It wasn’t too long ago that there was enough turmoil in Zac Fowler’s life to last a life time.
First, he lost his wife, Tammy, in a car accident, and in an instant he was a single parent of two girls. Next, like so many others in Janesville, he lost his job when the General Motors plant shut down.
But for all that pain and suffering, there was something inside Zac Fowler that kept driving ahead.
“After having been in the military,’’ Fowler recalled of his three-year stint in the Navy, “I always looked ahead and planned things.’’
Now, as the hands-on owner of Z Travel Tours in Janesville, he is seeing those best-laid plans coming to fruition. He has seen his tour business evolve from a part-time avocation in which he helped friends travel to Green Bay Packers games to a full-time travel agency vocation in which he organizes tours of Packers and Brewers games, concerts as well as vacation tours.
During the tough times, Fowler could have opted to take his daughters and set off to another GM plant and a whole new life. “I didn’t want to further disrupt their lives,’’ he said of Kayla, now 22, and Karly, 18. “But it was a big gamble.’’
Sometimes taking a big gamble results in a big payoff. But sometimes it takes small steps to make that giant leap.
After deciding to stick it out in Janesville, Fowler, now 41, enrolled at Blackhawk Technical College with the goal of getting through the school’s nursing program. It was a program he was matched with because government agencies were trying to set up GM’s displaced workers in occupations that would pay in the same neighborhood that he was earning with the automaker. But after completing the early stage of the program, Fowler found himself stalled as he waited for entry into the clinical portion of the program.
Never one to sit around and wait, Fowler decided to take courses in another area of interest, marketing.
“I didn’t have all that time to wait,’’ he recalled. “I had picked up some business credits while I was in the Navy so I decided to try some courses at Blackhawk in the meantime.’’
During those business rounds, Fowler found himself in a supervisory leadership course taught by instructor Steve Bielefeldt.
“He did one thing that means so much to me. He asked me, ‘What do you want to do, if you had your choice, what would you really do?’ I said I’d love to do tours. He asked my background and told him I did it for my friends.
“It was the best class I took at Blackhawk. I don’t know what I would have done without his help and encouragement. I never would have imagined coming (to BTC) that I would be doing group tours to Packer games and vacations.’’
Fowler now looks back at his 2 ½ years at Blackhawk without regret. “For my interests, I made the right decision,’’ he said. “You make your own luck. There is stuff in your life that you may not have control over, but you can still put yourself in position to make yourself better. It’s an attitude.’’
Fowler’s attitude and BTC’s offerings was a good match. In fact, the relationship continues.
“I think I had a lot of the key qualities you need in business but what Blackhawk did was sharpen me with new techniques and other skills,’’ he explained. “I’m thinking about going back this winter to take some computer classes because you can never get enough of that.
“I always think back about something I’ve learned there. It was a good experience. I always tell friends, don’t be afraid to sharpen your skills and find something to do that you love to do.’’