The founder of Luxus Travel, Jade Scammells, has set up a craft business to keep her busy until she brings her Kent-based agency out of hibernation in April. Samantha Mayling reports
Q. Why did you set up your home-based agency?
A. I set up Luxus, my independent travel agency, in November 2019 – three months before the pandemic hit. Before Luxus, I worked for National Express and Your Travel, a corporate travel agency in Maidstone that’s part of the Global Travel Group. I started at Your Travel as a leisure travel agent, then moved towards the corporate side. I took up a marketing assistant role at National Express, because it was more about leisure travel. I did that for a year then set up Luxus Travel with Global Travel Group, as I always loved the idea of being my own boss. When I was 18-20, I had an origami business, making wedding bouquets, and I liked controlling the branding and marketing. Last January, having just set up Luxus, I was making bookings and I was really excited and buzzing. The holidays I offered were ‘affordable luxury’: European, four-star and five‑star, plus long-haul. My bookings included a road trip from California to Las Vegas, a Sandals honeymoon and a European holiday. It gave me such reassurance that I was doing the right thing.
“When I was 18-20, I had an origami business, making wedding bouquets, and I liked controlling the branding and marketing.”
Q. What happened when the pandemic hit?
A. Cancellations and changes started and I lost the bookings. Fortunately, as I was new, I didn’t have lots to rebook. When my husband was furloughed, he helped out by putting offers on my website. In the summer, I resumed advertising but got no bookings. I was running out of money so put the business into hibernation in the second lockdown.
Q. Why did you put your agency into ‘hibernation’?
A. I was pumping money into the business and government travel advice was all over the place, so I decided to put it on hold until April 2021. I had to focus on my mental health. The uncertainty around Covid-19 had a real impact on my wellbeing. I was crying all the time as my business was failing. It was during the time that The Travel Network Group took over Global. I emailed Gary Lewis [TTNG chief executive] explaining how I was feeling and poured my heart out to him. They were so understanding and helpful. They put me on hold for six months and I can pick it back up in April. It’s a weight off my shoulders and I am very grateful.
“In the summer, I resumed advertising but got no bookings. I was running out of money so put the business into hibernation in the second lockdown.”
Q. How did you start your crafting business?
A. I am 27 and a keen traveller – I’ve been to 17 countries – and last summer, I rediscovered a passion for crafting. While I was redecorating, I had lots of souvenirs to arrange such as sombreros and statues and there was no room on my shelves. So I had the idea of keychains with journey tokens and launched my business called Journeys Made. Each stainless-steel token is hand-stamped with the official three-letter ISO country code to represent that country. As people travel, they can buy more journey tokens to add to their keychains. This new venture will run alongside Luxus Travel when I reopen it in April. I set up a website and invested in materials – sustainably sourced leather from Wales and tools such as a branding iron, anvil, hammer and jewellery pliers. I also make sterling silver jewellery: travel-inspired pieces with images such as a compass, mountains and globe. I’m sourcing materials and creating prototypes to introduce vegan-friendly keychains. I’d love to increase my range to include cities. I am running adverts on Facebook and Instagram for £1 a day.
“As people travel, they can buy more journey tokens to add to their keychains. This new venture will run alongside Luxus Travel when I reopen it in April.”
Q. How are you managing now?
A. I have a digital marketing role with an online IT company. Initially it was three days a week and now it’s four, working from home. The company offers IT training and is booming as people want to reskill. I am keeping up with my travel knowledge, doing online courses and tourist board webinars. I don’t want to lose Luxus; I worked hard on the branding and imagery. I would say to agents that if you have something you enjoy and it makes money, go for it as a sideline. It is important to follow your desires. It has a good impact on mental health. I thought it was impossible to de-stress and be calm but making a sale makes you feel on top of the world.
‘My mentor helped me launch my sideline’
We live in Gillingham and I have had support from the Kent Foundation, a charity which supports entrepreneurs under the age of 30. I found out about them when an advert popped up on Facebook. They give business advice for free. They really know their stuff and helped me with online marketing.
“We live in Gillingham and I have had support from the Kent Foundation, a charity which supports entrepreneurs under the age of 30. “
I have ‘mastermind’ sessions each fortnight where you can speak to mentors and mentees. My mentor is lovely, and she loves travelling. She is a luxury wedding specialist, offering bridal hair and make-up services to high-end clients. She said I should launch Journeys Made before Christmas, but Royal Mail was struggling with deliveries, so I thought it would be better to start in a quieter period in January.
I made a sale for Journeys Made in my first week and it came via the Kent Foundation Awards online to celebrate the successes of the businesses and entrepreneurs it supports. I was delighted to be named one of the ‘ones to watch’.
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