Empowered Women Empower Women
Whether it’s International Women’s Day, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, or any other dedicated female-empowerment day in between, we’re all about turning to one another to share how our strong cohort of female business owners elevates the work done on behalf of our community every day.
Enter any given travel industry networking event and there’s one sure conclusion you’ll come to with a quick glance around the room; this is a business dominated by women. Particularly within the SmartFlyer network where 9 out of every 10 travel advisors are mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, and ultimately, business owners, there lies a great responsibility to empower one another to reach higher.
With the vast majority of our team having worked outside the hospitality space prior to becoming a travel advisor, being a self-starter is critical to navigating the initially unfamiliar waters. Traveling to new destinations, meeting with hoteliers and honing business acumen are each vital components in pivoting to this career. But, it’s leaning into our peers that facilitates even deeper learning, evidenced by the overwhelming volume of information exchange amongst our 175+ travel advisors around the world on any given day. Kansas City-based travel agent Corey Nussbaum shares, “I have never been a part of a working community that is so willing to help one another. I truly could not do this job without my colleagues’ knowledge, expertise and willingness to offer advice. Being part of this group of women makes me a better travel advisor for my clients.”
Sharing our ever-evolving understanding of the destinations we book for travelers is at the core of what we do. And ultimately, what begins as a quick exchange of ideas between agents often evolves into longer-lasting relationships being built. In many cases, informal mentorships flourish, further contributing to our collective success. A recent survey of more than 200 small business owners throughout the U.S. was conducted to evaluate the importance of mentorship; their findings reflected that 92% of small business owners agree that mentors have a direct impact on the growth and survival of their business. On the topic of mentorship, New York-based Rising Star agent Cydney Lembersky shares, “Everything I know is because of Lauren Saiger Machowsky. She owed me nothing and taught me everything. Because of one woman, I learned about product, being a business owner, how to communicate with clients, suppliers, and navigate the world of travel, and I know I’m not the only person who owes their success to her.”
Cydney elaborates, “What I love about SmartFlyer is that we all pay these acts of kindness forward; we support each other’s growth, we encourage each other to push on, and not dwell on what we cannot control, and we offer each other guidance without expecting anything in return. That’s truly special.” Brooklyn-based advisor Liana Merriman adds, “Lauren has been the best mentor, friend and teacher since I told her a year before I left Four Seasons that I was planning to switch from working on the hotel side to becoming an advisor! She helped me get my feet on the ground and gave me amazing advice on everything, from how to talk to clients, to how to set up an LLC to all the nitty-gritty details. There was never a question that she didn’t have time to answer…even with then two and now three small kiddos along with a demanding business of her own to manage. Not to mention, I also copy her in real life, too, as I followed her to Brooklyn last year, now, we live down the street from each other!”
…with no personal gain to them. I find this very rare in a sales environment where most of the time it’s competitive and it’s every (wo)man for themselves. We know that by helping one another we are all impacting not just the overall bottom line of SmartFlyer, but the travel industry as a whole, and to me, that really says something about work ethic and character.
Atlanta-based travel advisor Monica Maslia shares, “What I love most is there are so many mentors within the team who willingly offer support and advice without expecting anything in return. It’s because they want to see others succeed and that’s it. When top producing SmartFlyer ONE advisor Deborah Director brought me on her team, she was sure my business would exponentially grow by being a part of the collaboration and innovation of the team. And she was right! There have been many, many times when Keri Nusbaum Kaufmann, Melissa Brosman Rosenbloum, Phyllis Polaner and Marina Kiriazis spent their valuable time on the phone and in-person with me to train me on destinations I knew absolutely nothing about – with no personal gain to them. I find this very rare in a sales environment where most of the time it’s competitive and it’s every (wo)man for themselves. We know that by helping one another we are all impacting not just the overall bottom line of SmartFlyer, but the travel industry as a whole, and to me, that really says something about work ethic and character.”
