“Dorothy Varney: Seasons of Success,” Ensign, Feb. 1987, 60–61
Hard work and success are no strangers to Dorothy Varney of Auburn, California. This dignified, soft-spoken woman has started two successful companies in the past ten years and is now at work on her third career.
A wife and mother of four, Sister Varney spent her younger years immersed in raising her children and being a homemaker, thoroughly contented with her busy life in the Los Angeles area. At age 50, with one teenager left at home and a husband facing early retirement, she suggested to her husband that she get a job. Much to her surprise, he agreed.
“I felt like everybody’s mother as I was interviewed by pretty, young secretaries,” she remembers, laughing. “So I decided that I would do something on my own, although I wasn’t sure what it would be. One day, while giving directions to someone from out of town, it suddenly hit me that I had been doing this all of my life. I was always the person people called to find out what interesting places were nearby and how to get there.”
Sister Varney began giving customized tours to small groups of tourists, taking clients in her own car and doing the narration herself. “Custom Mini Tours,” as she named the fledgling company, gradually expanded to using a station wagon, then a van, and then two vehicles driving in tandem, with Sister Varney pointing out the sights with a CB radio. As the business continued to grow, she began offering bus tours, with sometimes as many as twenty buses on different tours at the same time.
“As a tour guide, I had many opportunities to share the gospel,” she says. “I always kept pamphlets in the car to hand out to anyone who expressed an interest. Whenever the itinerary made it feasible, I would drive past the Los Angeles Temple and point it out. I always mentioned that if the group was interested in spending an hour at the Visitors’ Center, I wouldn’t charge for the time we spent there.”
The growth of her tour business brought Sister Varney in contact with tour agents for large cruise-ship lines. They needed a passenger-greeting service, she learned, someone to meet large groups of passengers at the airports, transport them to the docks, and get them settled comfortably on board the cruise ships.
That need prompted the birth of “Your Reps,” Sister Varney’s second business, which represented several cruise lines.
“Sometimes our schedule was quite hectic. We would no sooner finish with one large group than we would have to change into the blazers of a different line and start all over again with another group.” “Your Reps” flourished, eventually employing sixty people in three cities. Although running both businesses placed demands on her time and energies, Sister Varney always found time for her family and her Church callings, including Relief Society president three times and seminary teacher for several years.
“The Church has certainly influenced my business dealings with people,” says Sister Varney. “In starting my businesses, I sought guidance from the Lord every step of the way. Because I was fulfilling my Church callings, I had the confidence and leadership skills to accomplish the things I did.”
On the other hand, she feels her business experience has made her more effective in her Church callings. “The more people you meet, the better understanding you have of their problems. Becoming more open and tolerant has helped me in the counseling and teaching I have done in the Church.”
When Brother Varney retired seven years ago from his job as an electrical engineer, they sold the tour business and moved to northern California, where he went into partnership with one of their children. Two years ago they sold “Your Reps.”
But Sister Varney, who prefers to be self-employed, hasn’t slowed down. She has launched into a third career—writing.
“I’ve always wanted to be a free-lance writer,” she explains. And, true to form, she has approached it seriously, taking classes on the techniques of writing and selling newspaper and magazine articles.
For the last five years, Sister Varney has been writing a travel column for a local monthly newspaper, and she sold her first article to a major newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. She is now working on a book.
“When I was a young mother with small children, I couldn’t see beyond the immediate, constant demands on my time,” says Sister Varney. “I couldn’t possibly imagine that my life would ever be different or that I would still feel young and vital after my babes were grown and gone.
“Now, from my ‘advanced years,’ it’s easy for me to see that a woman can play many roles. I’m grateful that I played the most important one first—that of being a mother. That role must be played in the early years. You can’t start a family at fifty or sixty, but it’s not a bit too late to launch a career. It makes me want to tell young women, ‘Don’t cheat yourselves. Savor each season.’”