Carol and David Porter were living their dream in 2006. They had scrupulously saved and invested in a retirement fund that allowed them to retire to Scottsdale, Arizona, from Michigan after selling a very successful mortgage broker business.
And then the bottom fell out. The stock market tanked in 2007, and “half our cash was gone,” said David Porter, describing how shock morphed into despair. This was NOT what the Porters had planned when they launched their mortgage broker business in 1991, specifically targeting David Porter’s 50th birthday as the day they would retire to spend the rest of their lives seeing the world.
“I became very stressed and put on weight. We literally asked ourselves, ‘What are we going to do now?’I knew I wouldn’t be a very good Walmart greeter, and I didn’t want to go back to the mortgage broker business,” David Porter said.
As they navigated these uncharted waters, the Porters continued to travel and started a blog, “The Roaming Boomers,” sharing their experiences, photos and videos from trips they were taking, hoping there was a way to monetize their followers.
Over the succeeding years, David Porter said, “our followers began asking, ‘Can we come with you?’ I would say no, but Carol would say yes. They’d ask: ‘Can you book a trip for us?’ We both said no to that. We thought travel agents were dead and didn’t think there was a business model there.”
Curious, they began researching the industry, and David Porter learned that indeed, travel agents were making a comeback. In January 2014, the couple launched Roaming Boomers Travel Services, a Cadence affiliate, and member of the Virtuoso network.
Finding their niche
David Porter designed the niche around the couple’s own personal interests, trying to not be everything to everyone. “When we looked at the travel industry out there, there are a huge number of offerings appealing to all kinds of people. But you cannot be all things to all people. We needed to identify our niche, and we decided on luxury boomer travel,” he said.
Roaming Boomers worked with Viking River Cruises, building a preferred relationship with the company. “They’re one of our strategic pillars,” David Porter said. The Porters focused on being such experts in selling Vikings product that this year, their agency was named one of the top five Viking Cruises travel sellers in the world, and the top seller for Viking in the Virtuoso network.
“We’re looking for other pillars now,” David Porter said, growing their business with both AmaWaterways and Avalon. Ocean Exploration cruises are growing and we are building relationships with them. The company also sells small group tours.
Leveraging each other’s strengths
To build a successful business as a couple, the Porters have taken everything they had learned about each other in their marriage and their previous mortgage brokerage company, and applied that to their home-based travel agency.
For example, they’ve learned to leverage each other’s strengths, and focus on what they individually do best. David handles initial sales leads, helping describe the various options, and answering questions about vendors. When a client commits to booking, David hands off the customer to Carol Porter, a self-professed “party waiting to happen.”
She manages travel reservations and works the most directly with Roaming Boomers’ clients. “I love people. I love socializing,” she said. “When a lead comes in from David, I really enjoy the interaction with our clients, building the whole dream trip for them,” Carol Porter said.
“Many people in the travel agency industry are looking for sales,” David Porter said. “We are looking for relationships. And Carol really drives that.”
Meanwhile, David Porter is negotiating with vendors, managing operations and travel insurance sales and running the company’s marketing, including the blog.
Roaming Boomers focuses most of its marketing on its website and email newsletter, which has 6,000 subscribers, David Porter said. “We’re also getting a healthy flow of repeat clients.” The blog today has more than 1,000 posts, documenting the Porter’s globe-hopping, luxurious stays and culinary conquests.
The division of responsibilities allows each partner to flourish, and focus on the results the business needs from that role, David Porter said.
“We couldn’t do what the other partner does,” he said, noting how during Wave Season in 2017, the company sold 50 cruises. “Carol has 50 plates spinning in the air, I don’t have the ability to multitask like that,” David Porter said.