Meet Katie Kirk, successful business owner and mum of four-year-old Max, who decided to leave her high-flying career in marketing when she began planning to start a family. Katie was looking for a career opportunity that would give her the flexibility and time to be the mum she wanted to be. She’s now been running her own successful travel business from home for 6 years and she is one of our top performing ‘Gold’ Travel Counsellors.
Tell us a little bit about your career before Travel Counsellors.
I’ve worked in travel since leaving school and trained at Lunn Poly before completing a teaching qualification. I then went on to train and develop other travel agents. After that, I started working for the Manchester Airport Group and they put me through my marketing CIM degree. I worked my way up to be Marketing Manager, working with all Airlines, Tour Operators and supporting travel agents.
Why did you decide to leave all that behind?
My husband and I wanted to start a family, and we couldn’t do that if I was going to continue commuting up to two hundred miles a day – not if I was going to be the sort of mum I wanted to be.
What attracted you to Travel Counsellors?
I already knew about Travel Counsellors through my previous experience working at the airport group and all the people I had spoken to there were lovely. There’s a really nice company ethos and I knew that if I ever made the decision to go out on my own I would do it through them.
Did you have any concerns about starting your own business?
Of course, it was a frightening decision. I was leaving behind a very good job which was brilliant and well paid. I gave up my car, my phone and my salary so that I could on build my own business from scratch. There were no guarantees that it was going to work, but I knew I had to give it a go because I wanted a family, but I still needed to make money.
How has it worked out for you?
I joined Travel Counsellors in February about six years ago. At our Annual Conference in November, I won the ‘Best Newcomer’ award and I’d made a turnover of half a million pounds by that time.
How have you found the change?
It’s been going really well. I’ve just been getting busier and busier, and my business has grown year on year. I got pregnant in my second year, but it didn’t hinder my business at all – it grew again that year! When Max was born I thought I would slow down, but again the business grew that year and I become a ‘Gold’ Travel Counsellor.
I love what I do, and I don’t miss out on anything. It’s been amazing. I couldn’t do it without my husband or grandparents – I have amazing support from them and they’re brilliant. It doesn’t feel like a job – it all works so well around Max.
Is this a career path you’d recommend to other working mums?
Yes, absolutely. I started my own business even with a house move, a baby and a wedding.
I work hard, but I’m there for bedtime every night and I can help out on trips. Max is four now so he’s at nursery twice a week. Last week they had a Mother’s Day breakfast – there weren’t a lot of mums there because a lot of them were working and it was at 10am on a Wednesday. It was great that I was able to be there.
Can you describe a typical day for you?
Max. Work. Relax.
No two days are the same. On Mondays, I have a day out with Max. He goes to his grandparents on Tuesdays, and then on Friday mornings I look after his two little cousins as well. It sometimes feels like a nursery here!
I always try to go to the gym two or three times per week, so I can get up early and go before Max gets up. When I get back I wake the boys up and we all have breakfast together. After that I take him to nursery – I’ll work until 4pm when I go and pick him up. We’ll spend some time together, have tea, bath, stories and bedtime. He goes down at about 7 o’clock, so I catch up with my emails and do a bit of work. I try not to work past 9pm so that my husband and I can spend some time together.
Is it easy to strike the perfect balance between work and family?
It’s actually easier than you think. I always put my family first. I’m honest about that with my clients, but it works well. A lot of my clients prefer the hours I work because they also work and have children, so they want to spend time with their families too.
Do you have any tips for other mums who are thinking about starting their own home-based business?
Don’t think that you’ll be tied to an office. As long as you have your phone with you and your clients can get in touch with you, it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at a desk or you’re out and about.
Get yourself out and meet new people. It’s how I get a lot of my business – I just get talking to people when I’m with Max.
If you’re going to be successful, it’s important that you enjoy what you do. You’ve got to love it.
Go for it!