All Andy Levine (BA 1992) wanted to do was ride his bike. So the day after he graduated from DU, he got on a plane to France to do just that, not thinking about what he’d do next or dreaming up future business plans. He was just another American kid looking to bike around Europe and have a good time. But a funny thing happened while he was cycling and having that good time—he rode right into his life’s work.
While cycling through the vineyards of Burgundy, France, and learning everything he could about the region’s world-class wineries and connecting with locals, Levine realized that this was an experience other Americans would like to have and that he was perfectly positioned to give it to them. So he set up a website for what would become DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., now the global leader in boutique bike tours, offering 500 itineraries in 26 countries.
“I thought, ‘If I build this, they will come,’” Levine said. “I loved doing it. I didn’t run numbers or calculate what it would cost and what I could charge. I just enjoyed it, and that’s an important piece of being an entrepreneur. You have to love what you do. You can’t just think of numbers and your logo. You have to take care of your customer from day one.”
Remember, this was the early ‘90s before experiential and wellness travel was much of a thing. What Levine was doing with his cozy, hands-on tours was new and different, and it resonated with people. And for a reason—what’s not to love about drinking wine in a beautiful outdoor setting? Levine added tours to the south of France and to Italy. He just kept exploring, learning and growing.
“We expanded on our idea of bike, eat, sleep and kept it small and boutique,” Levine said. “With smaller group sizes, you can go to locals’ houses and eat in mom’s kitchen. You need to connect with the people—meet the cheesemaker, the winemaker. On a bicycle, you’re connecting with all your senses. You’re smelling the terroir, looking at the wineries—it’s like being a local.”
For nearly three decades, DuVine continued to grow. Levine lived his beautiful reality of cycling through the world’s most stunning locales, bringing others along to drink the good wine and eat the good food. Then COVID hit and the travel industry ground to a screeching halt. “It was like you’re riding up Mount Evans and you’re in the last mile and then a snowstorm comes and you have to go down backward, blindfolded and it’s hailing and people are throwing crap at you. That’s what it felt like,” he said.
To survive, Levine did what countless other businesses did: he pivoted. He focused on and grew the U.S. market for his tours. Individuals were staying close to home and Levine’s outdoor, small-group, wellness-minded travel opportunities were just what these stir-crazy, quarantined people needed. It was a rough year but they made it.
In March 2021, with private tours and interest in cycling soaring post-COVID, Levine sold the majority stake in DuVine to experiential travel pros Lindblad Expeditions. “As a business, if you can get around more smart people, you’re going to grow. You can do more with other people than by yourself,” he said of the deal. He’s still in charge of the company, but he got a partner to help him fulfill his mission of getting the world to travel by bike.
As for others looking to turn their passion into work? Levine said to stop overthinking it and just do it. “Don’t think about the economics, think about getting the clients and providing a service and then the money will follow. Don’t worry about being rich, just focus on being great. If you made it through this COVID thing, you can start a damn business.”
For more about DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., visit duvine.com