Having almost been ousted from travel as an apprentice framed for fraud aged 19, Rachael Quinton now has her own agency to carry on the family name. She tells Ben Ireland her story.

Q. When did you launch Quinton Travel?
A. I opened in January, just as peaks were kicking in, so I was very stressed by the end of that month. I joined Brilliant Travel as a managed service travel partner. I looked at a few options and just clicked with them. I liked the ethos and size and the fact it was a family-run business, and they let me trade under my own name.

Q. What’s your background in travel?
A. I started as an apprentice at an independent in Cheshire called Allplanned, which has now closed, then I moved to Going Places and was a manager by 21. When I was 26 I had a baby, and a dog, so left to prioritise them. I returned to work part-time with Hays Travel as a homeworker. I was at Hays, where I took Teletext calls, for 10 years before joining Travel Counsellors for five years.

Q. How has business started?
A. I’ve taken £500K in sales revenue in the first six months. People have been so supportive because I’m a new, small, local business. I’ve been in travel for nearly 25 years, so I’ve got a lot of clients who know me, but starting my own business means I can refresh my brand, including on social media.

Q. But it could have gone so differently?
A. When I was 19 I was accused of stealing money from Allplanned. I’d only been in the job nine months and my career almost ended before it began. I was interviewed by police and due to testify at crown court, but the night before [the hearing] they looked over the interviews and worked out I was innocent by looking at rotas. They showed I couldn’t have been working on the dates the money went missing. When I got the call, I was really excited to apply for travel agent jobs again, and saw it as a second chance.

Q. Why did you start your own agency?
A. I’d always wanted to own my own business from an early age. My grandad was always so proud of our unusual name, Quinton, and it was just me and my sister so starting Quinton Travel is a way to carry on the family name.

Q. How are you set up?
A. At the moment, I’ve been working from home, but I’ve just signed a lease for my first office. It won’t be a walk-in; clients will have to make appointments. The idea behind getting an office is to have space to hire someone to help me. I’m looking for someone now. It’s also about creating a work/life divide. My daughter once asked me why I don’t go to work ‘like a normal person’. Being a small business owner I’ll still have to pick up work in the evenings, but I’m hoping I’ll be more focused in the office and get more done to free up family time.

Q. How do you find new clients?
A. It’s a lot of repeat business to be honest, I’ve built up a large client base over 25 years. I also get a lot of referrals and go to local networking events. I have a partnership with a charity called The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust, which provides holidays and activities for families of ill and disadvantaged children. I make a monthly donation, and help out at the farm, which helps me meet new clients.

Q. What are you selling a lot of?
A. I’m getting a lot of enquiries for family holidays and long-haul tailor-made. I’ve seen families move away from all-inclusive, which is different to trends you hear, but maybe I’m just moving in a different direction? Families don’t want to just sit in hotels anymore. Florida is big for families and Thailand is popular for long-haul tailor-made. Thailand sells itself.