From unemployment to multimillions
Instead of letting job loss hold them back, two savvy entrepreneurs channeled their skills to build a profitable luxury vacation business and create employment opportunities for others.
- Grew revenue to $1.5 million
- Tripled vacation days per year
- Reduced work week to 50 hours per week
Travel and Tourism
How it all began
Genevieve Sheehan spent five years building client relationships for her employer, a mass market tourism company. When she and her business partner Isabella O’Connor were laid off from the company in 2011, it was an easy decision to launch a business of their own.
Shamrock Vacations was born within a year.
A niche inbound tour operator, Shamrock Vacations specializes in luxury vacations in Ireland and the United Kingdom. They offer customized packages that include accommodations, transportation, attractions, and shows. Travelers can explore the culture, history, and people of their selected vacation destination via self-driven tours, chauffer trips, cruises, private yachts, and more.
"We pride ourselves on our customer service with a unique concierge service available to all our guests," says Genevieve.
Making it work
As it turns out, Ireland is more than an attractive tourist destination. "[The country] is fantastic for small businesses," says Genevieve. The local enterprise board provides funding, subsidies, courses, and mentorship for entrepreneurs like Genevieve and Isabella.
With such a robust support system, Shamrock Vacations was able to build a strong team quickly. "You can throw anything at them," Genevieve says proudly. "They really care about the clients." The team operates on a completely virtual, work-from-home basis. Everything from training to compensation is done online.
The empowerment to work from home and take ownership of their results drives employees' investment in the success of Shamrock Vacations. “You always feel like your voice isn’t being heard when you’re working for someone else,” notes Genevieve. "It's exciting to be the one who can actually make decisions, implement them, and see them come to fruition."
Modernizing the business with technology
Before Shamrock Vacations even built a website, they had opted to use Infusionsoft for sales and marketing automation. "We showed our mentor a list of software we thought we would need [to build the business]," Genevieve recounts. "He told us that there was a solution that would cover all our needs and that its name was Infusionsoft."
In particular, automated email marketing has helped pave the way for Shamrock Vacations' success. The business takes a soft sell approach, sending informational emails about the attractions and castles available in Ireland. Customers are grateful for the information, and it helps to develop trust and rapport. Genevieve observes that "by the time you actually call them, they treat you like their oldest friend."
The time-saving nature of automation has doubled the output of each salesperson in the company.
Genevieve recalls the key advice that helped position Shamrock Vacations for success: "When we started the business, we were told everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much [as we planned]."
Such realistic expectations combined with a solid strategy and the right technology has helped Shamrock Vacations thrive since its launch in 2012.
Today, it is a model small business; in the small, rural community where the company is based, unemployment is high. Shamrock Vacations has created five jobs and counting. "We are also giving our employees a better quality of life as we offer work from home positions allowing them to spend more time with their families," reports Genevieve. A mother herself, Geneveieve understands the need to create jobs that provide both a good standard of living and a high quality of life: "It's about the kids… being able to sit down in the evening and read them a story. We employ a number of young mothers as our flexible hours allow them a positive work-life balance."
Where are they going?
"The built-in scalability of its business model means that Shamrock Vacations' success can be recreated anywhere in the world, positioning the company for virtually unlimited growth. And that, Genevieve says, is the long-term plan. "We're going to take over the world," she jokes.
No doubt the company will achieve its goal. "If I set my mind to something, I'm going to get it done no matter what," says Genevieve. "You have to dream and you have to hope. And we'll have fun getting there."