Director, Love 2 Travel, Shrewsbury

Leighann Kirby is more than just a travel agent. As well as running her own appointment-only, boutique agency, the 2012 Mumpreneur Award winner is creating space in her new premises to mentor students on becoming an entrepreneur

Q: You have recently moved into new premises and are using them in an innovative way. Tell us more.
I was working from home and wanted to expand and have an office. I was planning to move this year but this property came up last year so I went for it. It’s a beautiful old Victorian building, just off the town’s walls but a little hidden from the main street. It’s got two offices and a big reception meeting room that I would like to turn into a central hub within 12 months. We have got a big breakfast bar and workstation for laptops and we are getting comfy chairs. I would like to have students come in and see what real life is like as an entrepreneur. It would be lovely to take them under my wing, train them and let them follow me for a year or so and then go off and do it themselves.

Q: What experience do you have of mentoring young people?
A: I work in Shrewsbury High School once a week and mentor 36 girls who want to be entrepreneurs and have to set up their own company as part of their business course. I am also giving a career talk at the local college and have been asked to get involved in Big Ideas Wales, part of the Welsh Assembly.

Q: What do you hope to achieve by offering this mentoring scheme?
A: My aim is to give something back to the younger generation. I have two sons aged 13 and 18. Not all children have the same support at home. I want to be able to help children if they want to see what it’s like in a real-life business. People have become addicted to their smartphones and think they can do everything on there, so I want to show them about how important customer service is. People still like face-to-face interaction; the internet doesn’t always tell you about the pitfalls, whereas when you go into a shop you can get advice. We can get to know our customers and remember their birthdays – computers don’t do that.

Q: You also support the charity, Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (Pandas). What does that involve and why do you support this particular charity?
A: I experienced it with my first child but it wasn’t talked about then. I have also had friends who have suffered from it too. It’s really sad to see and has become so common. I have been involved in a couple of charity nights and allowed the use of my offices for their events.

Q: How do you balance your mentoring and charity work with your day job?
A: I have a diary. I do my school work on Wednesdays and Fridays. At the moment I have 10 enquiries on the go which have all come in this week. I can get calls at 10.30pm and I have to make a judgement on whether to take them;if I’m not busy I don’t mind. At weekends it’s purely the kids. I made the mistake of working 24/7 in the past and I didn’t have any time for my children but now I have a balance. I always finish at 3pm and am at home with my kids until 5pm, and then I can go back to doing work after tea. Working for a supportive consortium helps as I can ring up for any help that I need.

Q: How do you promote your business?
A: I don’t advertise, it’s just through word of mouth and recommendations. I don’t even have a website. I just have a Facebook page and my mobile phone and people give my number out left, right and centre.

Leighann’s sales tips

Tip 1: Listen to clients: Take the time to listen to what their holiday needs are.
Tip 2: Focus on customer service: Personal service is key.
Tip 3: Pick the right consortium: For me, Global is the best – if I need help, they are there for me.

Leighann’s CV

2014 to date: director, Love 2 Travel, Shrewsbury
2010-13: Travel Counsellors, Shrewsbury
2009-10: travel consultant, Thomson