Features - Entrepreneurial Alumni
Posted 01 April 2017
New York Program
August 2014 Intake
Ben Messenger, a Masters graduate of the University of Wales, Lampeter, runs a travel company, Messenger Travel, that specialises in creating bespoke vacations in Italy. Each itinerary is handcrafted to the client's budget, needs and interests, in order to give them their perfect Italian experience. Ben sees his role as "…very hands-on. I work as a travel consultant myself, working with clients and crafting their itineraries, as well as all operational duties such as accounting, contracts and marketing". After only a year of trading, Ben was invited to join the Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy, alongside major names in the travel industry. Ben describes how "the recognition of my company, with such large competitors, was surprising and pleasing".
Future plans include expanding next year to cover UK travel as well, offering the same model of bespoke travel as Ben does with Italy, and encouraging more clients (mainly from the US), "to love the North of England!"
How did you get into this line of business?
I worked as a tour guide in Rome for three and a half years, and discovered that many people were just getting the basics from their trips. They often didn't realise that there were some great experiences that they would love and would really enhance their trip. I began by helping my tour clients with their onward travels, and then decided I would use my experience and contacts in the Italian tourism industry to create this business, and to help people love Italy like I do.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
I already had contacts, and knowledge and experience of Italy's major tourist destinations. However, I had no idea about running a business. This is where the Mountbatten Programme came in. My year in New York taught me a great deal, in both the classes and the placement.
After finishing the Mountbatten Programme, I immediately threw my energy into the new business. I moved to Florence, to be on the ground, and established a web presence. I then established contracts with my suppliers in hotels and tour companies, and reached out to a client referral company who would give me sales leads.
What else is in the pipeline?
I plan to expand the business in the next year to cover UK travel as well, offering the same model of bespoke travel as I do with Italy. The majority of my clients are from the US, and, as a Northerner, I hope to encourage more of them to love the North of England!
I also plan to launch an arm of the company dedicated to tours and activities - this way I keep them in house, instead of having to outsource to other companies.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
After only a year of trading, I was invited to join the Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy, alongside major names in the travel industry. The recognition of my company, with such large competitors, was surprising and pleasing.
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
Trying to do too much by myself at once. Sometimes ambition and pride needs to be scaled back a bit to prevent a workload that becomes detrimental to clients and customers.
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
Don't rush into things - spend at least 6 months in planning before setting up the business. Use that time to raise capital, do research, and to ask for advice on all aspects. Making mistakes once you begin can be very expensive, so the more prepared you are, the less likely you are to make any.
US Phone: +1 (301) 637-6618
Italy Phone: +39 342 760 8803