Some people think the American dream is dead—but South African native Fiona Volmrich clearly disagrees. “I believe in the American dream. I live it. I chase it. I am grateful for every day I live in the U.S.,” she says.
Considering Volmrich’s track record as an American entrepreneur, it’s not surprising that she speaks so confidently about business opportunities in the United States. She moved from a small town in South Africa to the United States 27 years ago—and has been creating and managing new businesses ever since.
One of her riskiest projects originated when she decided to create a software program. The idea was born out of the frustrations she experienced while operating her destination management company, DestinationVIP. The software, called Viper, was used to streamline processes—such as tracking leads, preparing proposals and generating contracts—for group travel businesses.
Despite Volmrich’s proven expertise in global destination marketing, she says it was “completely idiotic” for her to think she could be successful with software because she knew nothing about it at the time. At first, Viper was only in use by DestinationVIP, but despite the odds being against her, other industry players began to notice the software when a few large destination management companies were considering DestinationVIP as an acquisition target. That’s when it occurred to Volmrich that the Viper system might be more valuable than DestinationVIP. She ended up selling that company, but kept Viper and spun it off as its own new company, Park City-based VIP Event Resources (VIPER).
Even though the Viper launch sounds like a classic success story, Volmrich says it wasn’t easy to break into the tech arena. In fact, she says, “it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done—diving into a new job at 100 miles per hour.”
One area of difficulty for Volmrich was surprising to her. While she was trying to find an attorney to represent her business, she got frustrated when one of the men she interviewed asked when he would be able to meet her husband. “I was flabbergasted,” she says. “I told him that he could meet my husband, but he’d still have to ask me all of the business questions.”
Volmrich has also learned that while it’s tempting to find a business partner to help a fledgling company, it ultimately isn’t worth it. “If you can go without a partner—do it,” she says. “Be in the driver’s seat. Succeed or fail on your own terms.”
She’s also learned to avoid over-funding, mainly because the mindset of wanting a lot of funding can be a trap. “There are always strings attached with borrowing money,” she says, adding that while that may be true, she knows revenue can solve almost every problem.
Whenever she has an idea for a new business, Volmrich runs a numbers analysis that ultimately answers the question: What’s the revenue? Market research isn’t always helpful. She subscribes to the famous quote from Steve Jobs, who, when asked by a reporter what market research had been conducted for the iPad, said, “None. It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.”
In the future, it’s likely that Volmrich will continue living the American dream by creating and executing new ideas for businesses. “I dream up new businesses every day,” she says. “I like the freedom of choice. As an entrepreneur, you are master of your own destiny.”