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This Travelista Went From Being Laid Off To Helping Millennials Travel The World

When you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life.

BOSS UP

In 2018, Raynetta Smith left behind her home in sunny Los Angeles and joined a group of 30 melanated millenials in Bali for an international escapade appropriately deemed #BLCKinBali2018. This would be the second trip abroad that she organized for a group of like-minded travelers who were looking for more than just a great escape. What she coined as a travel social club had doubled in the number of attendees from the previous trip, so she had her work cut out for her planning travel logistics, activities, and even fitting in a destination wedding. Yet let Instagram tell it, it was a successful trip filled with curated experiences and unforgettable conversations with friends old and new, over plenty of cocktails of course.

But almost two weeks after returning to Los Angeles with sun-kissed skin and stories to tell, she received news that could've put her nomadic dreams on ice— the local non-profit company that she worked for as a communications manager was laying her off. While the news was jarring, it was actually right on time. The budding entrepreneur had already planned to turn in her two-week notice to run her travel concierge business full-time, but was battling with her decision to leave a 15-year public relations career. The job loss came just in time to push her out of the nest so she could take flight. Shortly after, Jetsetters Link was officially born, taking Smith's desire to travel with friends to the next level as she built a business dedicated to planning unique and personalized group experiences in exotic destinations at a fraction of the normal cost.

Courtesy of Raynetta Smith

As anyone who's planned trips knows, group trips don't come without their challenges. It's something that Smith is constantly remedying while also juggling part-time jobs as a flight attendant and Uber and Lyft driver.

But as the saying goes, when you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life. And with her experience as a consumer engagement marketer producing events with budgets that span from minimal to multiple commas, Smith knows the power of having a solution-oriented mindset. Which is why her group trips to Greece, Thailand, and Bali have her clientele coming back for more.

With the allure of future trips including South Africa and Vietnam on the horizon, we chatted with this boss chick about living a passport lifestyle, and got the inside scoop on how to travel the world when you have champagne tastes on a beer budget.

What was your first international travel experience? 

By the time I hit 33, I was like I want to go out of the country and I want to do it with my friends. Although I had traveled by myself, I was really nervous to go out of the country by myself. My first international trip was my best friend's wedding. She did a cruise for her wedding to the Bahamas. After that, I decided for my 35th birthday that I was going on a trip and either you were coming or you weren't.

Originally, my first trip was supposed to be to Paris, and what I realized when I started planning Paris was that it was really expensive. And one of the things that I wanted for myself and for those traveling with me was to be able to do this journey affordably. I didn't want to break the bank. I didn't want you to feel like you were going on this trip for me and spend all of this money. So I changed it and we went to Thailand and it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. We went to Thailand for less than $1,500 per person. We stayed in two different parts— Bangkok and Phuket. And it really got me to thinking that travel could be affordable, it could be fun, and you could do it in a group.

Courtesy of Raynetta Smith

At what point did you realize that Jetsetters Link could be a viable business?

After Thailand I said, 'OK, this might be something I want to do annually.' I really wanted to connect with other black and Brown millennials who grew up like me, who didn't travel but wanted to step outside of their comfort zone, and wanted to achieve more and do more. So the next trip I planned was Bali, and the Bali trip grew organically in size. The Thailand trip had 15 people; the Bali trip ended up having 30 people. And this put me to the test in times of planning a large field trip. My background is in public relations and consumer engagement so I planned events and activations for multi-million dollar brands, but I never did something so intimate where I'm literally going to experience it with these 30 people. So that for me was something that pushed my expertise to the limit.

From there, I was like I need to turn this into a business because at that point it was still just a social group; it was still just me getting friends together and traveling. So once I came back from Bali, it was full speed ahead in terms of getting my business license and making sure that I was set up as a business.

Courtesy of Raynetta Smith

How did you transition from working in corporate to running your own travel company?  

I was laid off about a week after we returned from Bali, so I literally have been creating a company on full entrepreneurship and just hustle and fate to be honest, which is extremely difficult. It's one of those things where you're like, I need to get my LLC, but also I need to pay this bill this week. You're making sure you're managing your own expectation and meeting goals on both the ends, taking care of yourself as well as hoping that your business thrives within that process.

While planning Greece, I was 100% working for myself and then I became a flight attendant. I've always believed that if you want to do something, you need to align yourself and what you're doing with your plan. Becoming a flight attendant, the idea was that I'm trying to grow this travel company. I need some type of supportive finances, and I wanted to do something that would still be beneficial towards me growing Jetsetters Link.

Courtesy of Raynetta Smith

"I've always believed that if you want to do something, you need to align yourself and what you're doing with your plan."

What were some other things you had to do in order to get your business moving?

There is a lot of social media involved. There's a lot of marketing involved. Even while still being an entrepreneur, I went to several travel conferences last year to network with other people. I actually built my own website. I'm not going to say that it's the best, but you know, with my experience it is great for what it is. So just being able to do the backend stuff.

You went to Thailand as your first organized group trip for under $1,500. How did you find a way to make it more cost effective? 

Man, it's a hustle. I would have to credit my background in PR because a lot of what I do is research. I spent a lot of time trying to find the correct place, reaching out to those places and negotiating with them to let them know what I have going on. What sets me apart from a travel agency is that with the travel agency, you have the opportunity to make payments. You can actually still make payments on a Jetsetters Link trip; however, the travel agency making payments allows you or the travel agents to have access to vendors that I don't necessarily have that same access to because I don't have those certifications as a travel agent.

A lot of my travel happens during off-season because it's drastically cheaper than traveling during spring break or summer break. For example, when we went to Greece, the best time to go to Greece was late October and the beginning of November because it was probably 45% cheaper than what you'd be paying for the summer. Now it's a little risky because from November to January, Greece completely shuts down. It's considered their holiday season so they literally board up their walls and you might be going places that could potentially be shut down. So you have to do a lot more research in terms of finding out when is the last day that the hotel will be open? You know, things of that nature.

Courtesy of Raynetta Smith

What’s your favorite destination thus far?

I love Bali. The people were amazing. They sang in the morning, the food was great, it was so fresh. That alone is another thing that's been really big for me because just in my own individual lifestyle I'm trying to live healthier, and I've noticed that a lot of the food that we eat in America isn't as healthy for you as it should be. Then I go to another country and I can eat all of the things that I can't eat here and not have any issues.

Also being able to explore different cultures. Yes, we do go out and get turned up, but we're also there to learn about the culture.

For more of Raynetta and Jetsetters Link, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Raynetta Smith

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