How this Emmy Award winning screenwriter made a career change to a premier tour promoter in Indianapolis.
When Carrie Savage-Zimmerman turned 50, she knew she needed a career change. For the last 30 years, she was a broadcast writer/producer for four different television stations, two different ad agencies, as well as for corporate, educational, government, and non-profits.
Carrie was successful at what she did, even winning an Emmy (Cleveland Regional 2002) for a magazine-format television travelogue, “Across Indiana”, that aired on PBS station affiliates across the state of Indiana. The story was “Tuckaway,” the Indianapolis residence of the early 1900’s “Psychic to the Stars,” Nellie Simmons Meier. (The story told of Nellie’s study of the ancient Egyptian science of palmistry which led to her connection to Hollywood celebrities and the power elite in Washington, D.C., as well as her consultation with the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover regarding early development of fingerprinting analysis).
So why did Carrie feel that she needed to pursue a different career path in midlife? Necessity. Recalled Carrie. “My career change was the result of personal computers going into everyone’s hands along with script-writing software. In the course of about two years, my income dropped 75-80%. Everyone could suddenly write scripts.”
Carrie’s job change transition happened while she was working a part-time job at a Indianapolis museum, The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
She noted visitors stopping in almost daily to inquire about other landmarks in the area. Her initial plan was to find a local tour service, develop a script, and then sell that script — not start a business. However, after six months’ research, she learned there was no other tour service covering the metro area of Indianapolis. So she decided to launch Circle City Tours in 2011, just before the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
What helped Carrie make this career change successful? “Both my liberal arts education at Hanover College and my career work experience provided training in flexibility, adaptability, and creative critical thinking in establishing this new business. Oh, and a fantastic leadership course in which anyone thinking about starting a business should enroll — the Landmark Forum. This course, along with a Communications curriculum and another course, Team Management and Leadership Program were invaluable in my both my choice to dive into the world of entrepreneurship and also in my training to become a business leader.” She also learned a lot by “trial and error.”
What was the biggest expense for Carrie in starting Circle City Tours? Purchasing her 22-passenger shuttle bus. She happened upon it on eBay. The owner said he was “motivated” to sell at a discount for a flat amount. Carrie maxxed out her charge card, hired a driver, and traveled about seven hours one way to pick up the bus.
The one expense Carrie didn’t allow enough for with her career change was for marketing and advertising. And she had been in the business! Says Carrie, “Getting the word out about your business, even if it’s unique, is difficult without a substantial allocation of funds. Whatever you THINK is enough, triple or even quadruple that amount. Other start-up costs included licensure (business, DOT, Motor Carrier, etc.) and local/state taxes and business filing fees.
The mission of Circle City Tours is to introduce Indianapolis to the world and the world to Indianapolis. And she does a great job of it. I came across Carrie and Circle City Tours when I was in Indianapolis for a blog conference. I arrived a day early before the conference – on purpose – because I had never been to the city before and I wanted to learn what it had to offer. I found Circle City Tours on Google and told Carrie what I wanted to do. She told me didn’t have any other guests for that day but that she was willing to pick my friend and I up in her personal SUV and give us the same tour as if we were going on her tour bus. She met us at our hotel and gave us a fabulous, comprehensive tour of all the sites complete with her background information. Because of her tour, I now know – and love – Indianapolis!!
Where does Carrie see Circle City Tours headed in the future? “A search for a partner/partners is ongoing. I would like to announce we’re expanding our bus fleet, adding routes, and creating new custom tours for art, architecture, gardens, sports, and specific histories (military, automotive, ethnic/race, etc.). However, we’re still educating visitors and residents alike that we even exist. We do anticipate re-starting our Holiday Lights Tours this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.“
At 61, Carrie loves her career change move. “Life changes. Life goes on. You need to move on with it and just be happy with whatever you do.”