PEQUOT LAKES -- After a career in the hospitality industry, Karen Boller traded a metro office cubicle for a home-based office with a lake view.
Boller moved with her family, including two young children, to a home on East Twin Lake south of Pequot Lakes last summer. Boller left a senior purchasing manager position with Minneapolis-based BI Performance Services. The company offers full-service marketing, communications, training and rewards programs for corporate customers.
"This was a good opportunity for me to start over and do what I know," Boller said.
She had worked in many parts of the hospitality industry. She booked group blocks with the airlines and bought bulk air to be sold with incentive programs with group meetings. Other roles included program management -- everything from menu selections for banquets to trip directing and managing hotel room reservations. She took scouting trips to check facilities in exotic locations. And, finally, she worked in the purchasing department, negotiating deals.
Boller and her husband waited to have children. She said that gave them the opportunity to travel and get that out of their system. She visited many sites, including South Africa, Tahiti and Russia.
She said Tahiti was one of her favorite places where bungalows are set over the water and morning coffee may be sipped above a glass floor view of the fish below. She wanted to stay involved in the travel business and decided to create her own.
Boller focused on group discounts, deluxe spa and golf resort packages, and started with four destinations -- The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in the Laguna Beach area in California; the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa in Maui, Hawaii; the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & Royal Beach Casino in the Caribbean; and the GrandVelas Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
She picked properties based on personal traveling experiences and because of the people contacts she made over the years. Boller said she was able to establish discounts through those personal connections.
"You get to know people and there are lifetime relationships," Boller said.
Boller is counting on providing a different experience to travelers. She said there are less expensive travel packages but the hotels typically are massive with 1,600 rooms.
"It's you and 2,000 of your closest friends who are sharing a pool or a beach," she said. "I just wanted to do something different."
To that end, she had a Web site created -- www.twinlakestravelmarketing.com -- complete with flip-flop sandals on a deserted white sand beach with lapping water in animated movement and realistic shore sounds.
Most packages require a minimum of 10 guest rooms. Packages are designed around golf outings, spa vacations, family reunions or company meetings. Boller is focusing on upscale properties.
The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa at Dana Point, Calif., has a spa/golf package with a four-night stay between Aug. 22-26. The package includes three 50-minute spa treatments of massages, wraps or body scrubs and skin care facials. Per person prices start at $1,415 based on double occupancy.
The golf package for the same stay offers three 18-hole rounds of golf on the Monarch Beach Golf Links during the week at a starting per person price of $1,430 for double occupancy.
Boller has October and December package dates for Hawaii, late January and early February dates for St. Kitts and is working on Christmas dates for Puerto Vallarta.
She said the prices allow people to experience the deluxe properties at affordable rates that incorporate group savings. Boller plans to start small with the four properties and take time to grow the business. She said all the marketing money is coming out of her savings.
"I won't make money for another five years, but you have to get started."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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