Bryan and Toresa Blakely of In Life Now Travel are setting a refreshing local standard about how area entrepreneurs in love are able to support each other as they navigate the relaunch of their business.
It is no secret that this town is full of folks talking about taking their first steps in creating a personal brand.
But husband and wife team Bryan and Toresa Blakely are setting a refreshing local standard about how area entrepreneurs in love are able to apply themselves and support each other in unique ways as they create a path towards their dream goals.
They both have worked for over a decade plying their shared life experiences to create an organizing brand called In Life Now.
On the occasion of the relaunch of their travel agency under the name of In Life Now Travel
, Publisher Tommy Allen sat down with the couple to talk about the building of their brand and how it has made them better at what they do over time because of their experiences. (This interview conversation has been edited for space.)
Tommy Allen (TA): I think a great place to start is asking about the name “In Life Now” that seems to be at the core of all that you do. Can you explain its origin?
Toresa Blakely (TB): Long story short, I was reading this article in a magazine and the phrase “in life now” just jumped off of the page. I had just started a 40-day sabbatical and during this quiet period of personal reflection, we not only decided to rename my early coaching business but reflected on what this phrase represents to me. My husband and I discovered during this time that wherever you are, you always have an opportunity to start over in life now. You don't have to allow anything to stop you from moving forward in life now.
TA: So I have followed you for many years on social media, but have always wondered what came first in your life: coaching or your radio show on Magic 104.9 FM?
TA: How’d that come to be?
TB: I have always been the person that folks feel they can talk to about things. As time went on, Bryan and I would end up hosting groups of people. He was doing Men in Motion and I was running Sister Talk.
I was also working at Goodwill at the time. One day while in a training session, I heard a presentation from a guy who was unlike other sessions I had attended in the past. Having been to trainings that were less than engaging, I noticed this gentleman had everyone’s attention in the room.
It was right there that I realized I wanted to do what he was doing and so I wrote down the words “Life Coach” and got on the computer to do more research on the topic. And the more I dug in, the more I knew that this was something I was already doing informally with Sister Talk. Yet, I also realized I would need to be certified, so I set out to do just that. I think it was around 2007.
TA: ..and your Life Talk Experience Radio podcast?
TB: I started that when I was at Goodwill, too. But it was at first under the title, “Life Talk Experience: Life is an experience, so let's talk about it.” It was too long for a business podcast so we had to rename it to In Life Now
TA: Bryan, what did you think when Toresa came to you and said she wanted to start a podcast in those early years of In Life Now?
Bryan Blakely (BB): I was working at a community-based nonprofit at the time and was already working with groups of people myself so I said, “If this is what you want to do, go for it.” You know the thing I admire about Toresa is her get up and go.
In my life, I have known so many women who were in long-term relationships that when something changes like a separation, these women would become suddenly lost because they were so engulfed in the other person.
TA: That is something I have observed within my own life, too. How’d you respond beyond the “go for it,” since we know it takes more than just that to be supportive?
BB: I told Toresa that she needs to build her platform because I had recognized she has her own dreams and goals. And so together we worked to build our platforms for our lives. I told her, “I don’t care if her name ends up in the lights and mine is the one under her,” because, well, I don’t have a problem with that.
TA: Your faith in her talent and attitude is so refreshing because some relationships, no matter how close, can become competitive when one is launching something.
BB: I didn't want that to happen to us so I said, “Just keep doing it, Toresa.”
TA: Every relationship has moments in my experience where one has to be free to take chances. I like how you two support each other so wonderfully.
BB: We used to talk about this when we were younger. We used to notice those who had succeeded and built wealth by taking leaps of faith. So we became chance takers because it is so easy just to play it safe. We were never afraid to reach out for what is possible.
TA: That is powerful support! Let’s get back to the podcast, what topics are you covering?
TB: We talk about life, health, and business on our podcast (that began in 2011). It is also rooted in relationships, spirituality, women’s issues, and small businesses.
TA: And your motivation for creating such a space?
TB: I've never started it because I was looking to make a name for myself. Rather, I wanted to create a platform for other voices to emerge in our community to talk about what they are doing.
