"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate"
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" are the powerful opening lines of Dante's "Inferno," posted as a warning above the entrance to the nine circles of Hell. But they could well be included at the top of any application form for new businesses in Italy, a country whose tangled bureaucracy strikes fear into the heart of any aspiring entrepreneur.
Of course we knew this before we got started, so this wasn't a decision taken lightly. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I knew I was going to lose my job together with my long-time friend and colleague Manu, but we saw only three options: get out of tourism, go work for someone else, or join forces and open our own company. We chose the latter, and prepared to descend into the depths of bureaucratic hell.
We chose as our Virgil (Dante's guide through the Inferno) an accountant who specializes in tour companies. So far so good. The first step was understanding what had to be done, in what order, at which office. There's a confusing Catch-22 of “you can’t submit this until you’ve submitted that; but you can’t submit THAT before you’ve applied for this; and you can’t get THIS until you’ve completed THAT.”
There's also a dizzying lexicon of acronyms you need to learn: I needed an ATECO to get my P.IVA from the SUAP and then we needed to register at the CAM COM to do the SCIA and we'll get a Cf. and a Cod. Univoco, and "don't forget the REA!" our accountant shouted as we left her office. Every step requires scans of signed and printed documents, and every change or mistake can set you back weeks. We started the process months ago and likely won't be official until February, with the tour season looming just ahead of us. Thank goodness Manu is Italian so she can keep up with all of the legal and financial details while I take care of the website, social media, all English-language documents, and of course try to plan new trips!!!
Surprisingly, the hardest thing we faced was choosing a NAME! I had lots of time to think about it and scrapped dozens of possible candidates because they were already taken. We brainstormed names of all types:
Sunshine & Spritz
We had very specific criteria: we didn’t want to be Italy-centric since we do tours in other countries; we wanted it to have a certain “feminine” air without alienating men (we love men! ❤️); we didn’t want to use “trails” or “hikes” since we don't only do walking tours. It couldn’t be too long (no “Sisters are doing it for themselves” 😉). We tried anagramming our names: Claire & Emanuela/Manu = Clamanuela? Manaire? Clamanu? Ugh. We tried the last names: Angelini & Duiker = little angels + small South African deer? Nope. The lady at the registrar's office suggested "keep it short" and “what did we think about ‘Windmills’?” -- ??!?! WTF. 😕
We couldn’t register the company without a name, and we needed a name to get a logo and a website, so this was Priority #1 and we needed it ASAP. So while we were on a gorgeous hike in a primeval forest down in Puglia we did some brainstorming: let’s try plants and animals with an adjective that evokes movement, freedom, spirit, joy. Oak. Too heavy. Beech. Too close to beach. Birch. Yuk. Eagle/falcon/hawk. Too militant. We liked the Italian word for swallows (the bird), Rondine or Rondinella. But anything + swallows – NO! 🤪 We went through ivy, fern, leaf, lemon, sunflower. Then we finally tried the herbs: parsley (strong no), sage – Sage! Manu shouted out Wild Sage! and we knew we had hit on something good.
We love the name because it has everything in it: it’s native to Italy and the Mediterranean region; it’s used in cooking and herbal brews (a friend remarked that “it has a witchy vibe”) -- so it evokes nature but also the culinary arts. And "wild" evokes plants in their natural state, free from control and also from containers that may be too small or don't allow enough light or water. And of course, "sage" also means wise, so we’re the Wild Wise ones 😎
(amazingly, a few days later Manu went to a spa with a friend and found THIS on her bed!)
We checked the name in the various registries and found a safari company based in Botswana and a women’s-only hiking group in Nevada, but nothing in direct conflict with us, so we grabbed the name and then found a marvelous graphic designer to do our logo:
Then we needed a website since we don't have a storefront (they only scrapped that rule a little while ago, which saved us from having to rent office space!!!). I built a temporary website using Wix (the same platform that this blog is on, so in a way even this blog was a preparatory step toward starting a company 😊), and I also created accounts on Facebook and Instagram. Last week we signed the papers with the Notary -- who, by law, had to read the entire contract out loud, so he basically speed-mumbled for 20 minutes as it all flew over my head! -- then those papers get registered with the Chamber of Commerce in Florence and in a few weeks we should be OFFICIALLY official!
I have omitted the many missteps, misunderstandings, and snags that have slowed us down, and the hellish scares that sometimes made us feel we'd never make it, but eventually Dante makes it through Hell and Purgatory and arrives in Paradise, and we will too! And sure, Wild Sage isn't heaven, but it's OURS. ❤️
We are Wild Sage 😍🍃🌿☘
CONTACT US to get a conversation started!
Website (professional version coming soon!): www.wildsage.it
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On Facebook we're "Wild Sage - Active & Cultural Tours in Europe"
On Instagram we're @wildsage.it