Zoe Rogers makes dreams come true. It could be a once in a lifetime holiday or a honeymoon from heaven, but whatever it is Zoe finds it, fixes it and sends people to paradise. And she does it all from her spare room!
The 32 year-old mother of two has enjoyed a career in the travel industry for most of her working life. Until recently this was with a well-known high street travel agent, but when the latest member of the family came along, the now two year-old Carter, Zoe was faced with a quandary.
“I loved the job,” says the Hindley Green mum. “But I also wanted to spend more time at home with the baby. I decided the only way forward was to work for myself.”
It was a similar story for Ashton man John Willcox. The 48 year-old swapped life as a jet-set project engineer with a glass manufacturer for something a little more down to earth. In his previous career John would spend weeks at a time in locations such as the Far East and South America, helping to set up hi-tech glass making operations. But a longing for home and a love of all things horticultural led him down the path to a very different occupation.
John Wilcox, whose Greenway Garden Services is attracting a loyal customer base
“Gardening is something I have always wanted to do,” says John. “I love being outdoors, in the fresh air, getting my hands dirty. I knew I would be giving up a lot by quitting my job but I felt I could be losing a lot more if I didn’t give it a go.”
What Zoe and John have in common is that they both found the help they needed from BBV, a specialist business advice agency. Working with Wigan Council, BBV has given many budding entrepreneurs in Wigan free support and advice to help them through the difficult early stages of setting up their own business.
BBV advisor Jan Kelly says: “Many people dream of going into business. It can be about turning a hobby or passion into a fulltime career but there really is a lot more to it than the dream, so we help establish if starting a business is right for them.
“People can come on a series of one day workshops, which gives them the basics about getting started, finding and keeping customers and managing the money. From there we offer individual support in one-to-one sessions, keeping in touch over the phone or through visits. We can help identify any financial help that may be available through business loans or grants in certain areas.”
Two years on and Zoe is a fully-fledged personal holiday advisor with a string of satisfied customers.
“It’s hard work,” she says. “Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you can’t put the hours in.
“I am probably doing more now than when I worked in an office, but the difference is I’m the boss and manage the work around my family life.”
Zoe specialises in honeymoons and has sent happy couples to Thailand, the Caribbean and beyond. “I have found that the personal touch really works with my customers,” she says.
“I am able to sit down and plan exactly what they would like from their holiday or honeymoon and spend a lot more time finding the right resort or hotel to suit their needs.”
After John gained prestigious Royal Horticultural Society qualifications from Myerscough College he set up Greenway Garden Services and is steadily building a list of loyal customers. From mowing the lawn to complete garden makeover, John is putting those green fingers to work and taking his van and tools everywhere from Manchester and St Helens to just round the corner.
“It isn’t easy,” he admits. “Often you are trying to compete with larger firms who are well established. But it is well worth it. You need the support of your family and once you’ve made the commitment you have to go for it. I know that I would never have fulfilled my ambitions if I hadn’t done.”
If you’re interested in working for yourself and want to know how to get started, contact BBV on 01204 391400.