Dayana Brooke has been booking worldwide travel for over 17 years and felt it was time to book travel differently.
She says: “There are so many amazing sustainable travel options for you to experience. So I just wanted to make it easy for you to find and book sustainable travel options.
I’m hugely passionate and committed to protecting the environment, nature, wildlife, oceans and local cultures as best as I can.
We need to change the way we travel to protect, conserve and preserve our environment and wildlife.”
Listen to her fabulous startup story and how her passion has built a fantastic business in a niche area. Dayana shares with us some little gems from her own, highly personal, experience. This is a terrific interview.
To listen to the full interview on iTunes click here.
You can listen to the full interview on Stitcher click here.
To listen right here on my website click here.
My guess is that you are here because you are curious about what it might be like to start a business?
Perhaps you’ve been wondering if you have what it takes? If your idea will work or even how much it actually costs to build a successful business?
I’ve written a book that can answer pretty much all your questions “So You Want to Start a Business” and you can download the first 20 pages at www.thestartupsteps.com
15 years of experience working with start up businesses are condensed into this book.
It’s your step by step guide to launch your business smarter and faster and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you and can’t wait to hear about your progress.
Happy reading! and do please let me know how you go ….
Now here is the transcript of the podcast:
Ingrid: Hello and here we are today with Dayana Brooke. Good morning Dayana. How are you?
Dayana: Good morning Ingrid. Very well thank you, and how are you?
Ingrid: Very well thanks. Gorgeous sunny morning here in Sydney, and I know you’re in a different part of Sydney, but equally gorgeous. Dayana, tell us what business are you in? What is your business?
Dayana: I’m in the business of sustainable travel, and ideally looking at and promoting as much as I can eco-friendly travel, for travellers, businesses, and the travel industry.
Ingrid: Fantastic niche there, isn’t it? When did you start this business?
Dayana: I’ve been in the travel business space for the last 17 years, but the actual starting of ‘The Sustainable Traveller’ business was about a year ago. It’s actually been in my mind to start this for quite a few years, but I officially started it last year.
Ingrid: Dayana, tell us why did you start your business?
Dayana: Well, it was a few reasons why I started. Having been in travel for 17 years, I have actually worked quite a few years in travel agencies, stalls, and offices. But a few years ago, I just felt there was a greater need for a work/life balance, and so I found an option to actually still work in travel, but work from a home-based setup agency.
That’s why I decided to start my travel business, as an independent affiliate of a larger group of umbrella of travel agencies. And just offer more flexibility, more work/life balance, the ability to choose my own hours, choose my clients, offer more personal service, as well, which you don’t get the opportunity to do when you work in a corporate office.
Have the ability to actually go out and see clients which is great, and actually choose the way you want to structure your business, and be more in control.
Ingrid: Terrific. There’s lots of really great reasons there. Thanks. When did you realise that you were actually in business? When did it feel like it really was a real business? What was it that made it feel real?
Dayana: I would say it felt a bit real when I realised I had to actually be in charge of everything. I had to be in charge of the marketing, the accounting, aware of cash flow, bookkeeping, social media. That’s when I realised how much is involved in starting your own business. You literally have to be account manager through to a general manager, and so that’s quite a real reality check when you are starting your own business.
‘Cause normally when you’re in an office, you have people you can turn to, but when it’s your own business, you have to rely on yourself a lot. That was quite a reality check, that I was actually really in business, and cash flow was a huge reality check for me.
Ingrid: Yeah. I know the audience listening to this are people thinking about starting a business, or in that early stage, and it really is a moment in time, isn’t it? When you go, “Okay, so there’s actually no one else. It’s just me.”
Dayana: Yeah, that’s right. Definitely.
Ingrid: That’s true. So, if you think about when you were working in other businesses, working in other travel agents, in travel shops, how did you know that people wanted this individualised, personalised service? How did you know that that was going to be viable for you?
Dayana: I knew that was going to be viable for me, having worked in corporate for a long time, I always felt that clients wanted more. But there was never time to give them any more of personal service, any chance to have a chat, and maybe talk about more of their leisure travel.
