Director of Beyond The Wander, Becs Sanders made the move four years ago and has just started a catering pop-up. She spoke to Juliet Dennis.
Q. How did you get into travel?
A. I worked in TV for the BBC for eight or so years on production and when I left at the end of 2014, I had just turned 30 and decided to go and work in Vancouver. But first I did a yoga retreat in Aruba, then I went to an island called Roatán, off Honduras – where I did my divemaster training. I had a holiday visa for Canada so I did temporary work in hospitality and retail. While I was away I inherited a house in Frodsham, Cheshire. I hadn’t lived there since I was 18.
I had never considered working at a travel agency, but when I moved back, I got a job at the Travel Lab in Frodsham. I had a different background to other agents and all my travel had been long-haul and that was lacking in the team. I started working part-time and ended up being there for two years until the end of 2018.
“I had never considered working at a travel agency, but when I moved back, I got a job at the Travel Lab in Frodsham.”
Q. Why did you set up on your own?
A. I always wanted to set up my own business and I knew if I went back to TV I would never end up leaving. I didn’t want to be on the high street and I wanted it to be bespoke and my style. I’m not a huge sales person, so it’s always been more about the experience and connecting with other people. I wanted to encapsulate that and stick to values that are important to me.
I launched in July 2019. I joined Protected Trust Services as they offered me the most flexibility while offering financial protection. I spent the first six months networking and building up relationships with operators and destination management companies. I was gaining momentum in the latter half of last year and I had some nice bookings for this year when Covid happened.
“I was gaining momentum in the latter half of last year and I had some nice bookings for this year when Covid happened.”
Q. How have you coped this year?
A. I have a great network of other independent agents who were always on the end of the phone. I have worked for free all year. I have a very supportive family and put my house on Airbnb and moved to my parents’ house during the first lockdown. I knew it was going to take time to build the business and wasn’t expecting to earn a huge amount, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for this year. I managed to get a few clients away over the summer.
A lot of my clients are older and understandably feel quite wary of travelling until they feel safe. I have found it stressful at times but I try to take the positives out and I have been able to reflect a lot this year. Other agents with really established businesses have been a lot worse off than me.
“I knew it was going to take time to build the business and wasn’t expecting to earn a huge amount, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for this year.”
Q. How does your new food business operate?
A. The idea is we create sharing food boards. We decided to do it on a Monday and by Friday we had sent them to family to try. My friend Nina had her own catering company years ago and she is an amazing cook. I do the desserts and the business logistics, and get the bookings. I chose the name as I wanted to keep it tied in with my travel agency. I’ve always thought I would like to expand the business. Beyond The Wander was supposed to be about more than just holidays. We take the food, with the wooden boards and candles, to people’s homes. We are doing it for £20 a head for mains. Mainly so far it’s been couples and the types of dishes we do vary from homemade pate, coleslaw and blue cheese dips to beef, Yorkshire puddings, ribeye steaks and spicy vegetable curry. It’s mezze, tapas-style food with tastes from all over the world.
“I chose the name as I wanted to keep it tied in with my travel agency. I’ve always thought I would like to expand the business.”
Q. What has the response been like?
A. The feedback so far has been amazing. It’s just for people locally but we are getting interest from a bit farther afield. We are only doing Fridays and Saturdays at the moment; it’s such a new project. During the week we try to get bookings and prep the food. Everything we deliver is designed to be eaten at room temperature. It’s almost like a mini restaurant experience!
Why did you set up Beyond The Board?
It all started because we had some socially distanced garden parties.
My friend Nina and I did a surprise picnic for our friends before the second lockdown. A friend said “you need to do this” [as a business] because it was so special.
This is our opportunity to see if it works. We will do it until the new year and then reassess. Nine has done food safety training and we’re extremely hygiene conscious.
I am not making much money at the moment and payments for Beyond The Board are immediate whereas with travel you make the transaction but might not make the money for six months to a year.
It’s really been a nice way to end the year. It’s given me a boost and been a great experience.
I love travel but it’s unstable at times so it’s not a bad thing to have another side-line. I don’t want to give up on Beyond The Wander.