Fellow Atlanta-based travel agent Keri Kaufmann adds, “Monica, I couldn’t agree more! The unequivocal support and expertise, coupled with the true sincerity within this group is simply amazing. I am very fortunate to be in this industry and part of such an amazing and inspiring team. I’ve learned so much about destinations known and unknown from this group. But I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Melissa and Deborah who took me under their wings and helped me fly.” Brooklyn-based travel advisor Rachel Pantoja expands upon the sentiment sharing, “This is literally the best team I’ve ever been a part of! Smarties are collaborative, supportive and inspiring – whether we are mothers or not, there is this sort of maternal nature that we all possess and share, we celebrate each other’s wins and commiserate when things are tough. I treasure being part of the Smartie family every single day.”
One of the most attractive aspects of running your own business is inherently the opportunity to design your own schedule and determine your own version of “work-life balance.” Even further, the ability to be based from a home office is particularly enticing after becoming a mom. Of course, the irony in all this is that as independent contractors facilitating trip planning from A to Z, our superstar mommas are often working more hours than they ever did in corporate jobs to keep up with the demands of their growing list of clients. In fact, studies report that entrepreneurial moms who work on their businesses full-time have an average workload of 54 hours per week, with over one fifth (22 percent) of them working over 60 hours per week. And in terms of the travel business – one that seemingly never shuts off – the unique challenges that come along with this 24/7 industry are a hot topic amongst our team.
Knowing that many of us are working moms helps in providing a level of empathy in balancing our business, children and spouses. There’s a subtle understanding between us of how demanding this business can be at all hours of the day and what our ‘work’ actually looks like day in and day out.
NYC-based advisor Jennifer Richardson shares, “I am inspired daily by the Smartie momtrepreneurs in this community. This mentality around sharing resources breeds a community of driven, supportive partners that is rare. It is also very special to be part of a community where there is no need to mask the challenges of the work-life balance that can be heightened by ‘flexible hours.'” Fort Lauderdale-based agent Kristina Miller agrees, “As a mother, I love how this collaborative community allows me to work more efficiently and effectively. I can quickly ask my colleagues for help in between school pick-ups, so that I never miss a beat in providing the best service to my clients while at the same time being able to be present with my children. We are all in this together!” Atlanta-based travel advisor Laura Epstein adds, “A lot of us have success in this industry beyond what we ever imagined was possible when we first started our businesses. As our businesses grow, it’s nice to know that we are amongst a group of like-minded women to share best practices and business tips. Certainly, knowing that many of us are working moms helps in providing a level of empathy in balancing our business, children and spouses. There’s a subtle understanding between us of how demanding this business can be at all hours of the day and what our ‘work’ actually looks like day in and day out.”
The suppliers, fellow agents, and even my clients respect the family-first mentality, allowing me to focus on being my best self as mom, wife, friend in addition to travel advisor. People often comment that I have a great job and how fun it must be…well, I can’t argue with that one bit!
Dallas-based advisor Hillary Taylor builds on this bond around motherhood sharing, “I left corporate America to join this industry, totally unaware of how different it would truly be, top to bottom. From day one of just “picking brains” (shoutout to Taylor Madison, Angie Dickson and Katie Frederick Jacobson for answering all my questions!), I have felt beyond supported, encouraged and inspired. This is a world where others go against the grain and actually desire others’ success, that is incredibly unique! And now that I play a new and important role in life as a mom, that support has increased tenfold across the board. The suppliers, fellow agents, and even my clients respect the family-first mentality, allowing me to focus on being my best self as mom, wife, friend in addition to travel advisor. People often comment that I have a great job and how fun it must be…well, I can’t argue with that one bit! Newport Beach-based agent Annie Chambers chimes in, “I can’t add much to what Hillary said, but, I back up that statement, especially since we became moms at almost the same time. Our team in Newport Beach provides invaluable commraderie; I am sitting here with five other agents and feel so supported and encouraged by their successes. There is room at the top for everyone, and it truly feels this way. An agent who started a month ago is as valued as one who started ten years ago. I am incredibly inspired by the other mamas in this group who have been able to juggle everything.”
