Tejal Lodhia is a mum of 2 young children who epitomises balancing family life around building and running her own business. Before setting up her own business Tejal was planning personalized holidays for both friends and family alongside full-time employment in Programme and Project Management. In 2018 Tejal decided to set up her own business and she is now the founder and director of Senzill Travels Ltd.
Senzill in Catalan means simplicity and that is Tejal’s overarching ethos – to make travel planning simple, accessible and personalized. Tejal’s business does not just offer the customer the best holiday deal. It provides unbiased and value for money options which is fully underpinned by a bespoke and personalized service putting the customer first. Whilst in early stage of growth, Tejal has worked hard to build her customer footprint, grow her social media presence and gain traction to build a pipeline of future clients.
Pre Covid, Tejal’s personal brand and style was a key order winning criteria at face to face exhibitions where she builds trust, rapport and a customer centric focus to earn sales, however in post-pandemic she is having to adapt and rethink her go to market channels and how she competes.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I have been in full time employment for 8 years alongside planning holidays in my spare time. There was never the right time to become an entrepreneur and it was only when my last role was going through organisational change and I had the opportunity to request voluntary redundancy. It was only when this was happening, I realised what I really wanted to do and that was setting up my own travel business and becoming an entrepreneur.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
When I started my business, I had little start up experience – my professional career was in large corporates which is a different skillset and level of ownership. I started by reading The Lean StartUp by Eric Ries to help me reflect on how I navigate demands of selling, marketing and promotion of my new business and keeping a handle on finances, administration and back office responsibilities.
For me, it means being brave, resourceful, and either find gaps in the market or simply doing it better than others.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
My husband and I decided we wanted a holiday to Thailand many years ago. Unfortunately, it was the same year Thailand was going through quite a bit of disruption which included curfews and other elements and we knew this would not make our holiday experience as enjoyable. Having booked Thailand and wanting to change our holiday plans with a mainstream travel agent, this was just not as easy as I had hoped and expected. Not only was the initial booking unsatisfactory to then try to amend our holiday plans was accompanied by poor customer service. Having done holiday planning, myself I then understood the need for Senzill Travels.
It was only when my husband and I went to Barcelona on a subsequent holiday that we were discussing my idea and the business concept. It was then in Barcelona I developed the name Senzill which in Catalan means simplicity.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
My number one skill would be to learn and adapt from your mistakes. Although this skill should be a no brainer, but as an entrepreneur it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and get carried away with a particular idea. Often there is no time to stop and take stock. I would therefore always recommend that if something is not working then it is about learning from this and moving forward.
My second skill would be to make the right business connections. This is definitely important as you never know who you might need for some business to business advice, tips or a sounding board of expertise.
And finally, the skill to become social media savvy. In these current times it is extremely important to use social media to enhance b2b and b2c presence. There are so many social media platforms and it is vital to start with the right one(s) for your business to have a platform for growth and communicating with your customer base.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I am constantly learning something new every day. I have learnt so much already and some of this includes developing a website, marketing, sales and finance. Everything I learn is new and exciting and I know being in full time employment would not allow me to develop in these areas as an entrepreneur does. The level of personal ownership, accountability and satisfaction is unrivaled to my previous corporate roles, however, it’s not without its challenges or setbacks.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Whilst I have influences and role models who represent strength, courage, innovation and resilience attributes I am inspired by Michelle Obama.
Her balance of motherhood, supporting Barack Obama (POTUS 44) and influencing issues all through her social media platforms, engaging with people on a human level and challenging status quo that working mothers are just as capable really resonated with me and inspires me to grow my own confidence as an entrepreneur.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
Firstly, I’d ask her how she remains a sense of balance and purpose between White House life, raising her two young daughters, and creating her own brand “Michele Obama” rather than being a First Lady.
I’d ask her about how she manages her wellbeing, mental health, and setbacks whilst still managing to go again and focus on the positives. I’d be intrigued to understand her views on successful branding, managing customer expectations and the use of social media and platforms to drive up awareness.
Lastly, I’d ask her when she expects to run for President!
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
This is achieving a business connection with a mainstream hotel chain in Greece. I was able to build a great relationship with the hotel owner of Radisson Blu Beach Resort in Crete resulting in special rates and discounts for my customers which were not available by any other competitors.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
When I first started my business I felt my offering to my customers would focus around accommodation only options with only certain destinations available. As I progressed through the first year in my business I realised I was not able to provide that end-to-end personalized service which sits within my business core principles. Not being able to offer flights and worldwide destinations felt like a setback initially. I then decided it was essential for my business to offer the full package holiday.
How have you funded your ideas?
Through personal savings and director loans.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Not at present.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Oxfordshire is an affluent market that is not saturated as much as London for example. There are many independent companies and start-ups to leverage and learn from. The downside is networking can be tough given geographical spread.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would highly recommend getting in touch with OxLep (www.oxfordshirelep.com) for business support and resources. Another element I would recommend is (https://thetownsquare.co.uk/event/startup-club-bicester) which had useful courses when first starting out as a business.
Any last words of advice?
Listen to your customers. Learn. Adapt. Listen to your customers.
These are my guiding principles as an entrepreneur.