Maureen has achieved her Money-Back Challenge with time to spare and has even shot past the target. Despite a pandemic, in the year she had to achieve her target and after catching COVID-19, she’s a story of sheer determination.
Meet Maureen Mckenna, aged 48, who lives in Glasgow with her family. After being Cabin Crew for 11 years, she decided she wanted something to call her own. As a single parent raising 3 children, the chance of a better work/life balance was what caught her eye and the rest is, as they say, history.
I paid £15,000 for this business. With the Money-Back Challenge (MBC), I’m going to get it all back.
Essentially I built a successful, reputable travel business for free.
This week Maureen is sunning it up in Tenerife (living in Scotland, she was able to get away). Despite being on a well-deserved break, Maureen is more than happy to take my call and share her incredible story.
Showcasing the lifestyle of a travel consultant before the interview even begins, Maureen says, ‘I’m just finishing up a customer’s quote and then I’ll head down to the pool.’
Tell us about some of the holiday bookings you saw come in this year?
Up in Scotland, there’s a tradition for teenagers once exams are over, it’s called the 6th-year holiday. It’s the first time these teenagers get to go away without their parents.
I had said to my youngest Anna, ‘When you do this I want to book it for you.’ My daughter has lots of friends at school so that was a big help.
I said to my daughter, ‘I’ll pay for your holiday if you put a post on Instagram about it.’ The truth was I was paying for it anyway.
Once Anne posted on Instagram it really snowballed from there. There is a real fear of missing out amongst youngsters, otherwise known as “FOMO”. Her boyfriend is also going and there are 19 of his friends who all wanted to go and booked through me.
These teenagers were talking about it so much on social media that I started to get bookings from parents at other schools.
Throughout June and July 2020 I did over 35 bookings, just from this one initiative!
The parents who did contact me felt so reassured that I was looking out for their children and for everyone else in their class, it gave them confidence in the booking.
Speaking to mums as a mum myself was what they needed most. I talked about safety in numbers, explained that I would sort the transfers, hotel, everything so they were in safe hands.
The parents said to me, ‘You’ve really taken all this worry out my hands, thank you.’
I had a few parents contact me saying they had found a cheap deal online. My response was, ‘I don’t price match with online sites who don’t offer the same level of service.’
I used the Not Just Travel supplier ‘Classic Packages’ for all the bookings and they were awesome. I built a great relationship with this supplier, as I was always on the phone with them.
Off the back of that, I’ve had bookings for parents of the kids who I did the Magaluf booking for, asking for their next family holiday.
It escalates so quickly once people start talking about you, as long as you keep delivering a great service.
What would your 3 top tips be for reaching the Money Back Challenge?
1) Don’t pigeonhole yourself in a luxury holiday market because you think you’ll earn more
Some people start their travel business pitching only to the high-end market. I think this approach results in missing out on the other opportunities that come around. I’ve done the high-end bookings, I did a £26,000 booking on the day I got a positive test result for COVID-19. But I would never turn my nose up to a cheap all-inclusive package holiday.
2) Know your value and don’t be quick to offer discounts on bookings
You can still discount on the odd occasion when you feel like you have a long-term customer in the making and it’s their first-ever booking with you. But I don’t discount subsequent holidays when they come back.
3) Just get out there, don’t shy away, always be visible both offline & online
This year so many travel agents were saying, ‘I don’t feel comfortable talking about holidays during a pandemic.’ I continued to post every day on Facebook during the lockdown and throughout the whole year. Even when times were tough I still was at the forefront of people’s minds.
A lot of my bookings initially came from friends and family, but I also tried networking groups, like BNI and a Glasgow group. I felt a bit lost, to be honest, they were far too big for me. So, I’ve since focused on “Women in business” and “More business anyone?” which I prefer.
I have 3 children who all went through school, and were part of various after school clubs such as drama and sports. I ended up naturally meeting a lot of parents and they’ve all become customers of mine or at least are aware of what I do.
Without this approach, I wouldn’t have made the Money-Back Challenge.
Why did you choose The Travel Franchise over a year ago?
I did lots of research before joining. One of my brothers is a very successful businessman and I ran it all past him.
I told him what I’d been thinking and why The Travel Franchise really stood out to me. We watched the video tour together.
The first thing that appealed to me was the opportunity for work/life balance and being your own boss.
I have been a single parent for many years now of my 3 beautiful children. Their dad unfortunately passed away after we separated and it’s not been easy for them.
They are such good kids, so resilient and supportive of me.
Naturally, kids can push boundaries, you have the stress of exams, and everything else that goes on with being a ‘teenager’, I think it’s sometimes harder than when they were younger. I needed the flexibility to accommodate the demands of having children.
I spoke to Paul Harrison the Co-Founder, he was so transparent and very up-front about everything, I really liked the whole approach.
What would you say to others out there considering joining?
I would recommend it to anyone. It’s hard work, but that’s the same with any business. Going with The Travel Franchise and Not Just Travel the level of support is phenomenal.
It’s not like starting your own business from scratch. I don’t think I could start my own travel business and have been as successful as I have been without them.
On the day I had the positive test results through for COVID-19 I was in bed. I could barely open my eyes and I had a customer on the phone who wanted to make a booking. My Partnership Manager Duncan (NB: everyone gets one of these) was so supportive. He completed some of the admin for me on the day as I couldn’t bear to look at my laptop screen.
I paid £15,000 for this business. With the Money-Back Challenge (MBC), I’m going to get £15,000 back. Essentially I built a successful, reputable travel business for free.
My original yearly date to hit the target was in May 2020, but it was extended due to the pandemic. I was so delighted when Steve and Paul extended the MBC, it gave me the time to rebook any cancellations.
I never hard-sell or push for bookings, I just keep in touch with people without looking desperate. I haven’t promoted booking holidays in 2020, I’ve mainly focused on 2021 travel.
Where will you be travelling to next?
I’m on holiday in Tenerife right now. But I’m taking my 3 kids to Thailand in summer 2021.
I had a customer enquire about an offer one of the suppliers was running to Thailand and I realised that I fancy going there so I just went ahead and booked it.
That’s one of the many advantages of being a travel consultant.