A chance conversation with two home-based travel advisors was a game-changing encounter for Teodor Mihail.
For four years Mihail had been working at a storefront travel agency, and – as it turns out – getting a sense of what it takes to start a business from scratch. He just didn’t know it yet. He developed his own clientele, kept track of his sales, designed his own marketing material, and started his own Facebook business page. “I even paid for business cards out of my pocket.”
At a Transat product launch in 2013, he had a 30-minute chat with two home-based agents. “I thought, ‘could it be?’” Mihail tells Travelweek.
Now 10 years later, Mihail looks back on his decade of running his own agency, Unravel World Travel, for this latest installment of Travelweek’s 50th anniversary series.
“After graduating from the Travel and Tourism Program at Seneca College in 2009, I got my foot in the door by working at a storefront agency. There, I got trained on how to book the majority of travel products. Starting off in the industry, it was my job to build my clientele from scratch and qualify them for the perfect vacation which will ensure they will be repeat clients. To my surprise, I was good at that and my clientele grew mostly from referrals. I would keep track of my sales using Microsoft Excel, design my own marketing material, and also started my own Facebook business page. I even paid for business cards out of my pocket.
“As time passed, I realized that in order to increase my destination knowledge and experience on what travel products to sell to which clientele, it would take a lot more. It took attending industry events to network with suppliers, as well as hands-on travel experiences. I was never introduced to FAM trips nor travel agent rates, I would only learn from personal trips.
“In September 2013, I attended Transat’s Winter Product Launch event where I met two agents who told me they were running their own business, affiliated with a host agency. That sparked my interest. I asked them what it takes to run a travel agency, and what a host agency is. After all, aren’t costs extremely high to run a business? I spent 30 minutes talking to them about this topic, and that was a game changer. I thought ‘could it be?’
“Reflecting on the last four years, I realized that everything I had been doing was what those agents told me. The only difference would be, I would work 100% remote, and if I needed help, head office would just be a call away. The only costs would be a one-time fee to join, a fixed monthly management fee and any marketing expenses would be on me.
“I decided to take the plunge. I searched ‘how to start your own travel agency’, and came across Centre Holidays, a host agency consisting of over 250 agents across Canada. I was worried about two things: marketing expenses and client acquisition to cover the costs. The wonderful management at Centre Holidays made me realize that marketing expenses can be kept to a minimum (sometimes $0 per month) and client acquisition is simple as long as I attract the right clients. They would certainly assist and train me on anything I was not familiar with. And the best thing: unlimited vacation. When I’m away, I can ask another one of over 250 Centre Holidays agents to cover for me. I was sold!
“On Nov. 15, 2013, I opened the doors to my own home-based business: Unravel World Travel, a travel agency with a mission to inspire continuous love of travel by unravelling the world as your endless destination. This is made possible by my love of travel, and having travelled to over 40 countries. Since then, my travel experience has grown significantly. I’ve networked with a lot more suppliers and been invited to many industry events and FAM trips. This is what it takes to become a full-time travel professional who is busy with many clients. It’s not easy, but the time and effort were worth it!”
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