So, I always felt there was a need that clients are looking for more than a transactional travel process, which is what you get a lot of in offices and in corporates. It’s just in my personality to be able to have a chat with a client, go out and see them, have a coffee with them, and get to know them. That’s what I really enjoy doing, so I felt that there was definitely a need for that, and that aligned a lot with my own personality, wanting to spend and get to know that client alot more. ‘Cause once you get to know them, you can then really personalise their itinerary.’
You know what they like in terms of where they like to sit on the plane, what are their favourite airlines, what style of accommodation they like. And clients, I mean, even outside of travel, in this industry, if you can offer that personal service, makes such a difference to that relationship with the client.
Ingrid: It’s interesting, more and more as things become more commoditized, there really is this desire for people to have a niche, personalised attention, isn’t it?
Ingrid: And then you’ve taken that a step further by having that as The Sustainable Traveller. So not just personalised but actually for people, and we’ll talk about that in a moment, but for people who actually want to be sustainable as well.
Dayana: Yes. Most definitely. I find that I mean, a lot of people can book travel online, but if something goes amiss, if you’re looking for that extra special attention, the online platform just doesn’t offer it to you. It’s great to be able to offer that to clients, and I know clients really enjoy that. Arriving at a hotel, being greeted by name, and they already know your preferences ahead of time, it just adds that little bit of an extra care and touch to a booking.
Ingrid: And that’s what you can add to somebody’s travel arrangements.
Dayana: Yeah, most definitely, and that’s actually what I enjoy doing the most. I absolutely love adding those extra touches to a booking for a client, and even there was actually one in particular … I’ve got many stories I can relate to, but ones that I enjoy doing is when clients arrive at a hotel and they have a welcome note on arrival, they might have a nice fruit platter in their room ready, an upgrade in their room as well which is really lovely. Many, many things you can add to a client’s booking, just through that extra personal service.
Ingrid: It’s very nice. Very satisfying for you as a business person and providing that service. Now, you mentioned cash flow, so in the early days, how did you fund the business and then how do you fund the ongoing business? You don’t have to be in the nitty gritty of the details, but I guess as a travel agent, you’re not setting up a shop, so you’re a mobile travel agent, but you do need some money? How did you fund the early days?
Dayana: Funding has all actually been self-funded. I actually started the business literally through word of mouth, through word of mouth through friends and family. I had to start a whole client base from scratch basically. A lot of friends and family. The funding of the business was just personal, and through obviously sales as they grew, and it’s still that way now. It’s all funded through sales.
Ingrid: And so just to clarify, the money comes in by a commission or a funding through the sales of business? Yep? That’s fine?
Dayana: Correct, yes.
Ingrid: So you said your early customers were friends and family. How do you find new customers now? How do you know where they are?
Dayana: The early days, friends and family, and new customers now coming through a lot of them are referrals and word of mouth. Networking. I absolutely love networking in person, and on social media. My two preferred platforms at the moment are LinkedIn and Instagram. I get a lot of referrals that way, but mainly through word of mouth. But that’s a constant, as I’m growing the brand, we’ve briefly talked about The Sustainable Traveller, it’s still building a reputation, a brand name.
A lot of people still aren’t aware of that as a service, but yeah, still to this day, friends and family, they’re still my core group of clients, and I am really, really grateful for referrals that come my way, as well.
Ingrid: Do you actively ask people to refer other friends and family? Do you tell people that this is what you do and do you actively ask for referrals?
Dayana: Yes, definitely, and something I would give as advice is don’t be afraid to ask for a referral, because if you don’t ask for a referral, often the person that you’ve booked on an amazing trip doesn’t realise that you are seeking referrals. Just ask. Always ask, and don’t be afraid to ask, and be proud to ask, that you have done an amazing job with that client. And if that client knows anyone else who’s travelling who’d like to have a personal experience, travel experience, then they’d love to be referred to.
I have in the past set up referral schemes, so I always like to reward or give back to a client that has referred, so a referral scheme is a good idea. Little things like maybe a voucher that you could send them, or a hamper, or even a thank you card. I mean, it doesn’t even have to have a monetary value. A handwritten thank you card’s a lovely venture for anyone that’s referred you.
