I think it’s unfair that I only get to interview women entrepreneurs in my blog, so I have decided that for the SME Interviews section, I will start interviewing and featuring stories of men, as well. Today’s interviewee is Albert Salvador. He is the General Manager of Sarap Mag Biyahe (SMB) Travel and Tours. He has been married for 3 years now but they have been together for more than a decade because they are childhood sweethearts. He is a father of two sweet and lovable kids.
He used to work at a pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim, as a Product Manager. Four years ago, he put up my own travel agency while working full time. A year after, he decided to be a hands-on entrepreneur because he has seen the huge potential of the business. “I am glad that I made the right choice because now I can spend more time with my family,” says Albert.
“My wife and I really love to travel, the ultimate reason why we ventured into the travel industry. We also enjoy bringing our kids with us whenever we explore different places. At the same time, we gain more knowledge about a certain destination, which is very beneficial to our business,” adds Albert.
One of his goals in life is to make traveling affordable to almost everyone so that Filipinos can experience the joy of traveling. They would also like to promote Philippine culture, that’s why they make it a point to visit different places in the country to familiarize themselves with different traditions and to immerse themselves with our culture so they can offer nice tour packages to their clients. “Recently, I have started mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs to put up their own travel agency, it’s our way of giving back and help aspiring entrepreneurs jumpstart their own business” says Albert.
Interview with General Manager of Sarap Mag Biyahe or SMB Travels and Tours, Albert Salvador
Ginger: Hi Albert! Do you know that this is the first time I’m interviewing a gentleman? All of the people I have interviewed are ladies, so I’m really excited to hear your story! So first of all, can you tell us more about your brand/business?
Albert: Our travel agency offers both local and Asian packages which include hotel accommodation, air and land transfers as well as sightseeing tours. We have been in the business for four (4) years already. We also offer seminars and trainings on “how to put up your own travel agency” for aspiring travel entrepreneurs.
Ginger: That’s great, Albert! You may want to offer those trainings in ManilaWorkshops.com, too! Just let me know. But I’m curious about how you came up with this idea. Can you tell me more about it, please?
Albert: My wife and I are very much into traveling. Before we started this business, both of us are working full time. My wife used to work at the Philippine Senate while I was busy working in a multinational company. At some point, we realized we needed to take control of our decisions and find our own work/life balance because we do not want to spend the rest of our lives working for anyone else. Another motivating factor is the fact that we are starting a family and our earnings as employees may not be sufficient to support their education and daily needs given the inflation rate and other economic factors. That’s the time when we decided to invest a portion of our savings on starting a business. Before we knew it, we have turned our passion, traveling, into a profitable venture.
Ginger: Who is your market and why did you choose this market?
Albert: We cater to both the young professionals and budget travelers. We believe that traveling is not just for the rich and retirees. Everyone, whether be it a student or an ordinary employee, has the right to enjoy life and to take a breather once in a while.
Ginger: Albert, what are ways that you can do to raise capital for those who want or are interested to start a business?
Albert: For me, Teaching / sharing my knowledge is our best way to raise capital / investments. Currently, we have helped a total of 200 new travel agencies in starting their own business.
Ginger: How do you market your products?
Albert: I market my services through social media like Facebook and Instagram. We also make it a point to keep our clients in the loop about promos, etc through email or SMS.
Ginger: What are tech tools that you use for your business?
Albert: We use the latest ticketing systems from INDIA capable of booking both domestic and international airlines. We also invest of specialized systems like AMADEUS E-POWER which makes our booking a lot easier.
Ginger: Seems like you have got all your bases covered, but were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming an Entrepreneur? What are these?
Albert: There’s always a risk in running your own business and we have prepared ourselves for failure and challenges because it’s a game of probability. There’s a 50-50 chance of either failing or succeeding. Just like any budding entrepreneurs, we have encountered challenges and stumbling blocks along the way. Some of these obstacles were hiring the wrong person, committing errors in booking, giving credit lines, among others.
Ginger: What are three traits that you think an Entrepreneur should have when starting their own business?
Albert: a. He/she must be emotionally prepared (one should be good in managing risks); b. Focus and diligence and c. Innovative mind (competition is tough that’s why we need to constantly innovate and offer something new to our clients so that we won’t be left behind) d. Hard working (we usually cater inquiries until 1:00am)
Ginger: Any unforgettable moments or lessons that you learned as an Entrepreneur?
Albert: The most important lesson I’ve learned is that failures are part of the business operation because that’s how you will learn and gain more knowledge. What you have to do is to not commit the same mistakes again. Therefore, you have to avoid the things that will pull you down. Like for instance, I made the mistake of trusting too much. A high school classmate booked their tickets and land arrangements with us. Since I know the person, I allowed her to settle the payment after the booking has been made. To make it short, I spent more than Php100,000 for their booking and I did not get any payment from them. She cut her ties with us and her parents flew to the States already. Trust is really important in the business but be extra cautious in dealing with other people. Make sure to put your policies in place.
Ginger: What advice can you give to other Entrepreneurs?
Albert: Engage with your customers, get feedbacks from your clients, get the right people, be adaptable to change, continuous learning is very important (because we Filipinos were not raised as entrepreneurs so I always read books to supplement my knowledge), do not spend beyond your means (eg. investing too much on a fancy office is not necessary in a start-up phase); take risks and do you best to overcome obstacles.
Ginger: For my last question, Albert, do you believe that everyone should become entrepreneurs?
Albert: I believe everyone should be self-employed either as business owners or consultants in their respective fields. I believe you’re missing a lot of opportunities if you’re confined in a box.
Ginger: Thank you very much, Albert! I wish you more success in your business. For those who want to travel and who want to see the many gorgeous places in the Philippines, check out Sarap Mag Biyahe Travels and Tours contact details below.
Sarap Mag Biyahe Contact Information
Website: sarapmagbiyahe.com / smbtravel.com.ph (soon)
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile Number: 0999-9981535
Facebook Page: smbtravel
Instagram acount: @smbtravel