A Firefighter’s Journey to Becoming a Travel Advisor
How Andy Popick serves his community and his clients
Andy Popick still remembers the excitement he felt when he first visited a local fire station in Hollywood, Florida as a child.
“I had an early interest,” he recalls. “I wanted to see the equipment and learn about it.”
It’s no surprise that Andy’s early passion would lead him to pursue a career in the fire rescue service, where he still actively serves as a Battalion Chief. What might come as a surprise, though, is Andy’s other job: travel advisor.
Climbing the Ladder: A Career in Fire Rescue
Andy has been working in fire rescue for 33 years. He started as a firefighter and paramedic before climbing the ladder to his current rank of Battalion Chief. As a Battalion Chief, Andy oversees multiple fire stations and is responsible for scheduling staff, coordinating trainings and certifications, and responding to fire and emergency medical calls. It’s a high stress job, but it’s one he’s truly passionate about.
with entrepreneurship in Broward County, Florida. His friend’s organization had recently honored Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners. Knowing that Andy loved to travel and frequently planned group trips, his friend encouraged him to look into buying a Cruise Planners franchise.Andy didn’t jump at the opportunity at first. While he loved planning trips, he admits, “I wasn’t interested in a franchise. I didn’t have time to run a business full-time.”
As he did more research, he quickly found out Cruise Planners wasn’t like most other franchises. Cruise Planners franchise owners work from home and are in complete control of their schedules, whether that means working part-time or full-time.
Furthermore, Andy appreciated the low-cost franchise fee, which meant he would be taking on less risk.
“I had looked at other types of franchises and I would’ve had to pay $100,000 or more,” Andy says. “The cost of a Cruise Planners franchise was very reasonable.”
The reasons to dive in were adding up. What sealed the deal was when Andy found out that he already had a personal connection to Cruise Planners. He had worked with Michelle Fee’s son through the fire department.
So, in 2013, Andy took the plunge and purchased a Cruise Planners travel franchise.
Andy valued the many tools in place to help him establish his business, such as hands-free marketing, a robust booking system, and mobile-friendly technology that allows him access to his clients from anywhere.
“I probably wouldn’t be running my business if I didn’t have all that infrastructure that Cruise Planners offers,” Andy says.
Finding His Niche: How Andy Turned Friends and Colleagues into Clients
One of Andy’s biggest keys to success was tapping into his personal network to grow his client base. He was already planning group trips for his family, friends and colleagues, so he utilized that to jumpstart his business.
“In my first year, I put together a small group trip from my friends in fire rescue,” Andy says. “It turned out really well and from there, expanded exponentially. Now we’re up to 54 people in our next group trip.”
Andy took the success of his group trips to grow his client base even further. He now provides travel advisor services to a network of public service professionals, including firefighters, paramedics, police officers, military personnel and healthcare professionals.
Andy even found his business associate through a group trip he planned. Phil Benincasa, a retired fire Captain, booked into one of Andy’s transatlantic cruise groups. The two hit it off poolside and became quick friends. Phil has now been working as Andy’s associate for the past two years and has helped grow his first responder client base even further.
“Phil’s background as a first responder lends credibility to those of our clients in public service.” Andy says. “We have many common friends that have become our regular clients.”