, similar to how when you look for hotels and flights online. We want to be the top site for outdoor enthusiasts looking for the trip of a lifetime.” 

For more information about Ventrek Guided Tours, check out their website or social media platforms to stay in the loop. 

Savannah Woods is the head intern for hottytoddy.com. For question or comments, email her at sswoods@go.olemiss.edu.  


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