How Did You Get Your Start in the Business?

 John CliffordJohn Clifford

International Travel Management

John Clifford transitioned from leisure agent, to corporate agent to agency manger, and then to owning and operating his own La Jolla, CA-based luxury travel company. 

After completing an agent course (and graduating at the top of his class), Clifford started work at an American Express affiliate agency, then staffed the VIP and international desks of corporate travel agencies like Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Maritz Travel.

When he went out on his own, "It took a year for me to develop clientele. The second year I barely survived, and the third year it started to happen."

Amanda KlimakAmanda Klimak

Largay Travel

"As is true with our entire industry, it's all about who you know," says Amanda Klimak, vice president of Waterbury, CT-based Largay Travel. "I had a friend who ran a local travel agency that had a position open for a 'travel agent wannabe.' I eagerly applied, since I had just dropped out of college and was cleaning stalls in a horse barn," she confides. "Even at $6 an hour this was a huge improvement from taking care of Mr. Ed," she jokes. "After a month of training at the AmericanAirlinesLearningCenter in Dallas, I was sure I'd found my calling. That was 19 years ago; I've never looked back." 

Jewell Ramos

Worldview Travel

"I never wanted to do anything but travel," says Jewell Ramos, outside sales consultant for Worldview Travel in Santa Ana, CA. A travel industry veteran for 37 years, Ramos began in the industry as a reservations agent for Avis-Rent-A-Car, and then worked her way up to running the company's international division. Ramos joined her first travel agency in 1977. "From the age of ten I was different—I was the one who wanted to see the world," says Ramos. Typically, Travel Agent caught up with Ramos via cell phone as she sped off towards the airport, bound for Mexico, where her visits number 90-plus.

Jennifer Doncsecz

President, VIP Vacations Inc.

"I started selling travel because I wanted a part-time job and my marketing professor told me that I had to sell what I loved," says Jennifer Doncsecz, president of Whitehall, PA-based VIP Vacations Inc. "I had always loved travel, so it seemed the right fit." She, like all of the agents we queried, found the perfect industry to match her skills and her love of travel.

—Jennifer Merritt, David Eisen, Mark Rogers, Mackenzie Allison, Dan Butcher