How a Tourism Side Hustle Became a $1 Million a Year Business
Corey William Schneider was having an early life crisis. Like many young New Yorkers, he spent most of his time at a monotonous marketing job he didn’t care a lot about and his free time in his “comfort zone” of familiar restaurants and bars with his friends, but he didn’t feel fulfilled.
“I realized this is the greatest city in the world, but I didn’t know anything about it. I was ashamed of that,” he says. “I felt like I wasn’t interesting. I wanted to be an expert in New York.”
So he made himself a pact. Every weekend, he’d explore the city, venturing to a new cultural or historic spot way off the well-trodden path. But there was one problem: None of his friends wanted to join him. “The idea of going to Flushing Queens at 10:00 AM on a Saturday was, like, not their idea of fun,” Schneider says.
He started a Facebook group of like-minded travel nerds and announced he would organize an excursion, booking a private tour and even van tickets. However, he was worried he’d be on the hook for the money he had to shell out in advance.
“I thought two or three people would join,” he recalls. “But a hundred strangers joined the group asking how to buy tickets.”
Panicked, Schneider asked Google how to sell tickets online. Google recommended Eventbrite, an event management and ticketing platform that allows users to browse, create, and promote local events.
This was back in 2013. Schneider, now 34, could not have realized it then, but he’d just planted the seeds for what would become a massively popular tourism business called New York Adventure Club, which grossed over $1 million in 2022.
Photo: Corey William Schneider courtesy of New York Adventure Club
From food crawls to art tours
Schneider is now CEO and Founder of New York Adventure Club, an in-person and virtual tourism and events company geared toward locals.
Two years into organizing events, he realized he had to quit his day job and make his bustling side hustle a full-time endeavor.
He runs a tight ship. The staff consists of him and a virtual assistant, but he also contracts hundreds of private vendors.
Every week, New York Adventure Club sells tickets for over 20 events, from virtual webinars like learning about New York’s famed Gilded Age to in-person events, like a food crawl to discover the “secret eats” of Chinatown. The club also organizes social events and puzzle tours.
What makes New York Adventure Club stand out from the hundreds of other tour companies is that it caters to a specific clientele — locals, like Schneider, who want to know the city they love better.
“There’s a lot of organizations that go for those first-time tourists. But when you’ve been to New York more than once and are looking for something else, that’s the niche we fill,” Schneider says.
The 50,000 New York Adventure Club Eventbrite subscribers will likely not find basic tours of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, but they will find a behind-the-scenes romp through New York’s Red Light District of yore or a tour of TriBeCa’s art lofts.
Secrets to success
Schneider points to several factors that helped him turbo-charge his tourism business.
“There’s a lot of baggage that will come with organizing events and a lot of challenges, from logistics to the customers. So, at the end of the day, you want to make sure that you’re doing something you’re passionate about,” says Schneider.
For him, that meant planning events that he’d want to attend himself. Schneider views himself as his company’s best customer and leverages his passion for New York and its history to inform his decisions about his itineraries and partners.
The logistics of running a company that throws over 20 events a week can be overwhelming. Schneider recommends partnering with third-party platforms that help take some of the organizing burdens off the business.
With Eventbrite, he can leverage their existing infrastructure to promote his events and sell tickets. Schneider is also part of their creator collective, an ambassador program that offers educational resources. Last month, he wrote a blog post about how he stays organized with such a small team.
“If I were just starting out, I would’ve really latched onto all these articles about what an event organizer does and the different components of organizing events,” he says. “It’s not rocket science, but there are a lot of details, so having those resources is very important for someone who wants to get into the space.”