Dawn Warner was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. She owned her own skin care and wellness center and loved helping clients. But life threw a curve ball, and she was diagnosed with a neurological disease. Warner knew she was no longer going to be able to work the long hours required to run her center, but that didn’t mean entering the world of 9 to 5.
Although Warner already had the experience of owning her own business, she decided that franchising was a good option this time around, as she felt being part of a larger organization and having a ready-made support system was critical. She looked into the competitive field of travel consulting; she wanted to find a way to set herself apart by targeting communities she was not just familiar with, but a part of: African American, disabled, and LGBT.
After looking at a few different travel franchises, she saw a presentation from Dream Vacations (a CruiseOne Company), that addressed the idea to market to the LGBT community, and she knew she had found the right franchise.
Four years later and approximately 60% of her clients are LGBT, and of those, 90% are African American. She takes great care in researching vacations that cater to and accommodate the needs of her clients, recommending destinations and resorts that make guests feel welcome. As a result, a majority of her clients come from referrals, from people sharing with friends, family, and coworkers what a great time they had on vacations she put together for them.
People always ask if travel agents are still needed with the ease of use of the Internet. Warner tackles that with four important points:
- Travel agents take pressure off busy individuals from doing hours of research
- Agents have more access immediately to experts and unadvertised deals; it’s what they do every day!
- Agents take the guess work out of travel
- Agents are advocates for clients: missed connections, bad hotel experience, last-minute changes, etc. (this can be critical when you’re in a foreign country)
Warner’s goals for the next five years are to develop more business relationships with nonprofit organizations, create fundraising travel programs, and sponsor more wellness trips–all while increasing revenues.