September 27, 2012
Brandy Wheeler, creator of the Traverse Traveler app and owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas, purchased 13 iPads with the proceeds from the first-annual Traverse Traveler Scavenger Hunt for Autism. The iPads have been donated to Traverse City Area Public Schools for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Last April, eighty-four teams took to the streets of downtown Traverse City for the inaugural Scavenger Hunt for Autism. Teams used the Traverse Traveler app and a QR code reader to discover downtown businesses, check-in and unlock a clue for an activity at each location. Volunteers stationed at every venue assisted with the on-site challenge, and handed out prize tickets. Participants encountered puzzles and games that challenged their brains, their sense of direction, and teamwork.
The event was a fundraiser for the iPads for Autism program at Traverse City Area Public Schools, a pilot program started in 2011 which provided iPads for 9 students at TCAPS with Autism Spectrum Disorder. To grow this program and meet the needs of their 120 students with autism, Traverse Traveler joined TCAPS Partner in Education program.
The Scavenger Hunt drew participation from a diverse crowd of 337 participants including families, educators, children with autism and disabled adults as well as community members from as far as Petoskey.
The fundraiser generated donations from event sponsors, team registrations and private donors and raised over $14,700 for the iPads for Autism Program. More than $9000 was donated directly to TCAPS through the Partner in Education program. Over the summer TCAPS added 6 iPads and purchased app packages designed to meet the specific needs of students with Autism. The iPads will help grow a lending library to expedite student assessment, trial different applications and assign devices more quickly.
As part of the licensing agreement with retailers schools are required to purchase Apple products directly from Apple. But event founder Brandy Wheeler wanted to show support for the local businesses. “This event wouldn’t be possible without the support of our business community. I’m thrilled that we can purchase our iPads locally from CityMac and donate them to TCAPS to grow the iPads for Autism program.”
The positive response from event participants and venues, combined with the commitment from title sponsor Lucky Jack’s, has event organizers already planning for next year. For more information on the Traverse Traveler Scavenger Hunt for Autism and to find out how you can volunteer visit TraverseTraveler.com/Autism or find them on Facebook.
Photo: Brandy Wheeler from Traverse Traveler and Jame McCall, Special Education Director at Traverse City Area Public Schools gathered today at CityMac for the iPad purchase. They were joined by members of the Scavenger Hunt for Autism committee including Jamie Roster, Kathy DiMercurio, Kate Daggett and Nick Nerbonne, and event sponsors Mike Mohrhardt of Lucky Jacks, Josh Russell of Jimmy Johns and Greg Nickerson from CityMac.
December 30, 2011
As a local travel expert I spend most of my time promoting other Traverse Area businesses. With the close of 2011 I thought I’d recap what a busy year it’s been for my business. So I thought a year-end review in classic Top 10 fashion would be fun. Here goes:
Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas Top 10 Moments of 2011
10. Traverse Traveler hits 1000 downloads. We kick-started the New Year by reaching a goal we hadn’t imagined. After launching the Traverse Traveler iPhone App at the end of 2010 the local community and area visitors showed overwhelming support. Our app downloads hit 1000 in the first 25 days.
9. Mealtickets Family Grows. I refer to our advertisers as the Mealtickets Family. This year our family grew to welcome the Cherryland Antique Mall, Dennos Museum Center, Elk Rapids Chamber, Becky Thatcher Designs, Great Lakes Children’s Museum and Mana to our little card gang. We’re proud to offer information on such great businesses in Traverse City and the surrounding area. It makes my job easy when I represent great clients! So thanks everyone.
8. All a Twitter. It’s hard to believe I have been on Twitter for less than a year. But it took me a while to make the commitment to another social media platform. And yet, I think it’s one of the best decisions I made all year. The people I’ve met on Twitter have been fantastic. It has broadened my knowledge base, and sparked networking opportunities I never imagined. If you have a small business I highly recommend joining Twitter. In fact, I wrote a blog post here about just that. If you’re in Northern Michigan might I suggest you follow the hashtags #nwmi #TCMI and #mittenlove to find some likeminded friends. And by all means, follow me @TraverseTravelr!
