Campus Celeb: Daniela Tomas '14

For one of this week’s Campus Celebrities, Her Campus wanted to feature a woman on Notre Dame’s campus who is truly making a difference in the world by pursuing her dreams.

Daniela Tomas, a senior Entrepreneurship and Spanish double major, is currently part owner of the luxury cruise ship M/Y Romanca. Daniela inherited the business from her father, and is looking to use her education and passions for business and her family to promote tourism in Croatia.

(M/Y Romanca. Photo courtesy of the owner.)

Fast Facts about Daniela and the M/Y Romanca

  • Her father Vlado Tomas was born in Croatian village Krilo Jesenice full of captains and sailors
  • He dropped out of high school and took over the family business, a day-tour ship, to show tourists the beauty of Dalmatia, a coastal region in Croatia
  • Her mother and father met when her mother vacationed on her father’s ship, got married 15 months later
  • When Daniela was born, her father began plans to build a luxury motor yacht called M/Y Romanca to take tourists from around the world on 7 day cruises through Dalmatia
  • She grew up spending her summers in Croatia on the ship, seeing her dad work as his own boss and living out his passions everyday.
  • After her father’s passing, Daniela owns 50% equity of the ship which still offers cruises from May to October each year.

 

When people think of the Mediterranean region, they traditionally think of Italy and Greece. Why do you think Croatia deserves consideration as an important place to travel? What is special about the country, its people, and its culture?

Croatia is called “The Mediterranean as it once was” because its natural beauty has been well preserved and tourists can come enjoy the Dinaric Alps as they plunge into the crystal clear Adriatic Sea. Most people don’t realize that Croatia has all of the same ancient architecture and heritage that Italy and Greece have, just without the high price-tags and long wait lines.

For example, Diocletian’s Palace, the vacation palace of a Roman emperor, is in Split, Croatia, just 30 minutes north of my home and the hub port of M/Y Romanca. I love that Croatia is still a hidden gem that I can share with family and friends who are continuously surprised but the country’s natural beauty, delicious food, and friendly people. (Author’s note:  Dubrovnik, a city in Croatia, is used for many scenes as the fictional city King’s Landing in the television series Game of Thrones!)

 

What is a typical day like on M/Y Romanca during a cruise?

One aspect that I love about the ship is that any type of group can create a vacation perfectly suited to them while onboard.

For example, I’ve brought a group of 10 energetic and active eighteen year olds, we’ve had a group of 8 older Slovenian couples who’ve come for 13 years in a row and counting, we’ve had groups of families who vacation together, and we also occasionally have business trips onboard. The commonality between all groups is the calm and serenity of cruising along the Adriatic, accompanied by good company, good food, and beautiful bays and harbors.

A typical day onboard begins with breakfast, and then we sail to different bays and islands for swimming, sun-bathing, and relaxation. Depending on the location, land excursions, jet-skiing, snorkeling, cliff diving, fishing, and other water activities also keep our guests busy. Next comes lunch, and after lunch the ship sets sail for a new location, which could be either a bustling port or a quiet bay, depending on the guests. Dinner is a fairly fancy affair, and afterwards, groups then either relax on the ship together with cocktails, take a stroll around their port city, or get ready for a night out on the town. Then we sleep and repeat for seven days!

 

What aspects of the company do you think most embody your father? What do you think his legacy to you is?

My dad had no MBA. He had no Bachelors degree. He didn’t finish high school. Yet, he was able to combine his passions, his skillset, and his resources to create a unique, high quality product and service that has yet to be rivaled on the Adriatic.

I will always look up to my dad as being my first and favorite exposure to the business world, even though I didn’t know it was happening. He knew how to enjoy life, and that’s what he shared with his passengers on M/Y Romanca. Every night was captain’s night for my dad, as he would spend the day sailing and showing Croatia to his new friends, and wine and dine with them on board in the evening. He kept planning for bigger and better improvements to his business, making lifelong customers and friends.

(Daniela and her father. Photo courtesy of the owner.)

What is your ultimate goal for the business?

My goal for M/Y Romanca is for it to always serve as a beautiful escape for our guests. We are all about the experience as a whole and our guests feeling completely satisfied and at ease while aboard. A vacation on our ship is about spending time with people you enjoy and having new adventures together.

 

Is it a challenge to be a woman in this industry? Is it a challenge being an American? How do you overcome any obstacles these things may present to you?

The tourism industry in Croatia, moreso the yacht industry, is completely male dominated. Captains are usually native Croatian men from 30 to 60 years old and sailors are natives anywhere from young teenagers to men in their 30s.

Being a young woman and a foreigner in the industry is incredibly difficult because we’re not taken seriously. Despite my business experience in a variety of different arenas and a Notre Dame education, people generally view me as “just an American” or “just a woman.” While this is very frustrating, other peoples’ opinions don’t change what we offer or how we offer it to our customers.

 

Do you foresee yourself moving to Croatia one day in order to run this business?

While I currently don’t plan on moving to Croatia, I hope that we will be able to continue the business for the foreseeable future. I coordinate North American groups while I’m here, so my role doesn’t need to happen from Croatia, even though being able to spend more time there would be incredible.

Ultimately, I would love to continue traveling to Croatia each summer and know that retirement there would be heaven on Earth for me.

(Fancy digs on M/Y Romanca. Photo courtesy of the owner.)
 
Do you plan on making this your full time job upon graduation?

I’ve decided to pursue the Orr Entrepreneurial Fellowship after graduation, so I will not work full-time with M/Y Romanca. After visiting Croatia in June, I’ll come back and move to Indianapolis!

 

Many people think all they need is a “good idea” to start their own business. What do you think people who want to start their own business need to know? What’s critical for success?

A successful venture needs so much more than a good idea. An entrepreneur knows that she needs the passion, the idea, the planning, the resources, and the network, amongst other things, in order to be successful. If she’s not 100% invested in it wholeheartedly, she should probably reconsider.

 

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

For me, entrepreneurship is a way to combine my interests into a focused, meaningful impact. I personally feel that I am lucky to have been born into such a loving family with so many opportunities presented to me, so I feel that it’s my responsibility to enable others to achieve too.

Social entrepreneurship is my passion because offers unique business solutions to many of the common social issues we see today. I’ve seen business models that aim to house the homeless, employ the disabled, and rehabilitate those coming out of prison, so I have faith that business can mean more than adding to the bottom line.

 

Thanks, Daniela! XOXO, HCND

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