Cruise Planners was co-founded in 1994 by Michelle Fee along with two travel industry veterans in Coral Springs, Florida. When Michelle started Cruise Planners, she was a travel agent and a young mother who had a passion for travel and a drive for success.
Read to see how her entrepreneurial journey began and how she's helping other individuals start their own travel businesses from home.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
My journey began 16 years ago when myself and two other industry veterans realized the landscape of the travel agent was changing. And we figured that if we didn’t change, we would be out of business in a matter of a couple of years. And although we didn’t have a crystal ball, I do believe we saw into the future.
Being I came from a full-service travel background, I realized that with the birth of the internet, airlines were going to take advantage of the easy access to the consumer, and commissions were going to be a thing of the past. Recognizing the fact that I needed to reinvent my travel business, I sat down with my two partners and developed a Home-Based travel business, where a member can work from anywhere they wanted, and put as much time and effort their lives allowed them to sell travel … And the early version of Cruise Planners was created. And when I say early version, I mean early version. To say we didn’t know what we were doing was putting it mildly.
The first class consisted of five people and the three of us, created content, taught each class, did all the ship inspections, and then went back to work on Monday and ran the Marketing program and made all the commission payments. Thankfully today, we have a team of very professional staff members that quite honestly make us look good.
What did you do before launching your own business?
Before launching Cruise Planners, I ran a full-service travel agency in a local town. We were the typical brick and mortar agency. We sold airline tickets, vacation packages, and cruises to the local people. One of the reasons that I believe we were so successful, was that we understand our product and being all three partners were travel professionals, it made it easy for us to share our years of experience.
Tell us about the Cruise Planner Franchise opportunity.
The easiest way for me to describe what the Cruise Planners Franchise is, it’s as if you took a box off of a shelf and an entire business was in it. We not only teach you the nuts and bolts of the business, but we are also your back office, it’s as if you hired 45+ people to help you run your business.
- All business materials are included to get started
- Our amazing technology team has built fully functional websites for all of our agents, plus a backend accounting tool to run your travel company
- We don’t just sell cruises; our agents have access to tours, hotels, and car rental
- We are one of the big players in the industry – so the top commissions are paid to our agents
- The award-winning marketing department has developed turnkey programs where we send cruise promotions to your potential customers, and all you do is wait for the phone to ring
- We’ve been in business for 16 years, so most of our techniques are proven
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?
I am at the home office every week unless I am out on the road to promote the company. I typically work a full day, and then if needed log in from home at night to finish up any project, I’m working on, or answer e-mails that I didn’t get time to do during the day.
How would you rate your success?
I don’t like to brag … (wink, wink), but the company is one of the most recognized cruise companies in the nation, we have won Top Agency awards with most all cruise line vendors, for example, we have been Royal Caribbean’s Home-Based Agency partner for four years in a row, something we are extremely proud of.
We were also named – American Express’s agency of the year, Norwegian Cruise Lines Home-Based Partner of the year and Celebrity’s SE agency of the year in 2010. It was a great year for Cruise Planners.
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
I think one of the hardest things in business is to manage people, so it’s important when building a team to make sure you hire people who will compliment your personality as well as help you build your company.
You actually spend more time with your work colleagues than you do with your spouse. So when you are interviewing a prospect to work for your company, make sure their values and goals are similar to what you have in mind for the camaraderie of the company.
What advice would you give to an individual who is considering purchasing a franchise?
It’s a fun business, if you love to travel, especially cruise, you will love the Cruise Planner franchise.
Before someone purchases our franchise, we have a team who will walk you through a 20-minute online presentation. It will show you all the tools and programs we have to help someone without experience, build a business. And most people who join, have ZERO experience in the travel industry- our specialty is to teach them how to create a successful Home Based Travel business. It’s up to them to take action!
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I work long and hard hours, but when something of importance comes up, I always put family first. In other words, when I set my schedule to be out of town for travel shows or business meetings, I would always look at my kids’ schedules first and work from there. I always say, five years from now, I won’t remember a business meeting, but I will always remember my daughter's dance recital. By balancing both my work schedule and my personal life, it makes me a more productive person.
Thanks to Michelle Fee for sharing her story!
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