Woman’s Essence Magazine (For and About Powerful Women) enjoys interviewing women who overcome challenges to achieve the status of being a Powerful Woman. Ileaa Swift is one of many woman added to the list. She is the owner of Swift Travels. She shares with the magazine on how she built Swift Travels to the success it is today and at the same time balancing being a wife.
1) You spent 7 years researching and booking trips for family and friends. When did you realize you can turn what you love into a business?
In the beginning when I started out, many people were not familiar with the concept of frequently booking travel online on their own, so because of my love and passion for all things travel, I volunteered to help family and friends’ book travel, especially those who needed special assistance such as wheelchairs, etc. It was something that I absolutely loved to do….just as a hobby. After a couple of years, many other people started to find out about my travel hobby through referrals and word of mouth and asked for my assistance with booking travel for leisure, business and large events such as conferences and family reunions etc. I would take days, even weeks researching locations, cultures and destinations just to make sure I was able to help find exactly what the traveler was looking for. After a while, the requests for travel assistance became overwhelming and my husband recommended that I consider starting my own business because I was so passionate about it. From that point, I took another year to travel which gave me a new perspective on life and how I articulated the world. I completely immersed myself into travel and researched the travel industry and travel franchise options. But unfortunately, after all of the travel companies that I approached refused to offer payment plans for clients, I decided to start my own travel agency. I thought it would be more beneficial to everyone if they did not have to pay the full amount for travel upfront, which would allow more people to travel for leisure, business or to visit family, etc. and make payments over time while sticking to their preferred budget. Swift Travel Deals was officially born in 2012 and today, we pride ourselves for providing travel services to everyone regardless of race, religion, orientation or creed and we also specialize in book now/pay later travel for all types of travel including special needs and disability travel in hopes to make sure that everyone is able to travel the world.
2) What were some of the steps you took to launch Swift Travels?
I knew that Travel was what I wanted to do, so I focused on travel only and not multiple other things. I’ve learned that you have to be grounded and disciplined in one thing and not multiple things because having too many things going on at once limits your ability to get anything done. The first step I took was learning the facts about the travel industry and gaining knowledge through research. I completely immersed myself into travel and learned as much as I could. I then traveled the world myself which helped me gain a new perspective on people, culture and all of different countries around the globe. I think I have grown so much from all of the amazing, life changing experiences and great conversations that I had meeting people from all around the world and experiencing culture. I thought it would be wonderful to create a company that would allow others to do the same. I then secured a line of credit from my bank and I started my company. Today I work with vendors and companies around the world and no longer need a line of credit to fund company or my payment plan options. I still continue to research the industry, travel the world and learn as much as possible about the changes and trends in travel in order to continue to grow and evolve.
3) What were some of the challenges you faced with launching Swift Travels? How did you overcome the obstacles?
Being a young woman and an entrepreneur is a major challenge. In the beginning no one took me seriously and didn’t understand the need for a travel agent with all of the online resources. But I wanted Swift Travel Deals to be more than just a travel agency. I wanted to create an avenue where everyone could travel the world regardless of budget or need and also use Swift Travel Deals as a platform for philanthropy to intentionally change the world for the better. I worked hard to prove myself worthy to work with different clients and companies around the world. I work with clients from all around the globe, so I don’t mind sacrificing sleep to speak with a client on another end of the globe because of our time difference. I think people started to see my love for travel and people and that I love what I do and that made the difference. Which I think explains why the majority of our business has come from word of mouth and referrals with little advertising. I think because I’m always so excited to talk about travel and listen to others talk about their experiences and their cultures and building those relationships and connections with people has been the reason I have had longevity and success in the travel industry. I tap dance to work every day because I have the luxury of learning about different cultures and talking to people from around the globe and learning about their lives and making unforgettable connections every day. My biggest accomplishment in the travel industry was learning that no matter whom we are or where we are in the world; we are inextricably connected as most of our values such as happiness and love are shared by humanity collectively.
4) How big is Swift Travels today? How many employees and clients do you have in total since Swift Travels launched in 2012?