In an industry that has the potential to be so competitive, SmartFlyer is the exact opposite. It is an honor to work beside such successful, supportive, collaborative, and ridiculously fun women that I now get to call friends.
One of the most remarkable parts of this community is that over the course of thirty years, SmartFlyer has brought together countless colleagues turned lifelong friends. With teams located all over the country, our Smartie crew is bonded over our mutual passion for exploration; and oftentimes, these friendships are cemented as we travel the world together. Newport Beach-based travel advisor Lauren Kimball Grubbs shares, “When I joined SmartFlyer a year ago, I never imagined I’d gain the community that I did. I have never felt more welcomed and supported in a new job, company, or even school like I did when I started my travel career with SmartFlyer last year. I was immediately grateful for the mentorship, guidance, and most importantly, friendship, that Katie Frederick Jacobson and this community gave me. Then, when I began meeting other Smarties – whether it was simply on Instagram, through our Facebook group, or when I traveled to NYC for Smartie School and CORE – it was clear to me that this community stretched far beyond our Newport Beach office. In an industry that has the potential to be so competitive, SmartFlyer is the exact opposite. It is an honor to work beside such successful, supportive, collaborative and ridiculously fun women that I now get to call friends.”
While we are all technically independent contractors, there is nothing independent about us. We are a team in every sense of the word and we are stronger together because of it. Our #girlgang goes above and beyond to mentor one another and I love that we continue to learn and grow each day!
Palo Alto-based travel agent Katie Lee adds, “I am so honored to be part of a community that is so supportive, collaborative and welcoming to all! I felt so stuck after dedicating over a decade to training in the health care field – I never thought I’d have a chance at pursuing a different career. Katie and Erina believed in me before I did, and it sounds cheesy, but they totally changed the path of my life! These women within SmartFlyer helped me grow every step of the way in this industry. I’m constantly inspired and lifted to new heights because of these incredible women and Smarties. I’m very grateful for this tribe!” Newport Beach-based travel advisor Michelle Manas chimes in, “The travel industry was something I knew little about four years ago, and now I can confidently say that it is the best industry in the world! SmartFlyer is the most innovative, collaborative, inspiring and encouraging company in travel and I’m grateful every day to be a Smartie! While we are all technically independent contractors, there is nothing independent about us. We are a team in every sense of the word and we are stronger together because of it. Our #girlgang goes above and beyond to mentor one another and I love that we continue to learn and grow each day! Having the opportunity to be surrounded by such a talented group of entrepreneurs is the gift of a lifetime and it has created a true sisterhood that grows stronger every day. Our friendships run deep and I love cheering every single person from our tribe on and celebrating shared successes! ”
Brussels-based travel agent Marina Kiriazis adds, “I might live half a world away from the majority of the Smarties, but I have never felt alone. From day one, I have had encouragement and support in every turn. I can’t express how much it has meant being able to see that it’s all possible – business, life, family (because it’s all interconnected) – through people that cheer for me on a daily basis. A special shoutout goes to Phyllis Polaner for taking me under her wing on day one of my first Virtuoso Travel Week just four months into being my boss and working on this side of travel. She gave me so much confidence and made me feel I was worthy and could do anything!” Fort Lauderdale based travel agent Phyllis Polaner chimes in, “At SmartFlyer, I found a home where the balance of ‘competitive collaboration’ and leadership aligns with our personal strengths, perspectives and various points of view. What I didn’t expect were the friendships that could be nurtured amongst so many inspiring professionals whose creativity and tenacity drive me to reach for new perspectives and solutions when I hit a wall.”
