Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Janet Semenova would tell you that she is the yin to Angela Rice's yang.

That's the secret sauce when it comes to success for the co-founders of Boutique Travel Advisors in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

"One person cannot be great at everything," Semenova said. "We all have our strengths and weaknesses."

For Semenova, her weaknesses in business are Rice's strengths, and vice versa. That has helped the young agency see success since its founding less than two years ago.

Boutique Travel Advisors recently won Oasis Travel Network's Rising Stars of the Year Award, which was established three years ago. It is awarded to the agent (or, in this case, agents) who shows ambition, persistence and the ability to close, according to Oasis.

Semenova and Rice became travel advisers after having other careers. Semenova was a nurse practitioner and Rice was an accountant. Both nurtured their travel bugs with frequent trips through the years, and about a year and a half ago another adviser told Semenova it sounded like the right career path for her.

She started doing research, knew Rice was looking for a new opportunity as well and pitched her the idea of starting an agency. Rice was on board. Since then, Boutique Travel Advisors has taken on two independent contractors and is in the process of adding two more.

The biggest factor in the agents' shared success has been their ability to work symbiotically, Semenova said. She works more on the creative aspects of the business -- think marketing and social media -- while Rice uses her accounting past and focuses on things like numbers and organization.

The two have also taken advantage of the educational opportunities available to them. They participated in Oasis' New2Travel program, which includes in-person training and online components. They also took advantage of opportunities at the consortium level and became Signature Travel Network Experts, a program offered by Signature, of which Oasis is a member.

Rice said they also make an effort to attend in-person events held by Oasis and Signature.

"We're constantly looking for opportunities to educate ourselves in the travel industry," she said.

Semenova said her best advice for other agents is to have a big picture of their business plan and market and develop a brand.

Investing in the business has also helped Boutique Travel Advisors grow. Semenova said the co-founders were able to reinvest much of their first-year income into the agency. They also make it a point to invest time.

"If we're going to build an amazing brand, then we have to reinvest and part of that, a huge part of that, is time," she said.

That, of course, includes time selling travel and working on other aspects of the business, but it also includes time to travel to the destinations they're selling to their clients, Rice said. They try to take several trips a year that, in turn, turn into social media and blog content to inspire clients.

"If you're a travel agent," Rice said, "you have to travel."

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