TA: And yet, at some point, you crossed over from podcast to a radio platform.
TB: Yes, I wanted to give myself, as well as other folks, an online radio platform, so as I was creating my own show, I was able to executive produce and give five other people their own programs.
TA: A big part of what I have come to know of you from your online voice is how real you are, but also generous with your supportive points of view. What were the topics covered on the other shows you have helped shepherd?
TB: We have some folks who talk strictly about business topics while another is a relationship coach, so we have a diverse set of topics covered, but all are rooted in story.
TA: Those first-person narratives are powerful points of view.
TB: I always say that there's a story behind the story. We see Tommy Allen. This Feenan we know. But in order for you to be the man that you are today, there are some stories that showcase how you got to where you are in the present.
TA: And so moving through time, you and Bryan not only go through incredible changes as you both launch your multi-layered careers (Bryan works for the City of Grand Rapids, too), but you decide to launch a travel business in 2016.
BB: Because of her social media presence, someone reached out to her to ask if she’d entertain the idea of a travel business. So one night when I came home, she asked me what I thought.
TB: Honestly, I had not thought much about travel too much, but everyone is doing it. (All laugh)
TA: Everyone enjoys a good vacation.
BB: So while I work a full-time job, we both wanted to be entrepreneurs and own our own businesses. We have a strong desire to be a part of the solution to the issues we had seen around us. We wanted to be able to look back someday and say in building our businesses, “We were here and we made a difference.”
TA: And yet, as many startups have experienced, not everything works out just because we set out to do something.
TB: We had to take a break last year. While life was … was … happening, the business was not working for me. But after a year break and reflection, we are back and will be re-launching our business on Thursday, October 25, but now under the organizing umbrella of our brand: In Life Now Travel
TA: So in taking time off I understand you learned a lot, so I am guessing you have a different focus now for your business than before.
TB: First, we are more seasoned and built a better structure for our clients. That time off made us smarter about how we will be doing things moving forward. People are already calling, actually, they were calling when we were trying to sit down and not work on our travel business during our time off.
TA: It is hard to say “no” when you are running a business. I understand where you have been.
BB: Many folks may not know this, but I used to be a boxer. And so I can say, we have been down, but we have beat the count.
TA: Do you view the pausing of the travel business as a “knock down” moment? Help me understand this term more fully since I am not a sports guy.
BB: Some will say the knockdown is bad for you. I, on the other hand, think it can be a good thing. The knockdown can make you stronger. Going through the many things in this life we have experienced — from homelessness to starting and even pausing a business — makes us more seasoned.
In the sharing of our personal stories from our journey [via the many avenues and forms In Life Now has taken over time], we have become stronger. The problem is not being knocked down, but when one stays down and doesn’t get back up.
TA: So if someone wants to work with your In Life Now Travel, what services are in your wheelhouse?
TB: Anyone can go online and book a cheap ticket or hotel. In fact, we have a travel portal that folks can access via our site. We learned during our time off what worked and what didn’t, so when we returned we were setting our focus on these four areas: vacation homes, best getaway travel, guided tours, and large group packages.
TA: Any favorites thus far?
BB: Right before we took our break, we booked a college tour for Madison Square Church who was looking to send a group of teens to visit a series of colleges. We produced everything, from booking their transportation to hotels to setting up the college tours. We did everything.
TA: That level of service is great because it takes a lot of focus to juggle so many elements in the creation of a good travel experience.
TB: We have the agency relationships that we have built up over time that really go into providing the best travel experience for our customers. We want to take away the headaches of travel booking and let folks focus on thinking on things like what are you going to pack to take with you on your journey.
On Thursday, October 25 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Bryan and Toresa Blakely invite you to attend the open house of In Life Now Travel at 900 Muskegon Ave. NW. While at this special re-launch and rebranding of their travel business, folks will learn techniques in packing, as well as receive a goodie travel bag from Public Thread and Peninsula Trading. For those not able to make the open house but would like to connect with In Life Now Travel, be sure to visit their website
or follow them on Facebook