Shelby Frenette’s travel agency, TravelFun.Biz, is only three years old, but her two decades of cruise industry experience and marketing habits have contributed to its quick success.
By branding herself as the “solo travel expert” on social media, Frenette has reached clients far and wide who are interested mainly in singles sailing trips. The former cruise director runs the agency with her husband, Joel Frenette, who also has many years of hospitality experience.
Together, the couple and their team of 16 advisors are on track to hit $1 million in sales this year. Here’s how Shelby became a travel agency owner after years of working on cruise ships.
Cruising the world
Shelby Frenette estimates she’s been on more than 500 cruises in her life. When she was 23 years old, she took a leap and joined the Grand Princess ship’s team as an assistant cruise director, having never seen a cruise ship in person before.
“The first time I looked at the ship, I was awestruck,” she told TMR. “It happened to be the biggest ship in the world at the time. I felt like I was home. I felt like I finally found what I was supposed to do, where I was supposed to go. It was a turning point in my life.”
Frenette ran a variety of games and activities for guests on the ship. She described the work culture at the time as “sink or swim” – you had to have the right personality and mindset to succeed – and the lifestyle as “a bunch of motivated 20-somethings working 12- to 16-hour shifts, then partying for two hours, passing out, and doing it all over again the next day.
“The kind of people working on cruise ships were all independent, motivated, super hard workers, work-hard play-hard mentality, and we just bonded like that,” she added. “Everybody there had a certain personality that could handle the stress and wanted to do their best to be their best, and it was a family right away.”
Frenette eventually was promoted to deputy cruise director and worked on the Princess for a total of eight years before facing the decision of whether to become a cruise ship “lifer" or settle down on land. She chose the latter. Since working on cruise ships all those years allowed her to save money, she bought a home in the Cruise Capitol of the World, Florida.
Sailing with singles
Six months into her new life on land, Frenette received an offer to be the lead cruise director of singles travel company. She accepted, and for the next 12 years, she led groups of singles in cruise activities once or twice per month. “Everything I learned as a cruise director, I was able to share and do for my singles,” Frenette said.
During her time there, Frenette developed the company’s social media presence, essentially becoming the face of the business on its online platforms. “I just wanted another outlet to market what we were doing for singles travel,” Frenette said. “I got very popular on social media; I was a social manager before it was a position.”
“I started realizing that social media was going to be the new television,” she added. “It was really a platform for marketing. I saw that quite early on, so I created a huge network of people that love to travel.”
Soon after that Frenette got an opportunity to spearhead the marketing for an upscale singles division with a new company, TravelFun, and within 90 days of opening Frenette made $250,000 in sales by marketing a new product for the company: upscale travel for singles. Then the pandemic hit, putting the business in hot water. In a risky move, Frenette decided to buy the company and launch what is now TravelFun.Biz.
Putting marketing first
Social media marketing is at the forefront of TravelFun.Biz. Frenette trains each of the advisors on creating what she calls “curiosity marketing campaigns.” She notes that many travel advisors could use a boost in how they use social media to market themselves.
“The part that's important to me is getting people that want to book,” Frenette says. “All [some advisors] are doing is what we call ‘post and pray.’ That’s not working anymore. You have to be clever and create a good marketing campaign.”
To support their growth through social media marketing, eight of TravelFun.Biz’s advisors will be attending Nest Fest in October. The seaside sailing trip will include informative sessions for advisors to sharpen their skills and maximize their marketing efforts.
Though TravelFun.Biz sells all travel, it focuses most on its singles and solo cruise packages in its marketing. Its website lists several upcoming trip packages, including a 3-night singles sailing trip for travelers ages 40 and older. “These vacation experiences are very meaningful,” Frenette says. “Most of them make travel friends for life.”