Your Stories: Stacey Solomon shout-out sparked flurry of bookings for Sian Partridge

Sian Partridge, Make Holiday Memories franchisee with Holiday Franchise Company, tells Samantha Mayling about starting in travel just before the pandemic.

Q. How did you start in travel?
A. I launched Make Holiday Memories as a franchisee of the Holiday Franchise Company in December 2019. I’d helped friends and family plan Disney trips, so it seemed a natural progression and working in travel was my dream. When I was young, I used to play travel agents with my sister and book pretend holidays.

The Holiday Franchise Company fitted everything I dreamed about, including having control over my company and brand

My grandad worked for Thomas Cook in the 1950s. But I found it hard to break into travel without experience. It was a vicious circle. I contacted other franchise companies, but they weren’t for me. The Holiday Franchise Company fitted everything I dreamed about, including having control over my company and brand. I was a part-time customer relations coordinator for Nuffield Health and worked for them early in the mornings, and the rest of the day as an agent. My first booking was for a couple to Las Vegas to celebrate his 40th birthday. I’d only just launched when Covid hit. It was really challenging and a bit scary, with rules and regulations constantly changing. I diversified to UK breaks to keep my brand out there and sales coming in.

Q. What help do you get from HFC?
A. There’s been lots of HFC training. Our induction covers websites, sales, service, networking and Google Ads – and there’s training from suppliers about destinations, products and booking systems. With the ‘Hear to Help’ programme, franchisees can book one-to-one coaching and we have monthly ‘Stay Connected’ webinars. ‘Work with Us’ enables us to work at the Birmingham head office with the support team if we want.

With the ‘Hear to Help’ programme, franchisees can book one-to-one coaching and we have monthly ‘Stay Connected’ webinars

Q. What do you sell?
A. Sales range from bucket-and-spade beach holidays to off-the-beaten track adventures. My speciality is Disney and I love helping customers make the most of their time. I’ve designed amazing itineraries in Costa Rica and Thailand – and travelling around California in an RV.

Q. How have sales been?
A. My sales in 2023 doubled from 2022. This January was my highest sales month so far; I’ve been extremely busy. There’s more demand for Europe, with customers wanting the likes of Jet2 and Tui. I feel extremely proud to have received the Gold award – for sales of more than £300,000 – and Franchisee of the Year award at the HFC conference in December 2022. In 2023 I was awarded Emerald status for sales over £650,000. I always strive to deliver the best service and sales, so being recognised makes me so happy.

I feel extremely proud to have received the Gold award – for sales of more than £300,000 – and the Franchisee of the Year award

Q. Why did you get an Instagram shout-out from Stacey Solomon?
A. I messaged her when she was in Disneyland Paris, in October 2022, saying I wish I could have booked her trip for her and sent the link to my website. She took the time to look at my website and posted that I was an independent travel company that looked really good. I was inundated with enquiries and secured 18 bookings. I’m still getting enquiries and bookings from her post.

I was inundated with enquiries and secured 18 bookings. I’m still getting enquiries and bookings from her post

Q. What trips have you been on?
A. I had a week-long fam in the gorgeous Dominican Republic. It was a great learning experience. I’ve also stayed in the amazing Hard Rock Hotel in Marbella. Both fams were thanks to the Palladium Group. I’ve been on an outstanding Silversea cruise from Croatia to Venice, which I highly recommend. We go on lots of family holidays. My boys love exploring, so there’s always a city break or a holiday in the sun booked, and Disney, of course. If a customer has an issue, I’m on hand; even if I am away, my laptop is with me. As a family, we believe in memory gifts over ‘things’. I wanted this portrayed in my ‘Make Holiday Memories’ brand. Memories are precious and holiday ones are my favourite. My dream is to keep building the business and increasing my knowledge. I aim to bring someone on board when I get more enquiries than I can cope with. To be successful you need to be passionate, positive, organised, determined, resilient and have an eye for detail.

My dream is to keep building the business and increasing my knowledge. I aim to bring someone on board when I get more enquiries than I can cope with


How did the business grow?

My marketing background pre-dated social media but I know some of the traditional techniques, which still work.

The first thing I did was a leaflet drop around my village, which was fantastic for brand awareness and generating enquiries.

Sometimes I don’t move from my desk all day, which was the case in January peaks. But working for myself means I can take an afternoon off whenever I need

Business developed steadily through word-of-mouth, referrals, sponsoring local youth sports teams, offering raffle prizes, local advertising and attending wedding shows, but social media has played the biggest part. It was hard work managing a family and another job at the same time, but it grew to a point where I could work full-time on my business. Sometimes I don’t move from my desk all day, which was the case in January peaks. But working for myself means I can take an afternoon off whenever I need. I decided to leave my other job at the end of last year. It was the right time, as my business was gaining momentum and I didn’t want to get to a point where I wasn’t giving 100% to both roles. The power of word-of-mouth always amazes me. I’ve not paid for much advertising, but holiday enquiries have come from all over the UK, not just my area here in Essex.

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