Growing up fast: how to take your business to big brand

By Wendy Shand, Guardian Professional,

Travel business entrepreneur Wendy Shand reveals the steps that have made her company, Tots to Travel, a success

girl with baby on beachWhen I launched Tots to Travel from my kitchen table seven years ago I had an inkling that it would take off, but it has far exceeded anything I could have imagined.
We had just returned from a disastrous family holiday where among other things, my two-year-old boy had fallen into the unenclosed swimming pool and had been rescued by my father. I felt that there had to be a better way for tired parents to holiday with small children so I set about creating Tots to Travel.

Today we offer families with under-fives selected and inspected holiday accommodation, designed and kitted out to keep their families safe and happy. This focus on creating a unique offering (USP) has been vital to our success. We work with over 350 properties in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and the UK, and have sold more than £3.5m worth of holiday accommodation.
I believe the company's success can also be attributed to our big business ambitions backed by a structured and planned growth plan. I've no doubt that had we overstretched from the start, Tots to Travel may never have had the opportunity to grow and reach its potential.
Over the years, we have identified five factors that have proved key in helping us to make it big in business.
On-going investment - in both time and money - are essential. However, I would also advise caution with your spending - we invested small amounts and proved the business model worked before moving to the next level.
Know your market
It's vital to not only know who your target customers are but also the competition. Having a really clear niche market has proved a huge benefit for us, which some may think strange. However, instead of competing against every online travel company, we set our sights squarely at families with pre-school children.
Of course, that doesn't mean our customers are confined to this group, but it does give us a clear idea of who our core customers are and how best to reach them.
The importance of marketing can't be overvalued. While word of mouth works to some degree, it simply isn't scalable. Websites, public relations and a search engine optimisation strategy have all helped our business grow. I also believe that businesses ignore the social buzz at their peril and, therefore, social media marketing is a worthwhile area to invest in.
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