For almost three decades Paul Smith’s life centred around his family-run travel agency in Twickenham.
But when the landlord decided to treble his rent, Paul had no choice but to give up his shop in Heath Road, Twickenham, and become a roaming homeworker – a move that he says has made him hungrier than ever for success.
World of Transport Travel was started by Paul’s parents Doreen and Ray Smith in 1983, and as a homeworker he is still working under the agency’s name.
“I was there from day one when I was 16 years old and had just left school,” Paul says. “They set up the business for me, so there was something for me in the future.
“They wanted to start something that they knew I would have an interest in and something I could continue further down the line.”
But after 29 years trading from the same shop, Paul – who took over ownership seven years ago following the death of his father – was forced to close the doors.
“I didn’t really have a choice,” he says. “The rent just wasn’t sustainable at the price they were wanting to charge, so I had to leave the high street.
“It is sad because the high street was all I have ever known and I really enjoyed having the shop.”
It’s been a month since Paul became a ‘mobile and independent travel agent’ and he says he has been surprised by the amount of new custom he has had.
“I’m getting a mix of repeat customers and new ones, which is amazing,” he says. “I think I’m approaching things a bit differently from how I used to.
“I’m hungrier than ever to get their custom and I’m going out and meeting with customers within a five or six-mile radius which I think has been really popular.
“It was very hard at first to come to terms with the fact that I had to give up the shop, but I’m definitely more positive about being a homeworker than I was the first day I set up away from the shop. You just have to be a little determined – and I am!
“I am enjoying the fact it is a new challenge.”
The 46-year-old, who is still based in Twickenham, says he has used social media to his advantage by posting deals online and interacting with customers. “I have a Facebook page and I think that’s important. It gets my name out there and it is a great way to keep that line of communication going.
“I think all travel agents should embrace social networking.”
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