As 2023 draws to a close, we’re shining the spotlight on some of our business owners who’ve recently celebrated, or are fast approaching, their first anniversary as a Travel Counsellor to find out how their lives have changed.
First up is Mairead Devine, who joined in November 2022 via our Travel Academy programme. She previously worked in the non-profit sector running a National Lottery-funded project. After having a baby, Mairead wanted to chase her dream of running her own travel business, after toying with the idea for some time.
Read on to find out why being a Travel Counsellor has transformed Mairead’s life in ways she “could never have imagined”.
Hi Mairead! Why did you decide to change careers?
I’ve always loved travel and planning. I’m a bit of a control freak! I’ve been organising trips for years, not just for myself, but for others as well. I was the go-to planner among my family and friends. People have always said to me “You should do this as a career”.
I didn’t think it could ever become a reality. But, after having my little girl in December 2021, and thinking about returning to work the next year, I knew I didn’t want to go back to my old job. I wanted to do something I loved every day. I knew if I didn’t do it then, I would never do it. I wanted to build something of my own, a future for my family, and also show my daughter that you can be anything you want to be. The time was right, and it just felt like it was meant to be.
What was it that attracted you to Travel Counsellors? Did you look at other franchises?
To be honest, I didn’t really look at other franchises. I had looked at Travel Counsellors a few years before. As much as I would have loved to have done it then, it just didn’t seem possible. I just put it to the back of my mind. When I started thinking about it again, I didn’t look anywhere else. Travel Counsellors had stuck in my head and I went straight back there. I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was that made me choose Travel Counsellors. I just knew it was the one for me. Something just drew me to it and here I am. I’m a firm believer in gut feelings and from the first impression, I knew it was the right place.
How did you feel when you launched your business twelve months ago?
I was nervous but excited! Stepping out of my comfort zone and taking on something completely new scared me. At the same time, I couldn’t wait for what was to come. I’ve always dreamt of working in travel and running my own business, so for it to be finally happening was so exciting. It was literally a dream coming true. I suppose the fear of failure was there (and still is in the back of my mind). But it’s far outweighed by the satisfaction, the contentment, and the excitement of doing something I’ve always wanted to do.
How have you grown your business and customer base?
Word of mouth and referrals have been a huge aspect of growing my business. At the very beginning, I asked family and friends to spread the word and pass on my details to their networks, as well as having them sign up to my contact centre. That gave me a solid base to begin with, and from there, my name has spread.
Social media has also been massive for me. I launched my Facebook and Instagram pages when I started the training and can’t believe how well they’ve taken off. From the offset, I started to receive a lot of enquiries through these channels, even from complete strangers. Since then, it has snowballed. These customers have then in turn referred me and shared my page, and I have grown my business quite a lot already thanks to this.
What’s the support from head office been like?
From the beginning, I’ve received great support from head office. There are people specialising in different aspects, such as business coaching and marketing. I know if I need anything I can contact the relevant department, and someone will get straight back to me. It’s great having that specialist support, and it was one of the big reasons why I chose Travel Counsellors. Although I’m an independent franchisee running my own business, it doesn’t feel like that in terms of the support I have available to me. It’s very much a team effort and I’m so grateful for that.
How would you describe the tech and systems at Travel Counsellors?
The systems we use at Travel Counsellors are great. They’re really easy to navigate. A lot of my initial training was focused on the booking system, Phenix, and I’ve found no issues using it. The myTC app is great as well. It’s really simple to use and a great selling point for customers. Having something that makes us stand out from competitors and is so user-friendly is brilliant!
What’s the best thing about being a Travel Counsellor?
The best part for me is getting to do something I love every single day. Yes, there are tough times and stressful days, but the good far outweighs the bad. It’s so much more than a business. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s a way of life. It’s who I am. I’m getting the chance to experience things I could only have imagined.
The flexibility has also been such a big thing for me, particularly with a young family. Being able to decide when I work means if my little girl needs to go to an appointment, or is sick and can’t go to creche, then I can be there for her. Simple things like that are so important.
Having something that is mine is something that has given me a lot of satisfaction. I’ve never really had anything I’ve been so passionate about, except travel. My friends and family have jobs they love, or hobbies they’re into, and now I finally feel like I have that too. It’s like I’m doing something that I was always meant to do.
Also, I love the amazing opportunities that you’re given. From the training, supplier events, FAM trips, and community events - it has gone above and beyond anything I ever expected. I’ve been so grateful for it. Especially as an Academy Travel Counsellor, it has been so important in being able to learn as much as I can about the industry, and getting to experience things I never imagined I would have. I would encourage everyone to take full advantage of everything they’re offered as it can make such a huge difference to your business and own development.
What advice would you give to anyone who’s thinking of becoming a Travel Counsellor?
Do it! I would 100% recommend it. I don’t have anything negative to say about Travel Counsellors. Coming from a non-travel background, in my 30s, with a young family, I didn’t think it would ever be possible. But it’s changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.
Just how much has your life changed over the past year?
It may sound silly, but Travel Counsellors has given me something I didn’t even know I was missing. Yes, I’ve opened my own travel business, which in itself is a dream come true, but it’s so much more than that. Even though I’m working from home on my own every day, I actually feel like part of a team. I have more friends at work now than I did in any of my old office-based jobs.
After having my baby, looking after her, and running a house, going back to work overwhelmed me. I’m sure a lot of people will agree, but when you have a child, you lose yourself a bit and it can be hard to feel like you’re more than just a mummy or a daddy. Without Travel Counsellors, I genuinely feel like I would be struggling with that. It has given me something that is mine.
I’ve been given some of the most incredible opportunities already in this first year. Every day, I’m so grateful for those opportunities and for the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve made genuine friends who I know I’ll be friends with for a very long time. At the start, the community was spoken about a lot. I’ll be honest, I was sceptical as to whether it would really be as close-knit as it was made out to be. However, it really couldn’t be truer. The sense of community is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
My life has changed completely in this last year. I couldn’t imagine not doing this now. I can’t describe how glad I am that I made this leap. This is just the beginning of something amazing and I’m beyond excited for what’s still to come!
Where would you like to be a year from now? If, like Mairead, you want to run a travel business you can be proud of while being part of an inclusive community where you’ll be supported every step of the way, we can make your vision a reality. Fill out our short enquiry form and we’ll be in touch to find out more about you and your ambitions. It’s your turn to build the future you’ve always dreamt of.