Franchisee Carmen Irving talks about her experience of changing career and becoming a franchisee for The Family Holiday Franchise at the age of 46.
For years I had had a longing to have my own business but a) didn’t have a clue what I would have a business in and b) thought it was something other people did that were far more intelligent, successful and confident than me.
Roll on to 2017 and at the ripe age of 46 and after 25 years of working in finance, I was completely disillusioned with myself, my career choices and where my career was going.
In my 20s, I was career driven and had ambitious ideas of being a Finance Director for a successful multinational company. This was doable until my life completely changed when I had twin girls at 33.
After having the girls, my priorities completely changed, and although I still wanted to be successful, my drive to get to the top of the finance profession had completely withered and I really wanted to do something different.
Travel had always been a passion of mine and I loved going to new places, experiencing different cultures and customs but even more so, I loved the researching and organising of travel, especially hotels – I LOVE a beautiful hotel!
Friends would often comment that I should start my own travel company but I really didn’t think it was possible. I thought I would have to retrain and start from scratch before even contemplating setting my own company up.
I still had a strong urge to have my own business so I started looking into franchises. I wasn’t overly familiar with the concept but my partner Graham had looked into several different companies in previous years and suggested it might be a good option.
Even then it was still the question of ‘what could I do that I would be successful at’. I really wanted to do something that would allow me to be flexible in my working hours and also do it from home. That was when something miraculous happened – I started seeing a small number of Travel franchises being advertised.
I made a list of all the franchises and spoke to each one to find out more. You quite quickly get a feel for the companies which you know you would like to partner with and those which don’t suit you and you probably don’t suit them. I eventually ended up with 2 franchises on my short list and arranged to visit both over two consecutive days.
The two companies I visited were worlds apart. One had been franchising for years and had hundreds of franchisees successfully operating and the other was brand new to franchising but had been operating a very successful online business for over 15 years. Being someone who likes a challenge I opted for the latter company – The Family Holiday Franchise. I loved the fact that they were a young dynamic company and knew as soon as I entered their cool and hip offices that they were the company I wanted to partner up with.
Choosing the franchisor is so important because it will not all be plain sailing. You need to know that the franchisor is behind you, wants you to succeed and cares about you as well as your business, does the things it says it’s going to and values your honest feedback.
With the Holiday Franchise Company, we have definitely been learning and growing together but I know they’re there to support me when I need it and also open to listen when I have something to say.
Having your own business is fantastic but it’s also hard and takes time to build. The first year of Madcat Travel has been about building brand awareness and getting the name out there. Originally I’d planned to do everything online but have found that the adage of ‘people buy from people’ is definitely true.
I want to have a really successful business which will allow me to employ and train other budding travellers to work from home and provide customers with excellent products and fantastic services. Needless to say I want to be generating a steady income which will allow me to travel all the places on my bucket list and there are many!
Am I glad I took the leap of faith to leave a well paid job with great benefits and to some extent security to become self employed and run my own business – definitely. Have I doubted myself and questioned my choices, my abilities, what the hell I’m doing – absolutely. Have there been issues along the way and bumps in the road – without a doubt, but in my book I would be a far bigger failure had I not taken the leap and continued to live my life safely.