Fast-growing homeworker franchise firm believes it has the approach to training and mentoring to match its big ambitions. Founder Steve Witt spoke to Lee Hayhurst

There’s probably been a better day in the recent past to launch a travel agency than September 10, 2001.

Not Just Travel – or Be Free Travel, as it then was – debuted on the old analogue Teletext service the day before the devastating attack on New York’s twin towers.

It later set up homeworking group The Travel Franchise.

Today the firm is determined to become the UK’s number‑one agency and, while much has changed in the past 15 years, founder Steve Witt says one fundamental principle remains.

“We focus on customer service so the consumer has the perfect experience,” he says.

“There is a process we take people through to ensure they have that perfect holiday.”

Like many of his 250 homeworkers, Witt entered travel with little experience of the sector. He admits the only place he had ever visited abroad was Lanzarote.

He was running his own web‑hosting business and looking to do something different when he was introduced to The Global Travel Group franchise.

“The intention was always to be an online business, but it was four years before we built our first website because we were so busy with Teletext,” says Witt.

“We took an honest and ethical approach; what you saw was what you got. It was a huge learning curve but we enjoyed it and got great customer feedback because we focused on the service side of things, which was relatively novel.”

Shift to web

After seven years Witt decided to move to the web, despite being one of Teletext’s top advertisers, as the internet heralded the demise of the analogue service.

The firm had rebranded to Not Just Travel, was operating out of a warehouse on a trading estate in Blandford Forum, Dorset, and had switched to Hays Travel Independence Group.

For a period it had a shop in the warehouse. “We’d built a name for ourselves locally, although that was never our intention,” says Witt.

In 2010, the firm relocated to Bournemouth and moved into homeworking but Witt said he wanted to expand more quickly.

“We support our franchisees to create their business, find and retains customers”

He says his background prompted him to develop The Travel Franchise to tap into the motivation of self-employed people.

“We worked out what sort of training to put in place to help people create their own businesses,” he says.

“Today we’re all about supporting those franchisees to create their own business, find customers, manage them and develop ongoing relationships. It’s all-encompassing, not just selling holidays.”

Witt is so confident about the approach he has developed that he offers to refund the cost of franchises if agents hit what he says are “highly achievable” targets in their first 12 months.

An entry-level ‘Pro’ franchise costs £9,995 while the ‘Supreme’ top level costs £29,995.

“We do not profit from selling franchises,” says Witt.

“All the money is invested back into training, support and marketing materials.”

The model is clearly working. Not Just Travel aims to grow sustainably, averaging 15 new franchisees a month and was recognised last year as one of Hays IG’s fastest-growing members.

“Since then it’s not slowed down,” says Witt, who claimed the firm’s sales, revenue and commission was up 200% this year.

“It’s an ambitious target, but we want to become the UK’s number one at what we do,” says Witt.