7. 10 Places I’ve Never Been. It all started with an article in Grand Traverse Woman Magazine. Looking to encourage locals to get out in their own backyard and open doors they’ve never opened, I wrote a list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been and set out to visit each one. My list took me across Benzie, Leelanau and Traverse City, into restaurants, wineries, jewelry, furniture and retails stores.
I met great people, and I spent my dollars with local businesses. It was a great experience. In fact, don’t be surprised if my explorations return in 2012. When I stop and think about it there are so many more than 10 places that I have yet to visit. I reported on my travels once a week throughout the summer, here on the Mealtickets blog. If you haven’t read them, I hope you will. You’ll discover some of the magic that makes Northern Michigan so unique.
6. Rockin’ with the Traverse City Lip Dub. When I heard about plans to make a Traverse City Lip Dub I thought it would be fun to work behind-the-scenes to make it happen. But when I appeared at the first meeting I threw my hat in the ring and auditioned to be one of the "singers". Who knew I’d make the cut! So after one month of planning, rehearsing, and one beastly hot day in downtown Traverse City, our community came together to pull off a creative rendition of "You Can Call Me Al," and "Jump" lip-synced throughout town.
The performers were dedicated. The social media engine buzzed about the big debut at the Traverse City Film Festival. And thousands of people gathered at the Open Space to watch the premiere before an outdoor showing of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Finally the TC Lip Dub went on YouTube for all the masses. And then they pulled the plug. At the end of the day, it was still a highlight of my year, and I’m proud to say, "You Can Call Me Al."
5. Sleeping Bear Dunes Named America’s Most Beautiful Place. You couldn’t have missed this story unless you were out of State — perhaps out of the Country. That just goes to show how proud we Michiganders are of our beautiful location. This summer, a small community in the heart of Leelanau County created a nation-wide buzz about the Sleeping Bear Dunes by voting on Good Morning America’s contest.
Some were shocked that we beat out places like Hawaii and California, but not us locals. This win showcased not only the power of social media, but the strength we have when we, as a community, come together to show our support for this region. If you voted for this win, you helped make it happen. And this win has already brought thousands of New visitors to Northern Michigan. And that’s something I’m passionate about indeed.
4. Visual Marketing Book Includes Traverse Traveler. My first publication! Traverse Traveler app was selected from a pool of over 500 applicants to be included in a new book by David Langdon and Anita Campbell. Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images & Design debuted in September with a spread on the Traverse Traveler app.
I was thrilled to be selected for this book which recognized our success in taking a print-based business (Mealtickets) and expanding into a mobile version that works (Traverse Traveler). The book includes 99 great stories of marketing strategies that have been successful, along with a Takeaway Tip for each one so you can apply it to your own business.
3. A Mention on Forbes.com! This one was exciting enough to warrant some local news coverage, so I think it deserves its own listing in our Top 10. The author of the Visual Marketing book was interviewed on Forbes.com about the new release. In her interview, she sited three examples from the book, including Traverse Traveler. Read the article here. It’s a great overview of the Visual Marketing book, and it gave me a reason to smile when I discovered the interview on Twitter.
2. Traverse Traveler Hits 5000 Downloads. I had high hopes for how the Traverse City community and local visitors would respond to our app, but I couldn’t imagine 5000 downloads in less than a year. I’m thrilled to say we will finish 2011 with over 6100 downloads and counting. I have big goals for 2012 including the much awaited launch of an Android version of the app, a BIG fundraising event from Traverse Traveler, and hopefully lots of new businesses adding their listings to our categories. Is your business on the app? If not, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, Sign Up Here!
1. Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Years in Business. Saving the best for last, I’m proud to say I’ve been an momtrepreneur for 10 years! I started Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas on November 1, 2001 after losing my graphic design job in the wake of 9/11. It’s been a challenge to learn new skills — like sales — and a pleasure to work with this regions wonderful hospitality industry and small business owners. In 10 years Mealtickets has distributed millions of little cards to help area visitors discover unique, off-the-beaten-path restaurants, attractions and wineries. And for that I couldn’t be more proud. It is my Top moment in 2011.
