Table of Contents
A short synopsis of the company’s origins, growth, and co-brand.
The Start (2012 – 2014)
The Roman Guy was originally founded in December of 2008 by Sean Finelli as a “private-tour” brand.
In 2012 Brandon Shaw purchased half the company. The price he paid was a double espresso for Sean and many future grey hairs.
The new partners immediately shifted the business’s focus from private tours to small group tours. They could not consciously sell the usual 50 person tour, and began building tours of 12 to 25 people max.
These tour experiences became very popular, allowing the company to grow and they started hiring a staff and opening up offices.
Expansion (2015 – 2017)
As Rome began to flourish, they took the opportunity to expand into Florence and Venice. The overall operation was going quite well and the team grew to between 15 and 20 people.
The focus was, and has always been, direct to consumer content marketing. Create content, via Youtube or Blogs, that helps travelers meet their goals regardless of how that may benefit ourselves. A reciprocity approach that has kept all parties happy and built good karma.
Paris & Beyond (Late 2017 – 2019)
In late 2017 we opened up Paris as a destination. As always, the first year is slow followed by a better year in 2018 and real traction in 2019.
Overall, 2019 was an excellent year for us and tourism as a whole. Our team grew to over 60 FTEs internationally with offices in Philadelphia, Rome, Florence, and Paris.
The Crash (2020 – Unknown)
We were approaching our best year ever in 2020 which was forecasted to double 2019s numbers and in February we started to see a pull back. A few days where bookings were far below average. This is actually pretty normal on a year by year basis. Sometimes things add up.
Then, on February 23rd & 24th all hell broke loose. Many other industries did not realize the effect of COVID-19 until March, but when Italy became the “hot-zone”, bookings slowed down and cancellations built up. That was the end of 2020.
Virtual tours were the great pivot of 2020. Overall, they have been a great success. We had not gone a day without bookings since the third week of March which has kept our brand relevant and given our team a purpose.
We are a tour company committed to running in-person tours. Our content is geared towards in-person tours and we are willing to wait until governments say it is safe to run them and consumers decide it is safe to join them.
Virtual tours will undoubtedly remain part of our arsenal. We did a wonderfully horrible job trying to predict the future in 2020 and decided not to try doing so again. It is likely virtual tours will at some point phase out from summer products and be predominantly a seasonal product for winter time entertainment.
They are also great for corporations who have been our largest customers this year.
Finelli left his Wall Street career behind in 2008 to explore his cultural roots in Italy. He ended up opening an Italy-focused tour operator. Since then, Finelli has hired over 40 full time employees internationally and his entrepreneurial skills have earned himself spots on the Entrepreneur 360 List as well as the Inc. 5000. Finelli’s commitment to our brand’s development have contributed to his vertical career move from CMO to CEO. Finelli believes that Arnold Schwarzenegger said it best when he said, “while you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there, at the same time is working harder. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that.”
Our business began as The Roman Guy and in 2019 evolved into two co-brands; The Roman Guy & The Tour Guy.
The Roman Guy
The Roman Guy is our original brand that began in 2008 with the creation of TheRomanGuy.com.
Our brand message is simple. We want to cut through the thick & boring outer crust of history and get through the good stuff. History is an amazing and interesting part of who we are today and we feel it is an atrocity for guides to tell it in the wrong way.
For example, the painting “The Birth of Venus” could be depicted in two ways. One could say that “The Birth of Venus is a tempera painting by Sandro Botticelli that is 5 feet 8 inches tall by 9 feet and two inches wide. It is a colorful display of the goddess Venus being born into the world accompanied by some of her fellow deities. It was completed sometime in the late 15th century during the height of the Rennaissance in Florence”
The above is 100% accurate and on the point but the issue is that it starts off with details that very few people care about. Maybe one person in a group of 12 may know what a tempera is and say, “oh wow, tempera that is interesting,” but they are likely lying to us and themselves.
Our way of describing it would be to say, “The Birth of Venus represents a violent but beautiful change in society. It is a very specific moment when artists felt free and protected enough to represent their visions in the purest forms under the protection of the powerful Medici dynasty. Sandro Botticelli painted Venus, a pagan goddess, nude. Nudity in paintings had not been permitted since the Romans flaunted sexuality a thousand or so years prior. Nudity was not the only issue, purely pagan stories in art were practically treason in the eyes of the papacy. People had been burnt at the stake for less!”
The very idea of The Roman Guy brand has been to describe art in a relatable way which means helping people understand the social norms of the era. The idea is to completely forgo dates and describe in detail the thoughts and fears of the time. Then, wait for customers to engage and ask when it was painted, who was the pope, etc.
How do you represent that? We try to use lively colors, fun fonts, and untraditional content marketing. If your digital experience is fun and easy you will get the feeling that your tours and experiences will be the same.
The Paris Guy And The Tour Guy
The Paris Guy was born in 2017 as our extension into France. The idea was that we would open new web properties for each new city we open. We slowly realized how difficult that would be and in 2019 we underwent the process of co-branding to The Tour Guy.
While The Roman Guy focuses on its home city of Rome, The Tour Guy is ready to taken on all or Europe and possibly even more territory. Are there any differences?
You can purchase a Louvre tour on The Roman Guy and you will be in the same group and same price as The Tour Guy. There are virtually no differences in tours or experiences from either site. Why have two sites?
The name “The Roman Guy” is geo-specific to Rome and we simply wanted to appeal to a broader market.
Finelli & Shaw
Web Property: FinelliShaw.com
The Roman Guy’s core original core customer groups are “Trip Planning” customers. Trip Planning is a service where one of our reps organizes, plans and manages a customer or group of customers vacation. Unlike a travel agent, our trip planning agents reside in the country that you are visiting. They can be available in real-time while traveling to help make changes or meet up for a drink.
It is branded and marketed as a “luxury experience” but we have a different outlook on luxury. Yes, it can and often does have something to do with your thread-count on your linens, but it also has to do with the places you go and how you are received.
We have deep relationships with our suppliers, drivers, vineyards, hotels, and guides that will accompany F&S customers. It adds a sort of “we know you feel” that makes a vacation feel like a dream experience.
The photos on our site may look like “models & actors” but they are real customers doing real things. Many of them paid extra to have us photograph them or received free services of some sort to allow us to photograph and use their images!
It costs more than using stock footage, but it captures a more truthful side of what we are working to create for customers.
Logos, Images, And Assets
The following images, assets, and logos are free to media outlets providing unique coverage of The Roman Guy or The Tour Guy, referred to as “Our Brands” from this point forward. Terms are as follows:
Logos may be used by any media outlet providing reviews, coverage or updates of Our Brands.
Our Brands are happy to provide free use of the below image assets to any outlet providing “friendly” coverage of our tours, experiences, products, and services.
Images can only be used to communicate information specific to Our Brands and must be attributed to Our Brands with a link to either homepage in the photo credit. i.e. “Photo Thanks to The Roman Guy” or “Photo Thanks to The Tour Guy“.
Photos may be used in the body of a listicle throughout as long as attribution guidelines are met. The link must be a follow link and cannot be “no-follow”. Attribution link is permitted to be an affiliate link.
Images may not be used to sell products on any other web property other than TheRomanGuy.com, TheTourGuy.com, or FinelliShaw.com.