Ingrid: Yeah, and just the time it takes to write a thank you card, it’s such a nice surprise to get it in the post.
Dayana: It is. It is lovely.
Ingrid: Yeah, especially if it’s heartfelt and genuine. Yeah, I really love what you said there about asking for referrals, because it actually goes to so many other businesses as well. It’s not just your business, and I love what you said there about being really proud of what you do, and proud of how you provide a service, and then asking for other people to send their friends and family, as well. That’s lovely. I hope everybody’s listening to that.
Okay, so let’s have a think about at the very beginning, what is something you wish you had done differently at the beginning. Is there something that you’d like to tell us about there?
Dayana: Ah, yes. Look, it’s a huge learning curve, starting a business, so there’s definitely a lot of things I’ve learned along the way. Something that I would have liked to have known in the beginning, again, I’d probably touch on cash flow. The importance of cash flow. It could make or break your business, and if you don’t have … For myself, fortunately I have a partner who can offer some financial support which works for me, but may not be a situation a lot of other people are in, but there were times where I was literally, had no cash flow, and I didn’t understand how that works.
I think understanding cash flow, learn about that, learn … If you can afford a bookkeeper, perfect. They can help you, as well. Try and account for everything in the cloud, so using cloud software early on is useful. And just something that I would also have liked to have known early on is to have a clear vision.
Your vision and your goals may change and they probably will change in 5 years, 10 years, but try and stay as true to yourself as you can. For myself, it’s probably taken me up until now to actually be true to myself and my vision, and what I’m trying to achieve, and I think if I’d had that a few years ago, I’d probably be maybe quite a little bit of ahead of where I wanted my business to be now, but I think yeah, if you can have a clear vision, and also surround … I know this is another one, but surround yourself with people who can share that vision with you, as well.
And provide you with support, because having your own business and starting your own business can be very daunting and challenging, and you need a lot of motivation to keep going with it. Yeah, if you can surround yourself with some like-minded people to support you, would be great.
Ingrid: And get a real handle on the financial side of it, where the money’s going to come from, and yeah. That’s two really terrific pieces of wisdom there. Thank you. So, who apart from yourself, and you’ve hinted at a few different people, during your journey, who has been the greatest assistance to you and to your business? You could either name names, or you can talk conceptually about people. Who are those entities or people that have really supported you?
Dayana: My number one supporter, I probably would say is my partner, my husband. He has definitely supported me from the beginning, supported me with my vision, encouraging me always to be true to myself and what I’m trying to achieve. I’m very fortunate that he also has a design background, and also background in user experience and customer experience, and service design.
I get a lot of assistance in terms of my web platform and what to use, and how it looks and functions. I’m very fortunate that I have that, because that’s quite useful to have that in business. I would definitely hands down say that my partner is my number one supporter, and he inspires me as well.
Family. I could definitely not do this without support of my family, and also friends as well, who have supported my business in terms of booking their own travel with me, and also referring me. I also am an affiliate of MTA Travel, as well, so the support I get from them, for all the admin side of my business is very helpful. Means I can focus on actually delivering customer service, as opposed to worrying about invoices and things like that.
Yeah, I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by quite a few people who do support my business, and means I can then free up my time to do the things that I need to focus on.
Ingrid: And you used the word fortunate there, and it’s about setting that up for yourself, isn’t it?
Dayana: I agree.
Ingrid: It didn’t just happen. It’s been deliberate, it’s been thought through. I mean, maybe you didn’t deliberately choose your husband because he had a design background and would help you with your website in the future, but there’s other things there that you’ve put into place. Like you said, a bookkeeper, your MTA, these are the things that help you run the business better.
Dayana: Yes, definitely.
Ingrid: It didn’t just happen.
Dayana: No, and I do a lot of self-taught as well, so I’ll read books, I’ll watch webinars, I listen to podcasts, watch YouTube, follow a lot of people on LinkedIn. I’m constantly learning off others and seeing how other people do things as well, and just trying to follow that, and trying to implement that into my own business as well.
