There may be such a thing as social media oversharing, but Kari Jevert isn’t there yet. She’s loud and proud about her business, All About Vacations in Crown Point, Indiana.
And, she’s not afraid to tell all online.
She calls out competitors (without naming names) who’ve left clients high and dry. She throws shade at shady businessmen. From hotel rooms to spa treatment rooms, pedicures to pub crawls, Jevert provides a veritable travel agency reality show on social media.
Success stories and fam trip adventures tend to predominate her written posts and video feeds. But, she also makes no bones about the more tedious tasks of the trade. Staying at the office past midnight. Working until 3:00 a.m. to put customized final touches on group documents. It all adds up to a surprising life for someone who thought she might retire before the age of 40.
Born and raised in northwest Indiana, Jevert worked as a surgical technician for 10 years. When burnout set in, her next job opportunity came from family.
“I was in my late twenties when I decided to throw in the towel at the hospital. I had many bills. My dad had always wanted me to run his construction business. I read blueprints since I was a little girl. I told him I needed a job and he put me to work. I did the estimates, worked on the books and ran the projects,” said Jevert.
She also traveled as often as she could.
"I wasn't always too popular with my Dad, taking off work when I felt like it. However, at the time I didn't care because I knew my work was done. I would never leave when we were busy breaking ground on a project or had big jobsite meetings,” said Jevert.
During her years in the construction business, Jevert began traveling with a friend from Texas. She was single like Jevert, worked in the oil industry and had lots of vacation.
“We went to Aruba. After that we became best friends. We’d meet at the airports on layovers and then arrive at our destinations together or just see each other when we landed. I went around the world before I became an agent,” said Jevert.
Eventually, her dad retired from the construction business at the age of 84.
"I was 39 and pretty set financially. I was thinking about retiring myself at an early age. Then, I met a custodial dad with two daughters, ages five and seven. Two years later, we got married,” said Jevert.
Jevert was all-in as a full-time stepmom for a year or so. Then, a childhood friend emailed her out of the blue.
“She said her travel agency needed someone to help out. It was a retail agency in town. I told her that I wasn’t a travel agent. Her response was, ‘You’ve been to more places than I have, and I’ve been an agent for twenty years,’” said Jevert.
Jevert agreed to meet the agency owner, after crunching some numbers with her husband.
“My husband and I were spending a lot of money per year on travel. I always joke that if he didn't have five weeks of vacation time each year I wouldn't have married him,” laughed Jevert. Her interview with the agency owner lasted four hours. They talked about trips and shared interests. Jevert was hired on the spot.
At first, she and another agent were the only full-timers in the office. It didn’t take Jevert long to hit her stride, though. The business background from her dad’s construction firm came in handy.
“I was used to doing the books for a multimillion-dollar construction company. Compared to that, the agency was a piece of cake in many ways,” said Jevert.
Before long, Jevert was the lead agent, essentially managing the business. The owner had moved to Florida. Rather than work for an absentee boss, Jevert bought the agency three and a half years ago.
Now, All About Vacations, which is a member of MAST, has a staff of eight agents. Two of them are full time. One is an independent contractor. The rest are part-time employees. The office specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons to the Caribbean and Mexico.
“I’ve been to almost every all inclusive in Mexico and Jamaica,” said Jevert.
Her social media postings readily back up that claim. They also include at least one backstory to a romance that ended up in a Jamaican wedding. (Jevert served as bridesmaid.)
In addition to the all inclusives, Jevert sells escorted tours and FITs to Europe. Favorite suppliers include Worldwide Traveler and Globus. For domestic, Caribbean and Mexico bookings, she’s loyal to Apple Vacations and Funjet Vacations/Mark Travel.
“I consider myself a full-time agent. That’s what I do every day along with the others in office. I don’t feel like an owner, although I guess I have some extra stress,” said Jevert.
Day-to-day stress includes overseeing a web page redesign.
“I’m having a hard time writing my bio, because it’s hard for me to narrow things down. There’s so much I like about this business,” said Jevert.
About a year after she bought the business, her office lease expired with no renewal option. It was in the dead of winter, which added to the headache.
“The office was on a corner that I considered busy. So, we thought it was the end of the world when the lease ended,” said Jevert.
One of her agents recommended another location down the street. The rent was double what they were paying. But, Jevert decided to make the move.
“The space needed work, but, I’m from the construction business. We knocked walls down and put several thousands of dollars into it. We were happy with the results. It’s like a little house. Most of the agents have their own office,” said Jevert.
After the move, the agency’s business doubled.
“We had people coming in to say, ‘Welcome to the neighborhood. We’re happy to have a travel agent in town.’ I said, ‘but we’ve already been in town for years, less than a mile away.’ That was a surprise to realize that people hadn’t noticed us before. I am certainly happy we made the move,” said Jevert.
She stresses that All About Vacations is a team effort.
"We have a really good team of agents. We are all really close like sisters. I take care of them financially to let them know they are appreciated. And we maintain an easy-going work atmosphere,” said Jevert.
She gives a lot of credit to her husband, as well. In fact, she wished him a Happy Mother’s Day on social media. Her reasoning: a breakneck schedule hasn’t left her with much down time for family lately.
“I wouldn’t want to be married to a travel agent. It can be a drain when you least expect it. Last year, I missed Christmas dinner because I was re-routing clients whose flights had been cancelled. I am rarely home for dinner and sometimes even bedtime. I can go days in a row without seeing my family, with late nights at the agency,” said Jevert.
Still, she’s happy to be a role model to her girls, now 15 and 13.
“How many people can say they wake up and can’t wait to get to work? I never thought it would be me, but here I am. I can only hope for the same for the girls. I want them to realize you have to work in life to have nice things and not depend on anyone to take care of you but yourself. My wish is for them to grow up to be very independent like I have,” said Jevert.