Bismarck Start-Up Innovates Travel Industry

Shawn Brannan is a world traveler that enjoys learning about the historical places he visits. While listening to a tour over headphones at a museum in Europe, Shawn confirmed the need for self-guided, expert-led tours that Talking Trail is out to create. “Our goal is to bring the stories and history to life through high-quality audio that is accessible to everyone,” explained Brannan.

 Entrepreneurial Teamwork

Shawn Brannan’s entrepreneurial journey is detailed in a previous Emerging Prairie article about his other company, Pakkage. During an internship in Spain through the University of North Dakota, Brannan felt that the historical sites he visited needed innovation in storytelling. “While I taught in Europe, I was spending the 10-15 euros to listen to museum tours on old-school headphones… I kept thinking that the smartphone in my pocket that could do so much more,” said Brannan.

Talking Trail began as another collaboration with co-founder Marlo Anderson in Bismarck, North Dakota. Upon returning to the United States, Brannan was connected with Anderson through the Incubator for Developing Entrepreneurial Activity by his sister-in-law. Since 2015, Talking Trail has provided tours through the use of QR codes, phone calls, and a mobile app.  “Marlo began with the Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway project in 2015…. now in 2017, our projects include the Jamestown Talking Trail, the Northern Plains Heritage areas and many others that are on our website,” said Brannan.

Blazing a Trail

Brannan believes the future of Talking Trail is the combination of expert-led storytelling and the connection of the mobile app with its various features. “We are becoming the tourism map and application for the State of North Dakota… and eventually South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wyoming with our continued growth,” explained Brannan. Initially, Talking Trail wrote and recorded the scripts for their project locations. Now the Talking Trail team has the project location write their stories and scripts while Talking Trials professionally records and documents them on their app.

On the Talking Trail website, there are several stories to listen to as examples of the expert-led audio-based tours. “One of my favorite stories is of Darin Erstad retelling the 2002 World Series victory with the actual game audio played alongside the story,” shared Brannan. Along with the Erstad story, listeners can hear from the creator of the worlds largest Buffalo, the history of Frontier Village, Travis Hafner’s multiple grand slam season and other stories.

Talking Trail’s goal is to develop state-by-state trails for adventurers to explore in order to earn badges through the mobile app. “We want adventurers to continue to check out where the next adventure will take place… so one trail will lead to the next,” explained Brannan. Currently, Talking Trail is working with museums, zoos and other travel destinations in North Dakota.

Learn more from Shawn Brannan and Talking Trail as he speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Brent McNeal