One of the consistent things we hear from home-based agents is how travel was always in their blood and has always been their career choice. Not so with Kimberly Kane, president of Greenville, IN-based Personal Travel Inc. (www.personaltravelonline.com). "I had worked in real estate and retail," she says, "when one day, I passed an agency with a 'Help Wanted' sign in the window. So I went in, had an interview and got the job." Within two years, she was the office manager, and responsible for training new agents. Perhaps it was in her blood after all.
She left the agency and launched her own business in 1999 when she was pregnant with her first child. With the support of her husband, Jeremy, she undertook the challenge of a home-based agency. Kane's memories of those early years are not all pleasant. "Many suppliers wouldn't even look at me," she recalls. "It was a real challenge in the beginning."
Little by little, however, they came around. In particular, Kane fostered a strong relationship with Sandals, and became one of the supplier's preferred agencies and top producers.
All-inclusives are a specialty of Personal Travel, with destination weddings a key revenue source. Kane is also looking to capitalize on the current trend of multi-generational travel.
"All-inclusives make sense to me, rather than a cruise, for example, because you make money off the entire package," she says. "So your commission is better."
Today, Personal Travel serves as host agent for four independent contractors and Kane says she is actively on the lookout for more. Meanwhile, Kane has taken her home business to new heights of success. "In our nearly 10 years in business, we have grown to be one of the top 10 producing agents in the surrounding 15-county area, which includes Louisville, KY," she says. More to the point of her success is the fact that an impressive 63 percent of her business is repeat or referral. To further capitalize on that, Personal Travel offers a rewards program for referrals, where clients receive points for a referral that converts into a booked trip.
Not that Kane is resting on her laurels. In fact, she is ramping up Personal Travel's marketing with some bold new initiatives. "We've made a huge shift from direct-mail and phone-book advertising to the Internet and e-mail marketing," she says. "We've got a strong web presence, and that will get stronger since we relaunched the site at the end of June. We're actually getting business from all over the country now."
In addition, Kane still builds business the old-fashioned way—networking and personal contact. She hits all the regional bridal shows, community events, festivals and so on, making contacts and forging relationships.
In her spare time—what little there is—Kane is dedicated to her family (husband, son and daughter) and her church, Greenville Christian, where she is active as an elementary minister teaching children as well as producing, plays, pageants and music events. "If I'm not at work, I'm at church," she says.
Or traveling. Although most of her travel is work-related, she does enjoy spending time alone or with her family in St. Lucia, which she calls "the little Hawaii of the Caribbean." She recommends it to her clients as well—and strongly suggests the all-inclusive. —Michael Browne