Skibbereen-based business TravelMaster was one of 29 impressive business finalists at the National Enterprise Awards 2021 competition. The go-getting event transport company is well on its way to launching the first online platform of its kind that will allow passengers to book a seat at the click of a button on a mobile device, sharing transport to gigs and events all over Ireland, with the aim of future expansion to the UK and Europe once the technology has been successfully tested here.
Damien Long and Jennifer Allan are the siblings behind this innovative concept that provides a dedicated same-day service from local pick-up points, providing a technologically-advanced, cost-effective, safe and environmentally-friendly transport option to and from events.
The company, which sold over €1million worth of seats in 2019, has been massively affected by the pandemic, but has used the downtime to work on creating this online platform that will allow the expansion of their business in the future.
Damien and Jennifer grew up in the family coach hire business (Dave Long Coach Travel) in Skibbereen. Damien went on to become the youngest coach operator in Ireland at the age of 21; while Jennifer settled down to raise her family. She joined Damien in TravelMaster, helping him put his ideas into practise. “Like any sibling partnership, we have our ups and downs of course,” she says “ but it’s a very Yin and Yang relationship. “Damien comes up with the good ideas and, as a very logical person with decent organisational skills, I help him execute them,” explains Jennifer. “I’m a great believer in there being a solution for every problem and get great satisfaction out of teasing these solutions out.”
Incongruously one of the biggest challenges the company faced starting out was convincing people that the service wasn’t a hoax. “People actually thought it was too good to be true,” says Jennifer laughing.
Their excellent customer service soon removed any doubt of this, with the business really taking off in 2019. As well as a finalist in the National Enterprise Awards in 2021, Travelmaster has been a finalist in The Southern Star Business and Tourism Awards and The Cork Business Awards in 2019 while winning The Event Industry Awards and The Southern Star Business and Tourism Awards for the technology currently used. Then the pandemic hit.
“The past year has been very tough,” says Jennifer “…overwhelming at times in fact, but I do feel there is light at the end of the tunnel now.
“Running a business is difficult enough anyway, with all the extra hours you have to put in, especially when you’re juggling everything around your family, but if anything, this pandemic has taught me to make the most of any free time.”
Jennifer says her mum, Patricia Long, in particular has been an inspiration to her in business. “I really admire her…she and my dad started the coach business in 1969 when there weren’t a lot of buses on the road. They managed to build a very successful business while also raising us. When mum was driving the bus she would have had to take me with her in a carrycot.”
TravelMaster has had excellent support from the Local Enterprise Office and Jennifer would encourage anyone in business to ask for help. “Whether you’re unsure of how to move to the next step or feeling overwhelmed on a personal level, no man or woman is an island and from my experience other entrepreneurs are always willing to offer support and advice when asked”.
The fire that brother and sister have for their business is what will continue to drive TravelMaster forward through good times and bad. Right now with all events and gigs on hold due to the pandemic, Travelmaster has limited staff working behind the scenes. However once restrictions start lifting and society resumes to some degree of normalcy, Jennifer is certain that TravelMaster will be in a position to hire more staff and expand operations.