Five years ago Carolyn Park decided to take the plunge and set up her own ‘one-manband’ travel agency.
“My best friend badgered me into doing it,” she says. “He said I could do it myself. I wasn’t sure but I would rather go down trying than not try at all so I went for it!
“I never really knew what I wanted to do. I fell into travel but I loved it.”
Carolyn had already worked as a travel agent and had bags of competitive instinct – she used to compete internationally in dressage and readily admits she doesn’t like “coming second” – which spurred her on to succeed.
Working out of her “executive” garden shed as a member of the Freedom Travel Group, she started from scratch to build up a client base, using the local branch of Business Network International to spread the word.
“I had 30 people looking out for business for me while I looked for them. That got the company off the ground.”
After just a year, Carolyn’s business had outgrown the shed and she needed an extra pair of hands.
As luck would have it, the former post office across the road was being renovated. A word in the ear of the owner and Carolyn had secured new premises.
“He was going to turn the Post Office into flats,” recalls Carolyn, whose quick thinking gained her the business opportunity she needed.
“There is only a pub, us and a coffee shop, but there is parking right outside. You can’t buy a pint of milk in the village but you can book a holiday!”
The agency now employs five staff and has steadily grown from breaking even in its first year to being profitable every year since, with around 80% of clients now repeat customers or referrals.
It has even launched a new brand, Tee The World, a golfing specialist, run by Carolyn’s partner Tim Worrell.
To celebrate five years, the agency held a party on the Great Britain ship in Bristol, with 13 suppliers and 160 clients.
“We just wanted to say thank you to clients and operators but everyone was swapping stories and their ‘bucket lists’ were growing!”
There’s also another reason to visit C The World. It is home to one of VisitEngland’s specially commissioned Gromit sculptures.
‘Gromvoyage’, painted to look like an old fashioned suitcase, has become an attraction in itself since Carolyn bought it at auction for £20,000 in 2013.
“People come from all over to take a look. He is very cool!”