Chicago`s Finest Tours entrepreneur shares love for his city - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Chicago`s Finest Tours entrepreneur shares love for his city

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

As we head into the beginning of the holiday season, one Chicago business is gearing up for one of its busiest times ever - and it has nothing to do with shopping.

The man who launched Chicago's Finest Tours said he left corporate America to follow his dream. What happened next, is a labor of love.

Every day of the year, Dan O'Connell is doing what he loves most: Sharing his love of Chicago with others.

"There's so much more dimension and texture to the city other than the architecture," he said. "But you know who is most surprised by the gem that we provide them? The people who have lived here all their lives. My favorite expression is when two people look at each other on our tours and say, did you know that?"

O'Connell recently took a tour group through a Japanese garden in the heart of the South Side, not far from the Museum of Science and Industry.

One walking tour in 2010 has now blossomed to 14 different riverwalk tours and bus tours with summer and winter seasons. He also has themed tours for eras, holidays and disasters.

O'Connell never imagined it would grow so fast after leaving corporate America at a time when America was in a deep recession, and he had to be smart about advertising costs.

"I'm almost ashamed to admit it," he said. "But during the first couple of months when I tried to do this on my own, I had less than 100 guests. Not a very proud result."

In O'Connell's case he was one man with this vision of a tour business that flourishes much like the one he offers now. But at the time he didn't have the kind of budget he has now, to market his service. How did he get the word out? Chicago-based daily deal/coupon company, Groupon.

"There are so many choices for consumers these days, and there's so much advertising out there: Commercials and radio, everything. It just gets really confusing," a Groupon representative said. "It's the passion, the smarts, the business plan. What he lacked, was customers."

But not anymore!

"My advice to people now, over 50, who are looking to do something?" O'Connell asked. "Make sure it's something you feel great passion for - something you really want to do."

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