What would make someone sell their home, uproot their family and move halfway across Australia? In a word: Noosa.
Two glorious weeks in the Queensland beachside suburb helping out at a childhood friend’s business was all it took for Cathy Hewett and husband David to decide it was time to leave behind their life in Adelaide.
It was August 2014, the business in question was Tewantin Travel and the friend was Leah Squire, who just seven months earlier had suggested Cathy, an accountant, think about changing career and becoming a mobile travel agent for her online business BYOKids.
Cathy’s decision to give travel a go was literally life-changing.
“I did the online travel courses and then I flew up to Tewantin to work in the office for a week to get some hands-on experience,” she says. “Then Leah asked if I could come up for six months and fill in for a staff member. I came up with my husband and my youngest, who was in Year 2, and after just two weeks, we decided we needed to figure out how we could stay.”
Relocating your life is never easy, but in Cathy and David’s case there was an added complication. As well as having a home in Adelaide and two of their four children still at school, the couple own and operate a long-established business in the automotive industry.
Nevertheless, by early 2015 they were Queenslanders, with Cathy working three days a week for Tewantin Travel and David travelling back and forth to South Australia and around the region, running their other business.
Meanwhile BYOkids had expanded to the point where Leah had outsourced its operation to a Gold Coast-based company and decided she needed to sell Tewantin Travel and take a well-earned break. That’s how, in December 2015, Cathy and David found themselves the proud owners of a travel agency.
Perhaps the only person not surprised at how adroitly Cathy had embraced the travel industry was Leah, who first met her as a 12-year old at Kidman Park High School in Adelaide.
“Cathy always had that passion for travel, and she’s also fantastic with people – she can talk to anybody young and old because she’s genuinely interested,” says Leah. “She also listens to what people want and need, which means she can piece the right holiday together for the right person.
“At the same time, she is very much a ‘cross-the- t’s and dot-the-i’s’ person, who I knew had the experience and discipline needed to run a business.”
Cathy says she took over a strong business, but one that had been overshadowed by the success of BYOkids.
“The agency had been here for 20 years so it was well known, but there had not been as much new business generation happening for the bricks and mortar side. It just needed a little bit of TLC, which has meant a lot of touching base with the local community and establishing the personal contact that provides a point of difference with competitors.”
A little over two years later, with Tewantin Travel growing steadily, Cathy seized an opportunity to expand further with the acquisition of fellow Travellers Choice agency Coolum Cruise & Travel from Lyn Worthey, who now manages the business which is located around 25 minutes south on the Sunshine Coast.
“Lyn is a lovely person who I had come to know through Travellers Choice, and so when she mentioned last year that she was interested in selling I asked her to keep me in mind. We finalised the sale in February and it’s been humming along ever since.
“Both businesses can grow independently and serve their own distinct and healthy customer databases because around here no one drives more than 10 minutes for anything. What we want to do though is combine resources in order to take on group allocations with our own departures – something that in the past neither agency was quite big enough to do by itself.
“At the same time we have been able to reduce overall costs, align booking and accounting systems, and increase exposure, for instance with marketing featuring calls to action for both agencies. Having two agencies has also created professional development opportunities, and made it easier for staff to cover for each other.”
Meanwhile, Cathy and Leah are back working together, with Tewantin Travel once again facilitating all of BYOkids’ bookings.
“Cathy and her team really understand family travel, and they are all such great consultants,” says Leah. “The time was right to take BYOkids back home.”