Entrepreneur and Mom
by Jennifer Dugan
When I was 12 years old, I had surgery with complications. I was told there was a chance I would not be able to have children. Growing up I could not imagine my life without children and worried about it often. When I got married close to my 21st birthday, my husband and I hoped that we would be lucky enough to have children. Luckily, I found out I was pregnant almost a year later. However, soon after the great news, I got very sick. I was working full time at a corporate travel agency and I could not work. My doctor told me that I had to take care of myself or I would be at risk to lose my baby. My employer got very nasty with me and was not compassionate about my sickness. I almost lost my job, but my doctor was able to get me medical leave from the family leave act. The experience was horrible. I vowed to never have to choose between my career and the health of my baby. I began to look for ways to work from home. I tried Mary Kay Cosmetics but I was terrible at it. It didnít feel comfortable and I really had nothing to make me want to be successful.
When my son Dillon was born in February 1997, it was one of the best days of my life. I quit my job and tried to stay home full time. I was able to stay home until Dillon was three months old. Then I went back part time at a travel agency. I hated leaving him even for the few hours I had to. So I decided to start my own travel agency from my home. I knew the travel business well enough to be on my own, but I did not know very much about being a home business owner. For the next two years, I had to learn so much about running a home business. I got help from other work at home moms. I met them online and it was so helpful.
I created a website and began actively advertising for business. I read anything I could on having a home business. I learned as much as I could about the internet. I began brainstorming on how I could expand my business. I decided to specialize in family vacations since I had a growing family. My second child, Travis was born January 1999. I began to learn how to balance having a family and a business. I worked whenever I could. Many nights I work late at night when my children are sleeping. My husband is very supportive.
I finally started becoming successful and was gaining more customers each day. I started taking on independent agents and helping them start their own agencies. I let them work with my agency because I had already paid what it took to start the agency. I trained them and began building my business by helping others get into the industry. I took a small percentage of their commissions for running the agency. It slowly turned into a full fledge training program with a handbook and a website dedicated to my agents. I also created a website for people who wanted to join the agency. I marketed to find those who would be interested. The agency has continued to grow as the word has spread. What I offer people interested in the travel industry is unique since I accept those without prior experience and train them for free.
I have been interviewed by several magazines and featured in books on home businesses. Currently I have over 200 independent agents working with my agency. Our sales have skyrocketed. In 2002, we did $20,000 in sales for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. In 2003, we did $147,000 in sales. We are growing in so many ways. I am still very active in the agency. I still answer my emails myself and strive to personally know all my agents. I do not have anyone helping me at my home office. I do have my very first agent as well as many who have been with me for years helping out. I handle all the bookkeeping, shipping, daily business issues, advertising, website maintenance, and many other of the important operations needed to run this business. It has become a part of me.
My goal is to have 300 agents by the time I am 30. I hope to be able to get some help handling day-to-day operations. I would also like to continue to grow to become more recognized in the travel industry. I want to help as many people as I can who want to start their own home based travel agency. I want to continue building my business and each year find something new that I can do to be more successful at this business.
I wrote my own ebook on starting a home travel agency. This offered information to those interested and helped spread the word about my agencyís program. Each year we grow more and more. I have written two other ebooks since my first one. One is on juggling a home business and family. The other is on marketing a home business on a small amount of funds. I am just now beginning to have more money available for advertising. What I have done to date has been still on a limited budget. I am just now beginning to spend more money on advertising.
My family has been very supportive. My boys are now 5 and 7 years old and they try to help me out as much as possible. We go on family vacations and I can use it to help my business. I have been able to save on childcare from not having to work outside the home. I was able to be with my children as they have been growing up. I didnít miss their first words or steps. I also have been teaching them that anything is possible. I want them to know that if they have the drive to do something, they can do it. Every day that I got discouraged, I would think of the fact that if I did not succeed, I would have to go back to work full time and put my children into daycare.
My 5 year old was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last May. This was a hard adjustment for our family. He needed me more than ever. I was able to be there and everyone involved in my agency understood. I was able to take the time I needed to stay with him in the hospital and learn how to handle his diabetes. My agents pulled together and helped me out. I canít imagine how things would have been if I had a full time job outside the home. I was able to take care of my child without worry.
I feel very fortunate. I had a dream and I was able to make it come true. I also have something I can call my own. I love being a mom. I also love being an entrepreneur. It is very satisfying looking at what I have accomplished in 6 years. I know the possibilities are endless. I know as long as I continue to work hard and be creative in growing my business, I will continue to be successful. I am now able to help others who want to start a home business. I wrote three e-books and I get to write articles to help others. 6 years ago I would have never imagined this would be my life. It just proves that anything is possible if you really want it bad enough.
Jennifer Dugan CTA
Owner of Dugan's Travels
About The Author
Mother of two who started a homebased travel agency in 1997. She has over 200 outside agents working with her agency and is active in the travel industry. She has been an agent since 1993. She is the author of three ebooks.
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