Meet Katie Kirk, mum of three-year-old Max, who left her high-flying marketing job when she and her husband began planning to start their family. Katie said goodbye to the security of full-time employment in search of flexibility and the time to be the mum she wanted to be.
I’ve worked in travel since I left school. I did my training at Lunn Poly, then completed a teaching qualification and went on to train and develop other travel agents. From there, I started working at an airport and they put me through my marketing CIM degree. I worked my way up to be marketing manager for the Manchester Airport Group – covering four airports – working with all Airlines, Tour Operators and supporting travel agents.
My now-husband and I wanted to start a family. And we couldn’t do that if I was going to continue to commute up to two hundred miles a day – not if I was going to be the sort of mum I wanted to be.
I knew about Travel Counsellors – it was one of the travel companies I worked with at the airport group and all the people there are lovely, there’s a really nice company ethos. I knew if I ever went out on my own I would do it through them.
Although it is a franchise and they support you and put all the systems in place, you are totally self-employed and in charge of your own destiny. And they have a good reputation; Travel Counsellors are very highly thought of within our industry – so it was an obvious choice for me.
Of course, it was frightening. I had a very good job which was brilliant and well paid. I had to give everything up – my car, my phone, my salary – so I could build a business up from scratch. I didn’t know if it was going to work, but I knew I had to give it a go because I wanted a family but I still needed to make money.
It was frightening, but I just thought: “if it works, it will be amazing. If it doesn’t, ok, I’ll have to rethink”.
I joined Travel Counsellors in February about five years ago. By the November, in the annual conference, I won the award for best newcomer. I’d made a turnover of half a million pounds in that first year.
I’ve just been getting busier and busier, and the business has grown year on year. In my second year, I got pregnant – which was brilliant. It didn’t hinder the business at all – the business grew again that year. When Max was born I thought it would slow me down – but again the business grew that year – and I became a Gold Travel Counsellor.
It’s been amazing. I love what I do and I don’t miss out on anything.
I do have amazing support; I couldn’t do it without my husband or the grandparents, who are brilliant. But I really don’t see it as a job – it all works so well around Max.
Yes, absolutely. I’ve made the change even with all the obstacles in the way – a house move, a baby, a wedding.
I do work hard, but I’m there for bedtime every night. And I can help out on trips. Max is now three and he is going to nursery two days a week. Last week they had a mothers’ day breakfast. There weren’t many mums there – a lot of them are working and it was at 10am on a Wednesday – but I was able to be there.
Max. Work. Relax.
Every day is different. On Mondays Max and I have a day out together. On Tuesdays he goes to his grandparents. Then on Friday mornings I look after his two little cousins as well, so it is like a nursery here!
But today, for instance, I’ll try to go to gym two or three times per week, so I get up early and go before Max gets up. I get back about half past seven, so I wake the boys up and we all have breakfast together. We’ll pack Max’s letter bag, then I take him to nursery. I’ll work until I pick him up at 4pm. We have some time together – doing jigsaws for instance – then tea and bath and stories and bedtime. Max goes down about 7 o’clock so I catch up with my emails then and do a bit of work. I try to stop by 9pm so that my husband and I can spend some time together.
It’s a lot easier than you think. My family will always come first – and I think you have to be honest about that with your clients. But it works well – a lot of my clients like the hours I work because they have kids too and they want to spend time with their families as well.