Interview

Anita Powell: Priceless, once-in-a-lifetime experiences

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March 30, 2020

Anita Powell started her marketing company in the UK and deals exclusively with African properties.

She believes in the power of the experience to transform – on both a personal and global level.  

Describe your typical working day

My day is typical to any working mum… one of constant juggling! As all our clients are Africa-based and therefore two hours ahead of UK time, I normally wake up before the kids to get through emails that have come in overnight. Then, after the breakfast/school run rush, I head into the office where I work solidly until 6pm.

My office is in a converted barn out in my garden, so I’m very lucky that my commute is just 25 metres across my lawn! I try to get out at some point during the day to take the dog for a walk or do some exercise, otherwise I tend not to move all day.

In the 14 years since I set up Small World Marketing, no two days have ever been the same.  One day we’re helping our clients with their re-branding, pitching story ideas to the press or undertaking sales calls with the trade, and another we may be writing the client’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy.

We are very hands-on with our 10 clients’ properties, which means we really get beneath the skin of them.  I love the variety of what we do and helping each property to overcome the different challenges they face.

World's End, Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga, South Africa

The luxury market is changing. How are you adapting how you work?

We have seen real growth in independent luxury agents, who are oftentimes home-based. Companies like 360Private Travel are tapping into the changing working landscape with far more demand for ownership and flexibility.

As a rep company specialising in African properties, we have teamed up with a small group of like-minded, UK-based representation companies that work with complementary properties from around the world.  

This is our third year of the rep group organising our own ‘Round the World’ training events, focusing on these independent luxury travel agents. Having face-to-face time with these agents is invaluable in building direct, close relationships.

The explosion in social marketing has led to us broadening our offerings to encompass social marketing, in addition to our more traditional targeted marketing services. Luckily – given our clients’ product offerings – it is a joy to work in this very visual media.

Harold Porter National Botanical Garden, Western Cape, South Africa

What trends do you see in luxury travel?

Sustainability – and how the industry tackles the climate emergency – is undoubtedly going to be one of the defining issues of our time. Offsetting may be part of the solution, but behaviour change is also necessary and as an industry we are going to have to adapt and respond.

People will still want those priceless, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that travel brings, but perhaps we will see a move away from people being quite so comfortable clocking up air miles in frequent, short-hop trips.

I also predict that destinations will be under increasing scrutiny regarding their ethical credentials. The customer is far more literate in this regard, and ethical considerations will be a material factor in choosing a property or destination.

Naibor Camps, Masai Mara

What does luxury mean to you?

Luxury means privacy, excellent customer service, unique stays and having incredible experiences. For me, it’s not about having a flash place to stay (although that is lovely!).

It’s doing amazing things like being able to take my kids to a township in Cape Town, and for the impact on my 10-year-old son to be so profound that he has now set up a pen pal partnership between his primary school and the township school.

Being able to give my family access to money-can’t-buy experiences like that is luxury.

What has working in the luxury market taught you?

That luxury doesn’t have to be about gilded taps, it’s about the experience.

It’s about making friends with the barman and learning about his life that gives you a different perspective. It’s about doing a safari with a conservation group and learning about the work that they are doing.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

What excites you about the travel industry?

We’re lucky to be in an industry where people are so passionate about what they do and 99% are happy individuals, as they are dealing with amazing experiences.

The travel industry can be a driving force for so much good. Without people visiting the game parks in Africa, there would be no conservation. The impact of what we do can be massive.

White Sand Villas, Zanzibar

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

When I set up Small World Marketing in 2006, my vision was to create a world for myself where I could be in control of my own destiny when it came to work; particularly because, further down the line, I knew that I would want to be able to juggle working and motherhood.

Within two years my business was snowballing and personally, things were moving just as swiftly. Without drawing breath, my boyfriend and I had moved houses, got engaged, married, bought a dog, fallen pregnant and had our first baby.

It was when I found out we were expecting our second child that it dawned on me how much stress I’d put myself under.

I was experiencing that very familiar but complex situation so many working mums face. I felt guilty when I wasn’t with my son – I should be attending the countless baby groups and play dates that my mum friends seemed to – but when I was with him, I was surgically attached to my phone and found it impossible to switch off.

Sleepless nights gave me plenty of opportunity to dwell on my original inspiration for having my own business and how my current position could not have been further from the vision I’d had. A relocation to Bath for my husband’s job gave me the excuse I needed to address the situation.

We moved in March 2011 and that was the day my life suddenly started working for me. I resigned from my two biggest accounts and scaled the business right back. I now work from home. I earn more than I did before, as my overheads have reduced considerably.

Those first two years when I struck out on my own taught me a very valuable lesson: I set up Small World Marketing because I wanted to achieve a better work-life balance and to be in control of my life, particularly when I became a mother.

Instead I became my own worst enemy. I’d created a company that, although was very successful, had tied me down in a way no other organisation ever would have done.

I’m only grateful that I realised it before my kids were too old and too much precious time has passed me by. Bigger isn’t always better.  In fact, a small world suits me just fine... for the time being at least.

Kutani Camp, Swahili Coast, Tanzania

What do you value most when you travel?

Being a mum, I value the fact that I can travel alone! It’s such a treat to be able to walk into an airport and have only one passport to look after and a coffee without being interrupted (or having it spilt over me).

I absolutely love the buzz of going somewhere new. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that.

Sahara Desert

How do you make sustainable choices in your work and personal life?

It’s incredible to see how aware our children are about the planet and sustainability. They are the driving force of the future.

At home, we do all we can to be sustainable in terms of waste reduction, travel, buying local etc. Of course, there’s always more that can be done!

A big area of growth for us is in the CSR side of our consultancy. We have worked on CSR strategies with some of our clients and are encouraging others to formalise the activities they are undertaking and encouraging them to do more.  

Within Small World Marketing, we are aiming to grow our webinars this year. These virtual presentations are a really effective way of reaching out to a huge number of agents without having to get in the car.

We normally have an average of 50 agents joining our webinars. This is the low-carbon future of how we can work.

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