Ingrid: Yep. Follow the ones that have done it and done it well. So who can give you really good feedback? Where do you get your feedback from?
Dayana: Feedback? I would probably say feedback would come, again, from my husband. He gives me some very good feedback. Because he’s not in the travel space, he always gives me a different perspective. I think that’s really important, as well, is to get some feedback from somebody that’s not in your industry. Because they’ll always give you a different objective, or different perspective, which is really good.
I always get very good feedback from him, and feedback would also come from various other people. Obviously clients as well, I get feedback from clients. Actually, within the travel industry itself. I deal a lot with hotels and sales managers and get a lot of feedback from them. Yeah, and I’m also, I guess, critical as well of what I do. And also, I don’t take things for granted. I’m always trying to look at what I do, seeing how I can improve on it, seeing what solutions I can provide to the problems that I see. Yeah, I like internal feedback, I guess, if you want to say that, as well.
Ingrid: Yeah, being able to self-assess and take that onboard. Terrific. So, someone comes to you and says, “I’m thinking about starting my own business,” what would you say to them?
Dayana: I would say to them, “Fantastic. I think that’s great.” I wish I’d started a business many years ago, so I think that’s fantastic, people wanting to take the step and start their own business. I think it’s very rewarding. I would say to them, set yourself parameters, set yourself times where you will work on the business, times for yourself, and that sort of thing. Try to have some clear goals as well. Try not to get too distracted, especially if you’re home based, if you work from home and you’re not in an office. Try not to get too distracted by your surroundings.
And just be prepared to be in charge of everything. Be prepared that you have literally to take care of all angles in business, but I must admit, I do enjoy that because it means I can get a better understanding of how different facets of the business work. But I do, yeah, I mean it is work, but at the end of the day, it’s your own business. You’re in charge of your own business, your own boss, and that is so rewarding when you can have that work/life balance and flexibility.
Ingrid: Yeah, it makes such a difference, doesn’t it?
Dayana: It does.
Ingrid: So three characteristics, Dayana, that are the things that set you apart, that make you successful in your business. What are those? You’ve hinted at a few, and I’m sure the listeners are already thinking about what their answer for you would be, but what do you think your three key characteristics are?
Dayana: I would say I am very passionate about what I do, and that will range from offering customer service through to networking within the industry, so that I’ve got the right contacts for my clients. Attention to detail. I’m really passionate about, and I’m also really passionate about travel. I absolutely love travel, and I know what travel can offer, how rewarding it is to get it right.
I’m really passionate about offering attention to detail on travel and the whole experience. I’m also very genuine, I guess, and honest, with myself and what I … I’m getting stuck again, sorry. Hang on one sec. I’ve also got my children at the door.
Ingrid: So at this point we took a super short break, so that Dayana could take care of her little ones, and then we continued.
Dayana: One of the main reasons of doing all this is to have that flexibility as a parent, as well. I often don’t talk about that because I try and keep my personal life separate to my business, but being a parent, having children, and the flexibility of your own business, working hours and school, and drop-offs and pickups, is really important and a lot of what I do is around them, so yeah.
Ingrid: So is that a characteristic that you think’s essential for yourself?
Dayana: Yeah, I would say that’s one of my characteristics. Yeah, being a parent, and actually, to be honest, what I do, a lot of what I do is for being there for my children, and I know we’ve touched on a little bit, but one of the main reasons I set up The Sustainable Traveller is I felt it was, it felt like I was actually doing something positive and that’s going to create much more positive future for the children, for my children, for our children, for the next generation. Yeah, it just felt right to do that. Yeah, I sort of-
Ingrid: No, that’s lovely.
Dayana: Yeah, I don’t really talk much about my children, but they are a really important part of what I do and why I do what I do, so yeah.
Ingrid: That’s completely understandable. Very nice. Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about? Because thinking about the audience, and I think that last part that you just talked about was particularly, for people who are in a similar situation to you, a young family wanting to find something that can create a balance for creating an income for themselves and being able to take care of a family, and creating a future, yeah, it’s a wonderful combination. It’s there anything else you’d like to add at this point for our audience?
