Starting your own travel business may sound daunting but it brings with it a wealth of opportunities that salaried employment just can’t beat. Flexibility, being able to work from anywhere and juggling a family or other interests are just a few reasons why many take the leap of faith to go solo.
As we celebrate women this month across South Africa, we’ve taken a closer look at setting up shop as a #womentrepeneur by chatting to two FlightSiteAgents who’re doing it for themselves. Go sisters!
Tessie van Schalkwyk: 30 year old from Cape Town. Founder of Travelbug
After school Tessie opted out of studying to take some time off and travel the world. Having visited 100 cities in three years she got the travel bug bad, but, upon returning to South Africa went into corporate life. Luckily her passion for travel had made a major impression on her and, in 2015, she launched her own business. She focuses on building trusted relationships with her corporate clients by specialising in day to day requirements and large group travel logistics.
As a young #womentrepreneur Tessie says that the travel industry is suited to someone with a personal touch, care for others and a high level of service. This is a natural fit for females and is why she believes ladies have an advantage in the industry.
As an independent agent, she’s also free to do as she pleases: she can work from anywhere and enjoys the freedom of managing her own time. While there is no such thing as a typical day for Tessie she always checks in on her travellers for that specific day, ensures finances are up-to-date and surfs to see on what’s going on in travel across the globe.
Starting her business was relatively easy; she didn’t need any start-up capital thanks to FlightSiteAgent’s free-to-register platform and quickly set up a website and Facebook page. This meant she was operational literally in a few days and could start building her brand.
For anyone following in her footsteps she advises that it mustn’t be done for the sake of it; travel and service must be a passion and something you love doing every day, all day. When the buck stops with you, it’s key that you eat, sleep and breathe your business and that clients can feel your enthusiasm for your industry as that builds trust and relationships.
Zinhle Isima: 36 year old from Durban and co-owner of E-ticketnet.
A specialist luxury coach travel, events and sports tickets travel agent, E-ticketnet was co-founded by Zinhle and her husband in 2001. Its typical clients are inbound/outbound travellers who are largely government institutions, corporates and foreign nationals living across the country.
A mother of four, Zinhle says that as a #womentrepreneur she does experience the challenges of being an independent agent as she often attends workshops or meetings, works late hours or makes time for her own personal development. But, with her husband’s support, she takes turns to manage the kids as well as the business.
FlightSiteAgent has also been a huge help and, after joining two years ago, she says it is an essential partner as a travel agent because it provides complete support to its agents including training workshops.
Zinhle’s attitude towards starting a travel business is wise. She advises that success in any business is not due to spontaneous combustion or luck; it requires a sound, well-thought out plan and passion to make it work. To be successful as a travel agent recognising, exploiting and creating opportunities is critical as is working hard to accomplish goals.
But even with this approach, she says that challenges are inevitable and more so in service-related businesses like travel. However, with time and persistence, Zinhle says these challenges can be overcome.
Resilience and passion aside, she says that being a people’s person is also a necessity to work in the travel industry as engaging with multi-racial and lingual clients is the norm. As is having a vision of where you want to take your business while also ensuring that an eye is kept firmly on the ground to keep up with industry changes such as technology.
Tessie and Zinhle are just two of 3909 female FlightSiteAgents who are enjoying the freedom of being independent and doing things their way. To follow in their footsteps visit www.flightsiteagent.co.za to sign-up to become a member and follow on www.facebook.com/flightsiteagent and @flightsiteagent for weekly specials, deals and tips.