We have over 100 independent contract travel agents and referral agents across the globe. My goal is to have an additional 250 agents worldwide by 2020. I am very selective with the agents who work with Swift Travel Deals. I want to have a solid team of agents who are just as passionate about travel, culture and people as I am. Our agents work from home which has been very beneficial for agents that have full time jobs or families. We have a database of over 200,000 clients and potential clients worldwide and we continue to reach more people every day through social media, referrals and word of mouth.
5) How did you and your husband meet? Did you establish your business before or after meeting your husband?
My husband and I met at church. We connected spiritually and through our common interests. I established Swift Travel Deals years later after we were married.
6) How long have you been married? Does your husband support you and your business? How does he show support?
We have been happily married for 7 years. My husband is simply amazing. He is very supportive and always there to help me in any way that he can. What I absolutely love about him is that he keeps me sane and grounded. Usually if he sees that I am overwhelmed or have been working extremely hard he will surprise me with something special like a vacation to Europe or simple things such as taking a walk through a beautiful botanical garden. His love and constant support is the reason why I am the woman that I am today and the reason why Swift Travel Deals is such a huge success
7) How does he feel about being married to a Powerful Woman?
Terrence says: “Ileaa has always been ambitious and extremely driven since I met her. She would set a goal and work hard to achieve it and watching everything that she’s worked so hard for come into fruition makes me extremely proud of her. But she didn’t have overnight success. She has worked very hard and made sacrifices to follow her dreams. I always try to be there for her to support her, help her in any way and provide balance. Her humility and passion for the wellbeing of others is what makes her so special. Not only is she a successful business woman but she is a great person and a philanthropist and she spends a lot of time helping others. She doesn’t volunteer for photo ops. She’s the real deal! Not only is she an inspiration to me but she has inspired so many countless others. I am blessed to be able to love her every day and build a life with such an amazing woman. -Terrence Swift
8) Do you plan on having children in the near future?
I love children and I would love to experience motherhood and have a family of my own. I believe that having a child would be a blessing to our marriage but it would also change our lives profoundly…forever. My husband and I spend a lot of time with our nieces and nephew and we love being aunt and uncle. But we wanted to build a solid foundation before we decide to have children of own. Having a solid bond and stability, I think it is important before deciding to have children. I think, if possible, women should take the time to find themselves and pursue their goals and their dreams before they become a wife and a mother. Of course, I know things will happen when it’s time, but being prepared and financially and emotionally stable before having children has always something that was important to me.
9) How do you balance being a wife and entrepreneur? Do you believe women can have it all and do it all?
I have a set schedule. I’m a planner, I keep a journal and my calendar is planned in advance. I take the time that I need to stop and smell the roses and enjoy my life with my husband and my family. Having structure and a clear direction is key. I believe women can have it all and do it all but we have to learn to appreciate the sacrifices that it will take to get to the place in your life where you CAN have it all.
10) How do you keep yourself grounded and balanced?
I think it is important to have boundaries and balance. It takes structure and discipline and sacrifice in order to get to where you want to be in life. Success to me is having freedom and being happy.
11) What is ahead for Swift Travels in the near future?
I am working hard to boldly move Swift Travel Deals forward in the travel industry. We have strategically designed our own strategy to forge strong partnerships across the travel and entertainment industries to bring our global expansion vision to life and to provide new and exclusive travel packages and offers for our clients. 2014, we have launched the Swift Travel Deals Global Expansion-Path to Growth Initiative where we plan to hire an additional 250 travel agents worldwide over the course of 5 years in order to strengthen our ability to deliver the best customer service and experiences to our clients.
12) What advice would you give women who also want to turn their passion into a successful business?
It’s imperative that we support each other and set positive examples for other women in business and young girls. My advice is to find your truth! Share your wealth of experiences with others and the world. Young women should learn to understand the importance of working hard while you are young because through hard work, dedication and sacrifices, you will reap the rewards and benefits later in life. It will take hard work, dedication and persistent effort to accomplish a goal or follow your career path. Be relentless, learn the facts and fundamentals that it takes to have success and longevity in your industry of choice, earn your credentials and don’t let failure or fear stop you. Take every opportunity to learn new things, study and stay focused.
(Check out Swift Travels here : www.swifttraveldeals.com)