Originally from Delaware, Suzanne West, owner and founder of Kreations and Lifestyles LLC, has worked in the travel industry since 1996. After earning her travel agent certification at Pinellas Technical Education Center, West worked for several different agencies over the years. She also had a side business as a notary, where she performed beach weddings. When West launched her business in August 2018, it was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.
"It was the right time for me to do this on my own," she said. "In the past, I was part of a multilevel marketing travel agency, so I had some experience running a business. However, this was my first time being an owner of a business where people could walk into the office. Before, it was all home-based."
West originally started the business in Zephyrhills, FL. However, she quickly identified an opportunity to move the business to a more favorable location. West chose Lake Mary, part of the Greater Orlando region, for it's great quality of life and for being one of the top vacation destinations in the world. Even though the move was a challenge, West was and still is extremely optimistic about introducing her brand of travel to Central Florida.
"I sell fun, relaxation, adventures, experiences and team building," she said. "My company can arrange any type of travel that you or your business may need. Of course, you can book it yourself on the internet, but why not let an expert take care of all the little details for you? I have access to added-value that the internet booking engines won't offer you. Plus, I do all this at little or no extra cost to you. Traveling becomes more complicated every day with all the new rules regarding real ID and VISA requirements, TSA screening and State Department advisories. I can make it less stressful and more exciting!"
West works with anyone looking to book a travel experience, but prefers to work with niche groups, including destination wedding groups, physician groups looking to combine their CEUs with vacations and music festival goers, to name a few. She's starting to get into the wellness, yoga and meditation niche and works with various suppliers around the globe to provide her clients with unforgettable experiences. According to West, nothing about what she does is cookie cutter. Every travel experience is individualized.
"I offer personal service," she said. "I've been to places like Las Vegas many times. I can give ideas of things to do other than just casinos. Websites like Expedia are not personalized. I can arrange for dinners, shows, transportation and use my connections to get people into things they wouldn't otherwise be able to get into. I even have connections in Africa for specialized safaris. It's all personalized."
West loves to help her clients explore new cultures and see the world. As she puts it, "I'm helping them solve a problem in their lives. They're bored and don't have enough fun." With exotic destinations and experiences like storm chasing and back-country heli-skiing, West certainly provides the fun. She also loves traveling and hosting groups on cruises and tours.
Looking ahead, West plans to expand her business nationwide. She wants offices in Boston, the Pacific Northwest and possibly Los Angeles and Chicago. The main headquarters will remain in Lake Mary. In the near future, she plans on hiring one or two employees to help her grow the business.
What advice does West have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Go for it," she said. "Start small and find something that you love and are passionate about. Start something on the side while still collecting a full time paycheck. Join chambers and small business organizations. It's important to network. I'm starting a Meetup group in Lake Mary for professional women. It's amazing to own your own business and to watch it grow. If you have the funds, go for it."
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