Jillian Dickens and Shannon Guihan: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs are Jillian Dickens (pictured left) and Shannon Guihan (pictured right), who founded Bannikin after realizing their combined experience and expertise within the specialty travel industry could lead to a successful venture. What advice do they have for other young professionals? Read on to find out…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
Bannikin helps an international list of specialty travel providers gain access to the North American market. We help tour operators, emerging destinations and boutique hotels develop their trips, connect them with the appropriate partners, and provide marketing and media relations support. All of our clients offer something special, like mountain biking in Nepal, expedition cruising to the Arctic, and circumnavigation of Cuba – we’re lucky enough to work with really interesting and exciting companies. 

Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
Our experience has always been with small, unique tour operators that depend on their team to be versatile in their skill set. We’ve both gained a lot of experience in most of the areas of expertise needed to run a successful speciality travel company – from marketing & sales to guiding, trip planning and ordering enough arugula. Combined, we realized we’d make a pretty solid team able to guide our clients through most issues, from first-hand experience. We love the ins and outs of running a small property or travel business. And as determined, spirited, travel loving people, nothing beats the freedom (and sometimes terror) of running our own business. 

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Landing a new partner for a client. A lot of work goes into that, and the impact on our clients can be a game changer. The most challenging part for us at the moment is most definitely managing our growth, and finding the right people to come on board to grow with us.

Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
In a perfect world, an office in Newfoundland, where Shannon’s from, and another in B.C., where Jillian’s from.

What does success look like to you?
Success for us will be the day when the Bannikin name stands on its own. Most, if not all of our business, is based on recommendations during these early stages. We mentioned that the travel industry is a small one – and within it we want Bannikin to be synonymous with the next stage of a growing travel operation.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Jillian: “For me it was landing my first newspaper reporting job after college. The paper was in the small town of Tofino on Vancouver Island. I remember being so excited after hearing the news that I ran around my house and wiped out in the kitchen.”

Shannon: “Pretty sure it was a sushi lunch some time ago over which I was told that I’d need to leave the following week to work in Iceland for a month (which turned into two). It finally occurred to me – this is my job.”

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Before you can get there, you need to understand where it is you want to be. Knowing exactly what you want to do is the hardest part.

Do you support any charities? If so, which ones and why is that important to you?
We have the luck to work with a number of sustainable tourism organisations worldwide through our work, though our own support stays a little more local. We’re fans of The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto and contribute to them whenever we can.

What is Notable to you?
Integrity and working very hard at doing what you love to do.

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How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
Cycling, walking to work, yoga, oranges & wine.