Biddy Naylor is a great example of someone who transferred her love of helping people into a business. She created Valentine Travel – of spoiling yourself for 10 days. Remember the movie ‘Shirley Valentine’? I asked Biddy about her business. Biddy has since ‘retired’.
What was your previous occupation?
My previous occupation was Social Worker in a Community Health Centre.
Why did your start your business?
I started Valentine Travel because I wanted a change from Social Work. I wanted to do something more light-hearted and fun. I had travelled in Europe as a young adult and I loved the opportunity to practise French and Italian which I had studied at school. I found that if I could communicate with people in their language I could delve more deeply into their culture. I thought that it would be a great adventure to combine travel, walking, and friendship with like-minded women and so I came up with the idea of Valentine Travel: Walking Holidays in Europe Especially for Women.
Explain what you do?
Through Valentine Travel, for the past 20 years I arranged holidays for women in Europe.
Researching the proposed destination to see that it is beautiful, has good accommodation, good walks nearby, some restaurants and shops, is accessible by public transport….and:
- Putting together an itinerary based on walks that I have tried out in that area
- Producing a brochure and circulating it as widely as possible
- Trying to get some media coverage
- Using the Valentine Travel website.
- Running Information Sessions
- Maintaining good communication with my clients
- Organising all the logistics for the holiday in a particular location, eg. Transport, accommodation, payments to various service providers
- Offering guests the opportunity to meet each other prior to departure
- Attending various reunions of Valentine Travel groups.
How did you think of travel tours for females?
I started my business in 1998. I was one of the first Tour Operators in Australia to offer Women Only holidays. I had been inspired by the movie “Shirley Valentine” and have called my business “Valentine Travel” so that anyone who has seen the movie will understand some of the motivation behind creating a Women Only holiday. Basically, I believe that women, traditionally, have taken on the major “looking after everyone in the family before themselves” role. (My sister calls it “The Burnt Chop Syndrome”!)
This situation may have changed over the past 20 years of more gender equality. I wanted to give women an opportunity to step out of their everyday lives for a short period and go on a holiday where they wouldn’t have to look after anyone else. In fact, I would look after them!
I also wanted to create a holiday where single women, as well as women in relationships, would feel comfortable. I had heard that it could be awkward for solo travellers to join groups where others appeared to be travelling as couples or as a group of friends.
What did you learn about having such a business?
I learnt about having a business like mine is that it is intensely satisfying to give new experiences and pleasure to other people. There is a lot of responsibility involved because I know that everyone is pinning her hopes on me to provide the Holiday of a Lifetime, but that’s fine: I am up for the challenge! I also learnt that, in travelling so much overseas, (up to 4 months a year over a 20 year period), it is really important to have the support and encouragement of one’s family. My husband has been totally supportive of me and my adult children, too, were pleased to see me doing something that made me really happy!
How many staff do you have?
I didn’t have any “staff”. My husband, Ross, helped me with managing the business side of things and, he then started to come with me on trips where he gave me moral support, drove the minibus, helped with logistics, washed the dishes. Over the years I have also had many Co-Leaders to help me with the groups and these people have been my sisters, friends and local women.
What’s the best part of your business?
The best part of my business is that I travelled to beautiful places, met wonderful people, practiced the languages I love, learnt more and more about different cultures and made lots of new friends.
And what are some of the challenges?
The challenges were things like:
How to keep getting new clients, given that advertising is so expensive?
What happens on a rainy day?
What happens if someone has a fall?
How to engage local people to lead the walks if, for some reason, I am unavailable on a particular day?
Spoiling Yourself For 10 Days….Biddy’s Story