By Imelda Say
Before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey, Imelda Say worked in Singapore for some time. When she got back to the Philippines, she knew that she didn’t want to be stuck in an office anymore.
During her first year back home, she shuttled between Manila and Singapore, doing residual training projects in the Lion City. That was when she realized that she loved traveling so much that she wanted to share the same passion with other people.
Today, Imelda operates a boutique travel agency called Xperience Travel Service that employs remote workers. We are happy to welcome Imelda to The After Six Club’s Ambitious Tribe. Read and learn how her love for travel drives her ambition to build a bigger remote team.
My whole psyche is all about experience. I don’t learn if I don’t experience it first. So when I thought of a business, I focused on making the most impact by providing opportunities to people to experience places. Then, I launched Xperience Travel Services in November 2011.
We are a boutique travel agency catering to local and international travels. I added the word “experience” in my business name because I know that travel is an experience-driven business and because I want to create unique experiences for my clients. Xperience Travel Services is home-based. I have staff members who are also home-based.
What do you believe makes your business stand out?
We run a small operation and we know our clients like friends. We take care of them like family and we keep close contact with them before, during, and even after their tours.
Is it always necessary to be passionate about what your business is about in order for it to succeed?
Passion plays a big role in the travel business. Unless you are passionate about travel yourself, it would be hard to anticipate the needs of the clients. In helping clients decide on the details of their travel, it helps that you are able to discuss with them the places with gusto and help them look forward to the trip.
How did you obtain capital? Were there investors?
I used my savings. It is also good that the business was not capital-heavy. I invested more in classes to help me know processes and identify the right operators and partners to do the business with. Once they were in place, I was ready to offer Xperience Travel’s services to clients and friends.
How did you build your customer base? What form of marketing has been most effective for you so far?
I started with my friends. They then referred me to their own contacts. Today, I have clients who have been with us since 2011. Having satisfied clients is always the best marketing strategy. With the proliferation of bogus travel deals around, people need a company to trust.
How do you generate new ideas for your business’ growth?
My operators and I attend travel fairs and conferences here in the Philippines and abroad to keep updated with trends.
What kind of company culture are you implementing? What are your core values?
As a boutique travel agency, we have a family feel. Not only among ourselves, but also in how we treat our clients. We are always just a call away.
How do you deal with major mishaps? What would you say is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
There are times when, despite all the preparations, something goes wrong with the trip. What clients appreciate is that in the midst of all that, we are always there to talk to, make last-minute assistance if possible, and are always open to discuss ways to make things better for them.
I know it works because we have experienced getting referrals from people whose trip did not really go as smoothly as we prepared them. They know that it’s possible not to receive the same level of care and attention if their trips were handled by bigger companies.
What would you say are some dos and don’ts in starting one?
- Do start. Being an entrepreneur is a decision. Unless you start, it will never happen.
- Do learn from others. Learn from other people’s experiences.
- Do network. You would not want to be left out of what everybody knows.
- Don’t rely on good business days. Use your funds well. Operate with care and enjoy the freedom of not being tied down with financial concerns.
- Don’t forget to evaluate. Always be in the process of evolving because the market is evolving.
- Don’t forget that every business is a people business. The people who helped you, the people who work for you, and the people you work with should always feel valued.
Describe a typical day for you.
I start my day at mass. I find my center that way. Then, if I do not have to be out of the house early, I devote time to just walk around the neighborhood for at least 30 minutes just to clear my head and remember that I am left with myself at the end of the day.
Then I start to work—communicating with people in the office. We communicate via checklists. They know that the moment I call them, this is what I will ask. We begin and end with our lists.
After that, I go about my bookings or go to meetings. I keep a very fluid schedule because I enjoy meeting up with people and doing things that are for self-improvement. No matter how busy I get, I’d say I work strictly an average of four hours a day only with the exception of training days. I prioritize and delegate. I also agonize in delegating but I do.
What can you consider is your greatest success?
When clients go home from their trips having had the time of their lives.
What would you say is the secret to success?
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Freedom to decide every step of the way.
What motivates you? Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My father. He is my peg for character and he inspires me to always keep my integrity at all times.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
Xperience Travel would be employing at least 20 business consultants working from home.
Do you consider yourself an ambitious person?
Yes. I am ambitious because I dare to live the life I want. It takes courage to be ambitious. I aim at being seen as someone whose passion evidently manifests in all I do.
Do you think being ambitious helps you in business? How?
Yes. Ambition shuns fear. Ambition moves you forward.
What piece of advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Know what you offer best and put it out there. You will never know unless you begin.
Edits: Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla | Image Credit: Imelda Say
Imelda Say owns boutique travel agency Xperience Travel Services. She is also the Director for Consult Asia Global, an end-to-end training and consulting firm with operations in the Philippines, Canada, Australia, and the UK. She specializes in topics under