After being successful for 25 years, it’s unlikely they will change their business model anytime soon.
“Robbie and I have the gift of hospitality … we want to find people the best deal,” Rice said. “I think customer service is why we have repeat clientele.”
The twin sisters are celebrating their Oxford travel agency’s 25th anniversary today and are hosting an event starting a 4:30 p.m. in the Oxford Civic Center as a way to show their appreciation to the many clients and vendors who have supported them over the years. Visitors will have a chance to visit with vendors, such as Disney Cruise Line, for good rates on possible future vacation trips. Door prizes and vacation photo prizes will also be available.
“A lot of the travel agents that were around when we started aren’t in business anymore, so we wanted to say thank you,” Rice said.
Rice said she and her sister first opened their doors in 1987 in Anniston before moving in 1994 to their current location in Oxford. Rice got her start in the travel agency business when she was 16 years old, working for AAA in Anniston. After moving on and learning about the business as an employee for Cheaha Travel in Talladega, Rice quit her job to get married – with no intentions of opening a business. The wedding was called off, however, and with Rice and Ginn both unemployed, their mother encouraged them to go into business for themselves.
The sisters decided to give it a shot and took out a $35,000 direct loan from the Small Business Development Center at Jacksonville State University, said Robbie Medders, associate director of the center. Medders said she was working for the center when the sisters came in for the loan. The development center offers classes, training and advice on how to effectively run a business.
“We helped them with the startup phase then, providing most of the counseling early on,” Medders said.
Medders said the center has helped other startup businesses that have lasted many years, but few are 25 years old.
“That’s phenomenal that they’ve lasted for 25 years,” she said.
Today, the travel agency has many clients, including JSU, Regional Medical Center and the Alabama State Board of Missions.
Ginn said helping missionaries arrange their trips to help others in need is a way of giving back to God.
“We could not be in business today if God had not blessed us,” Ginn said.
Ginn had expected to only be in business with her sister for one year before moving on. However, after learning about the business and dealing with clients, she quickly grew to love the job.
“It’s addictive helping people plan their dreams,” Ginn said. “You get to know people and you feel like you are part of their families … and you want to create those memories for those families.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.