It is not true that the trend toward home-based businesses is a
one-way street. Agents may reverse
themselves, for personal or business reasons, and go back into
brick-and-mortar space, but not
necessarily into the arms of ARC.
Amy Caldwell Hobbins, who
founded and operates Journeys Unlimited in Green Bay, Wis., is a case
Now a 20-year veteran of the
business, she left a traditional
agency job in 1999 to work at
home, and part of the point was to
be home for her child (a daughter,
now age 6).
However, she said, “I am a victim
of my own success.” When sales
were pushing $1 million a year by
early 2005, she knew that “I needed
space to grow or I needed to scale
back in order to keep the flexibility
of working at home.”
Bon path to a $2M year
By Nadine Godwin
efore Alishah Kier took her business home in 2003, she knew she could sell travel:
She had been producing $1.5 million to $2 million in cruise business for Nationwide
Leisure Group each year since joining NLG in November 2000.
Amy Caldwell Hobbins
She rented office space then,
has retained two part-timers and is
looking at annual volume of close
to $2 million now.
Her original niche was honeymoons and destination weddings,
but now she has “a lot of group
business, some trips with 100 or
more clients, and that’s where the
need for help came in,” Hobbins
Some of those large groups are
wedding parties, but her latest
specialty of a sort is group trips for
local bands and their fans. Each
departure brings word-of-mouth
referrals, she said.
But if referrals bring requests for
air tickets, Hobbins is not interested. She gets air for her clients
through the tour operators and
does not have a host agency.
Going solo at home was the
‘best decision I’ve ever made.’
One key ingredient is product
knowledge. At NLG, Kier signed on
for every training course offered by
the cruise lines, because detailed product knowledge “made clients comfortable” with her as an adviser. She sold
her first world cruise by the time she
had been on the job three months, she
Knowledge isn’t everything,
though. Kier said, “I enjoy
people and families; I saw this
as an opportunity to bring
It was a natural, then, that
Kier turned to family-reunion
events as a prime source of
business, almost all of it on cruises.
Family business can mean big-birth-day occasions, wedding anniversaries
Independent Agents’ Sales Volume
More than $2 million
$1 million - $2 million
$500,001 - $0.9 million
ASTA AGENT PROFILES
She also had a proven entrepre- tween $1 million and $2 million in
neurial bent. Kier had owned a day travel annually. If Kier makes the $2
spa in Greensboro, N.C., which she million mark this year, that will put
sold in 1999. her into rarified atmosphere indeed:
Nevertheless, Kier said she owes the fewer than 1% of NACTA agents sell
decision to go solo at home — “the $2 million or more.
best I’ve ever made” — to Bettye Ma- That kind of productivity is a chal-son, owner of BM Christian Travel lenge for counselors in a brick-and-in Georgetown, S.C. The two women mortar agency, even with
met while on a Carnival fam in May the advantage (when it is
Kier said, “Bettye
was my self-appointed
adviser,” who spent the
entire weekend asking,
“What is wrong with you? Why are an advantage) of a location
you working for somebody else?” where prospects walk in the
The answer, or at least part of it, door.
was fear, but Kier took the leap in How can Kier be so productive?
September of that year, having deter- And what keeps her engines going?
mined she wanted to be a “
full-service” counselor for her clients, allowing more time to qualify and advise
customers, to make them comfortable with her as a source of product
Now, she said, her business, called
Honor & Glory Executive Travel Services, is “on track” to book $2 million
in business in 2006. As if she weren’t
busy enough, she is president of the
North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Commissioned
Travel Agents (NACTA).
Uncounted numbers of agents have
taken their sales skills home for a variety of reasons, but not very many
have an annual turnover of more than
$1 million, as Kier has.
Research among NACTA agents is
indicative: Only 2.4% are selling be-