Alumni Spotlight - February 2019: Sutanya Thompson
Alumna: Sutanya Thompson
Academic School: School of Business and Entrepreneurial Studies (SOBES)
Business Name: TW Tours & Service
In what year did you begin your studies at Excelsior Community College?
-I began my studies in September 2011.
Give a brief overview of your current business
TW Tours & Service is a travel and tour service located at 34 Lady Musgrave Road, Unit 18 at the Hub, Kingston 5. The business operates as a partnership with its owners- Sutanya Thompson and Nadia Wolfe, being travel consultants for over twelve (12) years each. During this time both partners gained a tremendous amount of experience and exposure to various aspects of the travel industry. The business officially commenced in June of 2016 and was fully registered as at September 2016.
TW Tours and Services provide tour and travel related services some of which include; airline tickets, hotel bookings, visa applications (for USA, UK, Canada, Cayman and many other countries), transportation services, travel insurance, passport applications and renewals ( for Jamaica, USA, UK, Canada & UK), applications related to migration and much more. We also offer convenience through some of our service offerings for our valued customers.
To what extent did your studies at Excelsior Community College motivate you to start your own business?
The courses incorporated in the Bachelor programme I pursued contributed greatly to my personal as well as my professional development. Courses such as Entrepreneurship, Business and Company Law, Customer Service, Marketing, Research, Human Resource Management, Strategic Management and Macroeconomics are just a few of the courses which equipped me with much information and important tools , enough to have motivated my decision to start my own business. Consequently, I am now equipped with the knowledge and qualification needed to do my job efficiently and effectively and in the same breath, operate my business in a very competitive and dynamic industry. This also has embedded in me a level of confidence and determination fuelled by the sense of achievement gained from completing the programme.
What are the top five challenges you experienced in the early stages of starting your business?
The idea of being the boss can be very motivating and liberating but the consideration of what it takes may cause one to be daunted. For us at TW Tours and Services it was more of something we had to do, especially as we had been in the same job for many years with no opportunity to maximise our full potential. Hence, we took on the challenge with confidence. As with any new business we faced challenges. A few of these are as follows:
-We had difficulty finding the most suitable and cost effective location which allowed us minimal overhead costs and easy access for our customers.
-We didn’t have the capital needed nor were we in a position to borrow money from the bank to overcome this.
-We didn’t have any furniture to furnish an office space in order to provide service.
-We were working in an environment that provided services similar to what our new business was designed to and as such we had to decide strategically on how to pursue our business without any conflict of interest.
-We were uncertain about our future in the travel industry as things were changing dramatically and customers’ demands were changing too.
How did you overcome these challenges?
As previously mentioned we gladly took on the challenge of becoming business women, so when these challenges presented themselves we sought to dig deeper and find opportunities where there seemed none. We got family, friends and well-wishers involved and we were able to find the most suitable and cost effective location. This location called the Hub co-working Jamaica provided the right office space, a bundled overhead monthly cost and the priceless opportunity to network with other business owners and potential customers.
We also received a small loan, donation of furniture and other needed office supplies from family and friends, while some we were able to acquire from income earned and some we owned personally. As we took the leap of operating on a fulltime basis, our customer base increased as word got out that we were now operating our own entity. We were then able to acquire other well needed office supplies and our relationship with the bank became more meaningful, allowing us the opportunity to access financial assistance.
As the time passed we were also able to subdue the fear of uncertainty for our future as new requests by customers came in and revenues increased were able to obtain our operating licence from The International Air Transport Association (IATA), satisfy the increasing and new demands and secure their continued support as well as to gain new customers. Through this experience we have been able to effectively upgrade our offerings, seek partnership with certain relevant entities and uniquely offer additional services. Ultimately we have been able to continuously improve our customer service and satisfaction. We continue to overcome new challenges.
What is most satisfying experience about owning a business?
Knowing you are the boss in charge is very satisfying. For us it is the opportunity to customize the service we provide to our customers at will. It is also the ability to see our efforts and ideas blossom and to be proud when we overcome our challenges and by surpassing the customers’ expectation and receive gratitude from them, knowing they rely greatly on our experience and advice. It is also the reality of being able to get the most out of owing the business and adding or subtracting the elements which are set to make the business competitive. It is also seeing our years of experience and teachings effectively applied to situations that require them and our determination to see the business through.
Any advice to young entrepreneurs?
My advice to young entrepreneurs is to take the leap of faith and start your own business, you will be happy you did. Ensure though that you fulfil all the legal requirements and do your research. We spent great deal of time while we were still working to do so and took all customers’ complaints and worked on how we could solve them and turned them into opportunities now when our previous employers ignored them.
Also, nothing is impossible. Don’t ever be afraid to learn a new method it might just be that which makes your business relevant. Keep your ears to the ground and network at every chance you get, that is how you will learn and display your business to others and great opportunities may come.
Finally, get everyone you know involved in marketing your business but you must take care and show how passionate you are about it so the message will transcend in your efforts. Last but not least, go through your business activities on a regular basis, it will help you to see if you are achieving your objectives.