Owner Andrea Powell ditched her job as an accountant to follow her dreams in the travel industry. Samantha Mayling paid her a visit.
By her own admission, being an accountant was “tedious” – but travel was her true passion, so at the start of 2014, Andrea Powell switched careers and established her own high street agency.
“I was a finance manager after having qualified with Ernst & Young as a chartered accountant,” recalled Andrea, managing director of Idelo Travel in Ipswich.
“I was bored, and this idea came to me. I had always travelled – every spare day I was away on holiday.”
Her own travels had taken her to the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean – and on 17 cruises.
“I found it tedious doing accountancy. It is a useful background but it was time to move on,” she said.
“Now I talk about holidays every day.”
After finding premises near the town centre, she signed the lease on January 13, 2014.
She oversaw a rapid refurbishment of the half-timbered former clothes shop – which had also had a tea shop upstairs – and opened on February 8.
“For our launch, we had local MP Ben Gummer, and Mark Murphy, a BBC Radio Suffolk presenter, and we got coverage in the local paper,” she recalled.
The name Idelo comes from the phrase “inspire, discover, explore” which features on the agency’s logo.
As Andrea says, she didn’t want to follow convention by using her name or Ipswich, and she wanted to create something unusual.
Her first booking was Majorca with Thomas Cook but most of their business is now long-haul and tailormade – with posters about ‘bucket list’ trips in the window.
Upstairs in the former tea shop is where they hold coffee mornings and supplier events, attended by regular and potential customers.
One recent event was held with Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which attracted 20 members of the public, and others have featured the likes of Intrepid Travel and Titan Travel.
“We want to engage with the brands and show people that you can book them here,” she said.
“We have built up our clientele by word-of-mouth recommendations. I can sell holidays because I talk about holidays.
“It’s been a steep learning curve but I learn by listening – there is no silver bullet, it’s hard work, long hours and weekends. I also read the trade press and do a lot of research, and engage with the operators.
“I just knew how I wanted to be treated as a customer.
“We’re also a member of Advantage – Advantage Managed Services – as they were recommended to me and we could not have done it without them.”
Having celebrated her fifth year in business, she is looking to recruit another member of staff, to join husband Antony and two colleagues, Jeni Dunlop and Sarah Masullo.
“I won’t necessarily recruit someone from travel, as I want to nurture them,” she said.
Ironically, during the first three years, she was so busy that she was unable to travel, but last year she managed to get away.
Two occasions were fam trips, as she visited Thailand with Travelpack and Vietnam with Intrepid Travel, and she also visited Hawaii for her own holiday – with a stopover in Miami to get her regular Disney fix.
Her vision is to build the business to the stage where she can jet off for six months of the year.
Sharing travel stories with clients excites her – and on her days off, she is content to plan her future trips.
“One lady just returned from the Falklands. I arranged that she would be on a beach with king penguins – I want to share those experiences,” she said.
“My next trips will be Universal Studios Orlando, Robbie Williams in Las Vegas and then Australia.
“But we also visit Brancaster in north Norfolk with our two dogs each year.”
Sam’s day at Idelo Travel
I first spoke to Andrea as she’d won top spot in a recent visit by Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper, with a request for a romantic wedding anniversary celebration in the Caribbean.
I was intrigued to discover she was an accountant until five years ago but had been inspired to be a travel agent after taking dozens of holidays around the world.
Even before I visited, she had offered to put the kettle on, and as I sat down, her husband Antony arrived with a plate of chocolate biscuits.
One of the first things you notice are the striking photographs on the walls – they were all taken by Andrea on her travels and feature exotic images such as iguanas in Galapagos and penguins in the Falklands, as well as destinations closer to home, such as Santorini.
They look more like something from an Attenborough documentary than my holiday snaps, and they’re certainly a talking point.
Another talking point is the deckchair in the window display – and the arrival of contented customers to check their travel arrangements or just say thanks for a great trip.
“So many people come in for something special, and I never forget what it means to be a customer,” says Andrea.
“It’s great to see the smile on their faces when they share their experiences with me after their holidays.”
Antony Powell, associate director
My role is… I work three days a week here, dealing with compliance, brochures, regulations and marketing, and two days with an insurance broker as financial manager.
My favourite trip… the Galapagos islands, or London Olympics as we had lots of tickets.
What I love about my job is… marketing and social media, it’s fascinating.
Jeni Dunlop, travel administrator
I’ve been in travel… just over a year. I wanted a change as I decided finance was not for me.
What I love about my job is… marketing, the website and learning about different places.
My dream destination would be… whale watching in Monterey, California.
Sarah Masullo, travel sales consultant
I’ve been in travel… four years. I worked here part-time while on a travel and tourism course at college, then started here full-time.
My favourite trip was… Mexico, for my dad’s 50th birthday.
If I were not a travel agent… I would be involved in dance.
The best part of my job is… booking a dream holiday for a customer, ticking off their bucket list.