ISON Founder and CEO Helen Cannon started the company in 2013 after nine years of raising a family of five children. ISON is a roaring success, and to confirm this, Helen was winner of the Company of the Year Award at the Dynamic Business Awards 2023
I founded ISON Travel in 2013 after nine years of raising my five children. My youngest was two when I knew I wanted to – needed to – get back to my career. However, I couldn’t find a role or an employer who would offer me the flexibility I needed to balance family and work-life, so I decided to start my own travel company.
We celebrated our 10-year anniversary in June, and we are now a company of 62 people, with around 50% working flexible part-time hours and over 70% of whom are women. Flexibility is crucial to me, as it is for many, so I make a point of hiring people based on their expertise and skills alone, not how many hours they can do or where they can work from geographically.
ISON Travel provides a flexible working environment allowing part time, remote work that suits an employee’s personal situation. Because of this, we have given opportunities to highly skilled people who may otherwise not have been employed. As a result, we have created an amazing, diverse team that helps and supports each other.
It has been an incredible journey since 2013, and especially over the past three years. In 2020, the pandemic had a devastating impact on the travel sector. Although travel was down by 85%, arranging travel became much harder. Many of our competitors made staff redundant or closed their doors for good.
In contrast, I decided to increase investment in staff which led to a loss that year. Whilst this seemed risky, I was confident that travel would return. When it did, I wanted to be ready with the best team able to support our clients.
As a result, we were probably the first company in our sector to reach and then exceed 2019 levels, which we did in 2021. We saw exponential growth in 2022 when staff levels, revenue and profit tripled 2021 levels, making us five times larger than pre-pandemic.
Despite the business growing at a phenomenal rate, I’m still extremely hands on in the day-to-day running of ISON and, most importantly, I still do the school run nearly every day.