Dayana: I’d like to add, I guess find … There’s so many influences in our lives at the moment, and you can easily be swayed to do something and do another thing, but we all have it in ourselves to be passionate about something so deep that it’s what you feel like you are meant to do.
I just think if you can find that, fantastic. I think it’s really amazing when you do actually find what your passions are, and if you can yeah, if you can find that. Sorry, I’m getting a little bit lost again.
Ingrid: That’s okay. Do you mind if I ask you, ’cause you have worked as an independent travel consultant for some period of time, and I wanted you to come on the podcast some time ago, and it wasn’t right for you because it wasn’t quite the right business, but now that you’re in this business with The Sustainable Traveller, you feel a different level of connection to that, connection to what you offer your clients. How did you find that?
Dayana: Yeah, so how I found that, I got to a point where I just felt it wasn’t, it just didn’t feel right anymore, just booking travel all the time, just booking it. It just felt like it was a commodity and something being taken for granted, and I was always voicing my frustration to my partner, my husband. He used to always just say, “Just do it. Make it all about sustainable travel,” and the reason why I didn’t start it in the beginning, which I wish I had, but you learn as you go along, is that the travel market, the space, and the travellers, the consumers, I felt like they weren’t ready for it.
Creating a brand new travel market or any sort of new concept takes a lot of energy, ’cause you are literally creating a new market. It did come around through frustration, because I didn’t actually see anyone doing this. I couldn’t actually see anyone in the industry making these positive changes when I know we needed them. I just felt, “Well, if no one else is going to do it, I’m going to stand up and do it.” I made the decision to create the brand, The Sustainable Traveller, to focus on eco-friendly options of travel, create awareness for the traveller as well, to be more sustainable as they travel, and just create a community for travellers to be amongst other travellers as well, to be like-minded.
It just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like it was the right time to do that a few years ago, and now it has, and I’m actually creating quite a lot of awareness. I’m actually getting a lot of people coming up to me, telling me that they’re quite inspired by what I’m doing, and it’s inspiring them, as well, which is really amazing. I didn’t expect that, that I’d be inspiring other people to actually pursue their own passions and their own dreams, and a lot of that is related around sustainability.
I felt the time was right and it’s been amazing. To actually have the brand out there now, to have a platform out there, to have this, to be able to actually voice some awareness, the way we travel, and hopefully change the way we are travelling. There’s so much more I could say, I’m just getting a little bit stuck here.
Thank you. Yeah, so setting up The Sustainable Traveller has actually given me a chance to voice my views, my opinions, and raise awareness on the topics that I’m very passionate about, and that is sustainability, travel, the environment, and animal welfare conservation … Veganism, as well. So, it’s actually given me a voice which is something that I haven’t had the opportunity to have, and that’s just all from having and starting my own business.
I do regular blogs on my website, which is TheSustainableTraveller.com. You can also follow me on Instagram, which is TheSustainableTraveller. … @TheSustainableTraveller I should say. So yeah.
Ingrid: We’ll put those links in the show notes, and with the transcript of the interview, and Dy, and I call you Dy, ’cause I’ve known you for so long, but Dayana, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast today, and I just thank you so much for your honesty and being so open. I know you are a very private person, and to talk the way you have about your business, and what it means to you, is because you want to inspire other people. That’s what this podcast is designed for. It’s designed to inspire people who are thinking about starting a business, and what are the real benefits of starting it?
I think what you’ve talked about there at the end is part of the true benefit of having your own business is that you can have your own voice, and you don’t always have that opportunity when you’re working with somebody else. So, I thank you very much for being so open and sharing so deeply.
Dayana: Thank you, Ingrid. Thank you for the opportunity, and I hope it’s useful and helpful for others.
Ingrid: Yeah, I think it will be, and if anybody wants to get in contact, we’ll put all of Dayana’s contact details in the show notes, and you’ll be able to contact her directly. Thanks so much. Bye.
Dayana: Thank you. Bye.