How a Retired Travel Agent Is Utilizing His Industry Knowledge and Network to Start a Business

The Small Business Spotlight series focuses on small businesses across industries and the best practices that have helped them succeed.

When entrepreneurs start a business, their companies can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. It can be hard to stand out in today’s digital era, where consumers can find every business in a specific industry through a simple online search. What can you do to reach your target market?

After more than 30 years in the student travel industry and teaching marketing at the high school level for 16 years, Jerry Beebe decided to retire. Through his long career working in marketing, sales, tourism, and consulting, Beebe gained unique knowledge about the places he’d traveled and their lesser-known histories. 

His most prominent location of work was Washington, D.C., where he led and managed entire inaugural tours, including former president Barack Obama’s inauguration. Beebe realized that adults might be interested in visiting the places they went as a child and started Keep it Simple Senior Travel (KiSST) in September 2019.

Although its first trip to Washington, D.C., in October 2020 had to be canceled because of the pandemic, Keep it Simple Senior Travel is looking ahead to a trip in 2021. Beebe is still gaining interest in his all-inclusive trips — in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

Working in the business for 30-plus years earned Beebe numerous professional contacts within the travel industry. Beebe says word-of-mouth connections are great for his business, as his numerous contacts and the hundreds of people in his Facebook network spread the word to their friends. Beebe has also found that asking past clients for reviews is a great way to gain online exposure and interest, as well as third-party credibility.

While the business’s travel plans are currently on hold, Beebe is working hard to gain more exposure and help his company become top of mind. While customers could go with any D.C.-based travel company, Beebe utilizes his knowledge of the District to provide unique tours. For example, many D.C. tours include a tour of the Kennedy Center. However, Beebe knows that it’s one thing to tour the center and another thing entirely to see one of its famous plays; he makes sure his customers get that experience. 

D.C. tours are often led by licensed tour guides. However, as an unlicensed tour guide, Beebe is able to not only share what licensed tour guides can, but he can also indulge in local legends and sillier facts. He shares stories about the time when penguins rode the subway and how General Percy has a great statue in a park near the White House that many other tours ignore. He wants to ensure that all his tours are differentiated and that attendees have stories to tell when they return home.

Starting a travel business wasn’t an easy task: Beebe had to first form an LLC to get a Florida travel agent license. Keep it Simple Senior Travel needed a Florida Seller of Travel Bond to be licensed, so Beebe turned to the internet, where he came across’s efficient bonding process got Beebe the bond he needed within a day.

As additional credentials, Beebe decided to obtain an IATA Travel Agent Accreditation, a seal of approval recognized throughout the world, and a Certified Tour Professional (CPA) certification from the National Tour Association. Beebe had to prove he had five years of experience in the industry and at least $10,000 invested in the business when submitting the lengthy IATA application. He utilized online platforms such as Swyft Filings and Legal Zoom to help him complete these requirements. 

Beebe is looking forward to his planned trips in 2021 and hopes to continue sharing his unique knowledge and growing his Facebook and travel networks.

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About the Author

Rhaea Lehman
Rhaea is a 2021 graduate of the University of Missouri with a Bachelor in Communication and German. She is the content coordinator for the marketing department and outreach team.