Strawberry Holidays founder Kate Holroyd has urged other agents to take every PR opportunity open to them after her business was today (Friday 28 August) named in Small Business Saturday’s latest SmallBiz100 list.
Back in June, TTG 30 Under 30 alumnus Holroyd put forward an application for a spot on the list, which she supported with a video, and was told earlier this month she had been successful.
As a SmallBiz100 member, Strawberry Holidays will feature across the initiative’s national media campaigns, highlighting 100 small businesses – one a day – in the lead up to Small Business Saturday (5 December).
"I’ve always been one of those people that looks at the extra-curricular stuff," Holroyd told TTG. "I’m always looking for ways to promote the brand, nail my ideal client, and focus on them."
Holroyd started her career in travel with MyTravel, shortly before the business merged with Thomas Cook in February 2007; she joined the e-commerce team and moved to Peterborough before returning home to Lancashire when she fell pregnant with her first child.
In 2013, she took up a head of marketing role with World Travel Holdings, achieving a spot in the TTG 30 Under 30 Class of 2015. However, after a stint in financial services, Holroyd said she knew her heart was in travel. "There’s definitely a pull to the industry," she said.
"At that head of marketing level though, the pool was very small in terms of roles. It was then Global [Travel Group] approached me and said – ‘have you thought about launching your own business?’. It felt like a really good time, I was getting a bit bored knocking on everyone else’s door."
Holroyd said it was then she discovered her mother-in-law Fiona was looking for an opportunity to work from home, and had been looking into becoming a travel consultant.
"It all fell together," said Holroyd, who went into business with her mother-in-law in late-2016, with Strawberry Holidays selling its first holiday in January 2017.
Reflecting on the impact of the coronavirus crisis, Holroyd said her marketing background had helped her maximise income from other avenues. She’s also taken up a minimum wage waitressing role at a restaurant she worked at as a teenager to secure her income.
"I know some agents don’t have that luxury," said Holroyd. "It sounds so weird to say a minimum wage job is a luxury. But it allows the business to simmer along so it’s still in people’s minds and has some longevity into 2021 and beyond.
"It’s been quiet, and while I’m still encouraging enquiries and still lead generating, it’s very much for 2021. Consumer confidence is down, but because we don’t have an office, our cost base is really low. We had a good year last year and we’ve taken a Bounce Back loan so we can keep the doors open without bringing any new business in for now.
"That’s one of the benefits of Small Business Saturday, I want to be at the forefront of people’s minds and build the brand, even if I’m not actually taking enquiries. During lockdown, I’ve really worked on the business, come up with a plan, and made sure not to run around like a headless chicken."
Strawberry Holidays will be the focus for the initiative on Thursday 12 November, while a place on the list opening up attendance to a Downing Street and Treasury reception. Small Business Saturday also features SmallBiz100 members in local and national media releases, and is able to assist them with PR opportunities.
"For me, 2020 was about creating sustainable growth and a sustainable income for me and my family," said Holroyd. "That’s delayed, if you will. The next 12 months is going to be about instilling confidence as much as possible in the market through Facebook Lives, being a consumer champion, and just helping rebuild consumer confidence in travel.
"From that, my hope is business will follow. National Geographic, Forbes and [The Independent’s] Simon Calder have really been pushing travel agents so I’ve been using those quotes to highlight how the role of the travel agent isn’t dead, it’s actually more relevant than ever."
Holroyd urged other agents, particular self-starters and homeworkers, to grasp every opportunity out there, including schemes like SmallBiz100. "The more you engage with them, the more success you can get out of it," she said.
"If it’s free, it all it takes is my time, I’m open to it. I was on the SmallBiz directory last year and I have got enquiries from it. Once you’ve done one directory profile, they’re pretty standard.
"I really do think there are some opportunities that are just too good to not consider. Small Business Saturday was one of those things for me. If all it takes is a little bit of your time, then do it. You’ve got nothing to lose."