Paula is one of our longest-serving Travel Counsellors, having been a business owner for over two decades. She’s also a huge champion of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. Over the years, she’s seen our business evolve and our community grow.
We caught up with her to hear more about her journey, and to recognise the importance of taking time this Black History Month to reflect on what more society can do to ensure that race isn’t a barrier to success.
What, or who, inspired you to set up your own travel business?
I wasn’t happy in my previous role at a high street travel agency, and I was looking for something else. I caught up with Lisa Hillyard, who had already joined Travel Counsellors. I went for an interview at the old head office in Bolton, and I was instantly sold, so I went for it!
How do you find the Travel Counsellors community?
I feel at home at Travel Counsellors – so much so that I’ve stayed for 23 years! The company has changed a lot during my time here, and I always knew it was going to grow. A business as superb as Travel Counsellors was never going to stay the same. There were only around 150 people in the business when I first started, and it’s been great to see the community build and strengthen over the years. The Travel Counsellors community is just incredible. My fellow Travel Counsellors walk the front line with me every day.
How have you grown your business?
For me, it’s making it about people, and being non-transactional. My relationships with my customers are built on care, honesty and trust, as well as being assertive.
What’s the best thing about being a Travel Counsellor?
The best thing is that I get to run my own business. I can ‘strut my stuff’ my way, albeit with guidance from a community of amazing professionals. I can bloom, flourish, and be authentically me. I’m empowered to be in charge of my own destiny, my time, and my earnings – what's more exciting than that? It’s like playing the starring role in your own movie.
It’s also opened up many opportunities for me, including taking part in a photoshoot as part of the new Travel Counsellors branding.
Why is Black History Month important to you?
Although it’s celebrated in October, Black History Month should be a focus year-round. For me, it’s a further opportunity to recognise my cultural heritage, and to identify the struggles and successes of people who look like me – both past and present. It’s a chance to reflect, engage, and educate others. I think it’s especially important to educate children, as they are the future. I also like to take the time to recognise the strengths and appreciate the sacrifices that black and brown people have made all around the world so that my generation can have a better future.
What more do you think needs to be done to ensure that race isn't a barrier to success?
My skin colour has never been a barrier to me. I have experienced racism, but not too much. On the same count, I do not speak on behalf of every black or brown person. Racism is being experienced every day. Racism is real.
If you have an issue with the colour of my skin, it is your issue, not mine. Therefore, I don’t need to carry it.
In terms of what more we can do, I tend to find that some people are afraid of what they don’t understand. My advice would be to not judge people and start supporting them. Educate, learn, understand, accept, and tolerate. Personally, I don’t want to spend my life having people focus on my skin colour.
Remember, there is good and bad in all walks of life – black or white. I have friends from lots of cultures and backgrounds, with different skin colours. Maybe a smile or a “good morning” to someone who doesn’t look like you could be a good start!
How does it feel to be a black woman in the travel industry?
As a black woman in travel, I love to explore the world with no barriers. In fact, it’s my mission. I’m well-travelled and I love sending my customers to different places in the world. In some places they look like me, and in others they don’t. Wherever I send them, I hope they come away from their experience more informed and knowledgeable about the destination. I also want them to really enjoy it and be wowed by every aspect of their trip.
Do you want to join a caring and inclusive community of like-minded individuals? A place where you’re free to be authentically you, with no barriers or judgements. A place where differences are celebrated and where you’ll be warmly welcomed with open arms. If you want to be in charge of your own destiny while feeling a sense of true belonging, we want to hear from you. Get in touch for a chat with our friendly New Franchise team.