We have been talking to Gavin Lapidus who started eShores, an online travel agent and tour operator specialising in luxury and tailor made multi-centre holidays to exotic destinations. This blog tells his story and shares some advice for those of you wondering how to turn your interest or hobby into a viable business!
What is your background in and what was your last job before you launched eShores?
My background is mainly in sales and marketing, but I used to work in construction, and also spent some time working in steel manufacturing.
The last job I had before launching eShores was as a regional sales manager for a steel manufacturing company, where my focus was on bringing products to market and advertising them, but it wasn’t long before I decided I wanted to start my own business.
What made you want to start your own business?
I have always wanted my own business. My mum and sister both have their own businesses, as do some of my friends, so it’s always been a personal goal of mine. I have always been a very driven person who wants to keep moving forward in their career, so I have always seen starting my own business as my main goal.
I worked my way up from the bottom in the construction company I worked at, and although I found steel manufacturing interesting, I knew it wasn’t my future. I excelled in sales and marketing and decided I wanted to try and use my skills in a company I could call my own.
What made you want to get into your industry? And how did you do it?
I was sat down thinking about all my different options – I knew I wanted my own business, but I didn’t know exactly what to do. I didn’t want to stay in the construction industry, as I felt like my knowledge and passions lay elsewhere. While I love eating, drinking, and socialising, I didn’t feel that starting up a bar or restaurant was the best option.
I then thought about how much I love to travel and go to a range of different places, and got talking to people in the industry. Nadine, my business partner, who is a director here too, came on board with 15 years travel industry experience, and so I thought my experience in sales and marketing, combined with her background in travel, would be the perfect combination.
What advice would you give to a student or graduate hoping for a career in your industry?
I think it’s important to have a passion for travel. The great thing about travel is that you can start as a one-man-band working from home and then build your business up. I had a tiny office to begin with, but then moved to a larger place as my team began to grow.
You need to know what you are good at and what works, then focus on that area. With a passion and drive to succeed, you can make your career what you want it to be, own your own business, and have a job you love each and every day.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
Every day is different for me. There are always a few projects I’m working on, and right now I’m focussing on the internal systems. My goal each day is to ensure everything is running smoothly and the teams are all OK. If there are any problems the team will come to me and I can find the best way to solve them.
Sometimes I spend a few hours responding to customers and replying to emails, but my day to day tasks are fairly ad hoc. When the company was smaller I spent more time working in sales, but now I have a team of experts, I leave it to them and just do the additional jobs here and there.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I love hearing from happy customers – we have a review system in place now to see their feedback and it’s wonderful hearing about all their different trips and the things they did on their holidays. I love seeing my team develop too – it’s great to see them doing well and enjoying their job.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging thing is probably the change in markets and the volatile nature of the travel industry. Sometimes things happen that are completely out of your control, like natural disasters, so it can be tough trying to work around these and keep the business moving forward as normal.
It can be hard knowing how to respond to changes in the market without letting it affect the business. From a marketing point of view, your sales figures could be soaring, and then, through no fault of your own, there is a natural disaster, and the sales team suffer. It can be frustrating as you then need to look for solutions.
How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
I actually struggled with this for many years, especially when first setting up the business. I worked every hour of the day, but I soon realised I was driving myself into the ground. There’s no point having a business if you can’t enjoy it. Now the business has a good structure, with team leaders who manage each department.
There are so many different roles in the company which mean I can take a step back sometimes and let my management team do their job. I will always ensure I have one day off a week, but two days would be ideal for that perfect work/life balance.
What does the future hold for eShores?
eShores is all about looking after the customer and giving them a personal service. I don’t want the business to become so big that it loses its personal touch, but I would still like to grow and develop the team. Working closely with our customers as a small team helps us to deliver such a personal service, and it’s something I always want to keep a focus on.
If you need some advice on identifying a career path, help recognising what you are good at, and what self-employment options might be available to you, come and talk to UOC Careers team. Contact us at email@example.com.
We work closely with the Enterprise team who can help you learn about self-employment and setting up a business.