If you made it through that list of horn tooting, I thank you! It’s amazing to me that all fit in one calendar year. But if you’re wondering what I could possibly have left to do in 2012, have no fear. I’m a busy body, who is always looking for the next challenge. And I’ve got some great ideas for 2012. So I hope you’ll stay with us.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope your 2012 is a great success. And if there’s any way Mealtickets or Traverse Traveler can help make that happen, please let me know.
October 25, 2011
10 Miles Down the Road Less Traveled
11-1-11 is the anniversary of the day I let go of the the 8-5, steady paycheck life and slapped on a new name tag: Entrepreneur.
I had just lost my graphic design job, after 9/11 collapsed the travel industry, taking with it our ad agency’s biggest client. So there I stood in my Robert Frost moment, facing two roads diverged. I took the road less traveled by. It lead to the start of a little card company called Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas.
Now here we are, 10 years later. Still alive, still creating, and still working to promote the Traverse Area to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who travel to northern Michigan each year.
In honor of this milestone I decided to throw a party to thank my clients and friends in the hospitality industry, without whom my little business wouldn’t have grown.
On November 1, 2011 we’ll mark that moment in time when faced with two roads I took the one less traveled by…and that has made all the difference.
Mealtickets 10 Year Anniversary Celebration
Date: 11-1-11 from 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Food & Wine Pairings | Giveaways | Door-prizes | Drink Specials
We’re hosting a Happy Hour reception for our clients and guests to celebrate, with fabulous door prizes, Traverse Traveler swag and a throw-back to old fashioned social networking: face to face!
Want to join us?
Rate our app on iTunes and you’ll be entered to win a special Traverse Traveler prize pack including a guest invitation to our party!
We will draw names from the emails we receive and announce the winners on Friday, October 29th!
This event is by invitation only, so rate the app Today!
September 20, 2011
I’m thrilled to announce the Traverse Traveler app will be included in a new creative idea book featuring 99 examples of successful marketing strategies.
Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Marketing with Images and Design, by Anita Campbell & David Langton — To be released on September 29th
Here’s an excerpt from their publisher, Wiley:
“This book is an idea starter. Expect this book to stimulate the senses, inspire and spark ideas,” says Langton. “The 99 handpicked examples in this book are from organizations that have successfully used visual elements in their marketing—with solid results.”
Visual Marketing displays creative marketing campaigns that brought attention to small businesses in unique, compelling, and unexpected ways.
“We explored every aspect of marketing – from traditional to high tech, “adds Campbell. “We show examples of how print ads and marketing materials are evolving, how social networking sites and the world of mobile apps have redefined how people communicate and how quickly new marketing technology, such as QR codes, come along as technology progresses.”
I’m anxiously awaiting a copy to see the creative ideas from other designers, artists, entrepreneurs and small businesses featured in this collection. I hope you’ll pay a visit to your local bookstore and pick up a copy. It is also available on Amazon and in eBook format for those who love their tablets!
July 25, 2011
Spot Traverse Traveler in the Lip Dub and You Could Win
In honor of the premiere of the Traverse City Lip Dub during the Traverse City Film Festival we are announcing a giveaway for a lucky Traverse Traveler fan.
Did you know, Traverse Traveler had the opportunity to take part in the Traverse City Lip Dub? Brandy Wheeler, owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas —the Traverse Traveler — was one of the singers in the community production created by FishSoup Films and the Traverse City Film Festival?
In honor of the premiere of the Lip Dub on Tuesday July 26th at the open space, Traverse Traveler is holding a contest to giveaway one of the T-shirts specially created for the Traverse Traveler crew.
To enter to win "Like" our Traverse Traveler Facebook page, then send us a message with the lines Brandy sings on the Traverse City Lip Dub.
Not on Facebook? Email us here with the lines Brandy sings and you’ll be entered to win. Contest ends at the end of the TCFF on July 31st.