A decade ago, after retiring—or as they prefer to say, “graduating”—from education and opening the GetAway Vaca travel agency, Anne Harpold and Sharon Grant couldn’t imagine that their hobby turned multimillion-dollar travel business would lead them to center stage to receive the Bobbye Haupt Franchise of the Year Award during the 2023 Dream Vacations and CruiseOne National Conference awards ceremony.
The award, one of the most prestigious honors presented during the conference’s glittery awards ceremony onboard Carnival Celebration, where the annual conference is taking place, is a pinnacle in their careers as travel advisors.
“[We were] surprised, honored, humbled, but also recognizing all those who helped us get this award. Not only within our franchise, but the entire World Travel Holdings leadership team and the support services behind it,” Grant tells Recommend. “I wanted to bring everybody up because it wasn’t just us.”
“It’s very much a team effort,” notes Harpold, “starting with our very own associates [in the franchise].”
Educators Turn to Travel for Second Career
After a 30-year career in education, Grant and Harpold, who have been friends for decades, having both worked as principals within the same school system, looked at their future and knew that a second career was in the making.
“We were looking for a career that would [meld] everything we’ve learned in education with our love for travel. We thought we’d start a hobby business,” says Harpold. In fact, it’s not a long stretch going from educators to travel advisors, they both point out. “It’s the passion for learning,” says Harpold. “We have a saying across the [Dream Vacations] network—‘if you’re not selling, you should be learning.’ And my reason for wanting to travel the world is because it makes the world smaller, and it brings people together. You realize that people from this continent are the same as people from another continent. We all want the same thing; we just want to live in peace. We’re used to that in a school environment.” She also points out that as educators, they know how to research, and they know how to troubleshoot.
They settled on Dream Vacations—they were originally CruiseOne franchisees—because they read good things about the organization, knew how supportive they were and knew that they were extremely encouraging to women-owned businesses.
Their first booking happened because of the huge network they had at their disposal between students, staff and teachers. And, as Grant explains, they sold their first group—150 persons— on a Carnival ship. “Initially, we didn’t really know what we wanted our niche to be and so we were selling everything,” says Grant. “We both love group travel, whether it’s land or river or ocean. We’ve got a couple of groups that we host every year, and some of our associates are extremely well-versed in all-inclusives. In fact, we have a well-rounded team.”
Harpold points out that one of the reasons they think they are successful is because they do lean on their skills as educators. For example, when it comes to the booking process, they are always one step ahead. “Like we tell our teachers, you have to be one week ahead with your lesson plan and it’s the same thing with booking [a vacation].” Grant adds that they also look at their business development plan “by each quarter and by different categories. We tell our associates, ‘This is a living document and if you have another idea and you don’t want to do what you originally had it’s okay to cross it off.’”
They remind those who are interested in becoming travel advisors of the downsides. “You have to understand late gratification and you have to understand you’re not traveling for free everywhere you want to go,” says Harpold. “Also research skills,” adds Grant, “and being able to present yourself and sell yourself. You’re selling yourself just as much as you’re selling travel.”
And they both live by their words and have created what is today a $4 million, award-winning travel agency. “At the end of the day,” says Grant, “we both have serving hearts. That’s why we want to help our associates, we want to help the network. We are inspired by our guests, providing that unique experience that fulfills their dreams.” With Harpold adding, “We provide the same level of service to the person who spends $1,000 as the person who spends $30,000 for a trip.” And she adds, “It’s been a very good run for us.”
For more information on Dream Vacations, visit dreamvacationsfranchise.com.