Despite the immense challenges that come with being your own boss, there’s incredible upside and personal fulfillment that comes with nurturing a business entity that’s all your own. In fact, according to Inc., women entrepreneurs in the United States rank their happiness at nearly three times that of women who are not entrepreneurs or established business owners. Palm Beach-based travel agent Michelle Jackson agrees, divulging, “I feel fortunate to have found this line of work at a time in my life when I needed a refreshed identity. As I pivoted from solely focusing on raising young children, I loved how becoming a travel advisor allowed me to combine my entrepreneurial spirit with my skillset from prior work experiences. SmartFlyer’s insanely intelligent group of female powerhouses encourages me to want to seek success in my own business. It’s the mentorship of these woman that makes this community a truly special and unique business to be a part of.”
New Jersey-based travel advisor Elena Borrero shares, “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and worked with a range of different style of agencies. From your small mom-and-pop agency to your larger agencies, the lack of sharing is what really turned me off and what ultimately inspired me to go start my own agency. What makes working under the SmartFlyer umbrella so different is its open arms vibe and authentic passion to help. We are one community with a whole lot of love with such extreme passion. We are a tribe of women (and men) who are all thriving in our own lane and our success is because we have all lifted each other up when times become challenging.” Knoxville-based agent Alexandra Stockton adds, “I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work alongside so many amazing female business owners. SmartFlyer has cultivated a community of trust, support, and genuine friendship. There are no egos, no competition…our community is truly collaborative and that makes us all better travel advisors and business owners. Even though I’m based in Tennesse and not physically close to any other women in the company, I know I can always reach out to any of them for business advice, recommendations for a client’s trip, or a good laugh.”
We all share the same heart for travel and it is truly special to work alongside women that not only understand your passion but also selflessly help support one another in both our professional and personal lives. I wish that everyone was lucky enough to find a job that makes them feel connected to such a powerful community.
To bring it all home, the growing tribe of women brought together through our shared identity as Smarties cultivates a true sense of sisterhood. With over forty years in the industry under her belt, Atlanta-based advisor Jean Pickard explains, “Ours is a blended family; I am proud to call them my colleagues, my friends and my sisters. They are smart, always open and eager to learn and to know more. They are caring and compassionate, willing to give advice if and when asked but also understanding that sometimes we just need a shoulder. They are professional, both in their manner and in the relationships with our travel partners. They are passionate, about their clients, their careers and their families. They believe in the goodness of people and believe ours is a world that needs to be looked after and respected.” Fellow Atlanta-based agent Laura Crafton adds, “Being a part of this team goes so far beyond being just a job for me. I consider these women my family! We all share the same heart for travel and it is truly special to work alongside women that not only understand your passion but also selflessly help support one another in both our professional and personal lives. I wish that everyone was lucky enough to find a job that makes them feel connected to such a powerful community.”
Tucson-based travel agent Naomi Rose elaborates, “SmartFlyer represents the strongest collective of professional women I’ve ever been a part of and I‘m so eternally grateful to be a part of this amazing community. I learn so much every day from the other women in this group! You can feel a bit isolated as an independent contractor, but with this group, I feel totally supported and part of a greater team reaching toward the same goal. I simply could not do my job as well without the friendship and mentorship – for me, specifically from my fellow Arizonian Didi Johnson – from the other advisors in this group. The collaborative environment SmartFlyer has created is one of the strongest in the travel industry and is the crux of how I can keep my operations lean and successful. I feel so lucky to have found this sisterhood and to be able to work alongside this team of rockstar travel professionals!”
Down under, Melbourne based travel advisor Sally Palmer concludes with, “The comradery and support within the SmartFlyer Australia sisterhood is truly amazing. There’s a genuine sense that we’re all in this together and have each other’s backs. Not only does the intel shared about destinations and our partner offerings provide my clients with the best-of-the-best, it also truly inspires me as I’m surrounded by the best-of-the-best. The broader girl gang has made me feel included from the outset. They’re successful businesswomen who are busy themselves managing home lives, children, ongoing training, industry challenges plus a large group of well-traveled clients, however, they always have time to help a sister out and do so with grace and humility. Surrounding myself with these superwomen inspires me everyday.”
Inspired to support a business powered by women? Contact your SmartFlyer travel advisor to begin planning your next adventure.