How This Entrepreneur Found Her Niche in Arctic Adventures

UPDATED: January 23, 2016
PUBLISHED: January 23, 2016

As Sarah Aciego traveled to Greenland, Alaska and Canada for research, the glaciologist was awed by the beauty: “the incredible blues of the glacial lakes, muskox rubbing their bellies in the tundra, hidden hot springs next to waterfalls,” she recalls.

With the help of her mother, Mindy Cambiar, who travels with Aciego and photographs their journeys, a business concept crystallized. “We started talking about how incredible it would be to bring people to the places that I like to go for research,” says Aciego, 38, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan.

After a year of research and development, Aciego and Cambiar in 2014 formed Big Chill Adventures, a travel company seeking to break barriers of travel to Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and the Canadian Rockies. Clients enjoy hiking, dog-sledding, and amazing photo ops amid glaciers and icebergs.

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“We’re trying to bring people closer to places that seem inaccessible and to talk as much—or as little—science as the audience wants to hear,” says Aciego, who has two Big Chill trips under her belt and 10 booked this year.

The duo leads about half of the trips, with Cambiar setting a pace that’s comfortable for inexperienced guests. For the rest of the trips, Aciego recruits other geology or glaciology experts as guides. “They need to be able to handle logistical challenges,” Aciego says of her teammates. “One of our favorite email subject lines is ‘Logistical Nightmare Averted!’ ”

While the team is figuring out how to keep its technology systems on pace with demand—“It seems like every week we’re having to add trip itineraries,” Aciego says—sometimes basic is better when it comes to promoting Big Chill.

“Weirdly, the most effective marketing has been old-school paper: brochures and business cards,” Aciego says. “Both [Cambiar] and I spend a lot of time talking to people about what we do and having something to hand to people makes all the difference.”

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This article appears in the February 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Chelsea Greenwood has been contributing to print and online publications as an editor and writer for more than 10 years. A University of Florida graduate, she is the editor of a lifestyle magazine in South Florida.