Ileaa Swift launched her travel agency, Swift Travel Deals, with a vision of helping everyone, no matter their income, find opportunities to experience the world firsthand. Since 2012, she and her team have helped customers find budget-friendly deals on trips to their dream destinations.
But what she didn’t anticipate was how much entrepreneurship would give her a sense of freedom — and the opportunity to help other women.
Swift, who previously worked as a fund coordinator for a private college, decided to strike out on her own for the reasons many people do:
–She wanted to pursue a passion. A longtime traveler, she felt strongly that exposure to far-off societies can break down misconceptions that some have about people who don’t look, speak or live like them. She wanted to create a company that would enable people from all walks of life to learn about other cultures.
–She saw a market opportunity. Swift came up with a unique idea — a travel agency that offered payment plans for trips — and decided to turn that dream into a reality. She knew the concept was her competitive advantage, and she was right: Swift Travel Deals now makes $7 million a year.
–She had long possessed an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Swift told us on our Forbes channel that as a kid, she had dreamed of owning her own business. But those thoughts had simply fallen to the wayside and she had instead taken jobs working for other people.
–She wanted flexibility and control over her schedule. Swift opened up to us about a sensitive part of her startup story: She has stage 3 endometriosis. In fact, part of the reason she turned to entrepreneurship was so she could work remotely, as needed.
After we published our profile, Swift says she received an outpouring of support from women inspired by her startup story. The letters and emails that came in “changed the whole trajectory of everything,” she says. While she continues to grow her company — Swift happily reports clients on six continents and her nomination for an Arkansas Businesses of the Year Award — she is also working on a second venture “that will help women with branding and building a business from the ground up.”
Moreover, Swift has been making an effort to connect to other women with endometriosis and offer them flexible, stable employment opportunities at her firm.
Swift says that the freedom she has found through entrepreneurship — freedom that allows her to lift up others, take care of her health and care for her family — is invaluable. Best of all, she has been living out a passion for helping people realize both their professional and travel dreams. “Every day, getting up and building this, it doesn’t feel like work.”
This post has been updated.