Gerling Travel specializes in places far away from Flagler Beach, so their clients will experience life-changing travel to some of the most amazing spots on Earth.
Mark Gerling fell in love with the continent of Africa when he visited in his 20s. So when he decided to take the plunge as an entrepreneur in 2008 and start Gerling travel, as an accompaniment to his wife Shayla's business Gerling Sports Travel, it was no surprise that African photo safaris topped the list of destinations he wanted to service.
We sat down with Mark in Flagler Beach to discover just how their trip through the travel business has transpired.
I knew it was time to invest when …
“My wife was renting a little office. We had just bought a puppy. We asked the leasing agent if we could bring this puppy to the office. She said sure. A little while later they said 'We got some complaints about the dog and you can't bring it anymore.' We decided that that was our sign; it was time to move and look at an investment property to house the office. We just took leap of faith. We tell everybody the dog owns the building, because without the dog, we may not have gone looking for investment property.”
I wanted to own a business because …
“I was working for the Hammock Beach Resort for Mr. Bobby Ginn. When the market crashed, the writing was on the wall that the company was about to go under. Shayla and I had been talking about our next step. I just said 'I want to own my own travel company.' We'd just bought this building and it was a perfect alignment. I was prepared and ready to enter the world of being my own boss. So we had a lot of faith and trust in the Lord to provide, and it worked out really well.
A funny thing happened …
“In Africa on a safari. I had a local family with me. We were walking close to a river looking at an 18-foot female crocodile nesting on the bank. Behind us in the river, all I heard was a massive sound. I freaked out and ran, leaving my clients. It turned out to be a hippo. Here I am, the expert, and I was hauling butt. They got a good laugh out of it and so did my African guide. He knew the hippo wasn't coming out of the water. But, man, it sure sounded like it was coming and you see a couple thousand pound animal and you react.”
My biggest fear last year was …
“Global terrorism. That affects my business in a potentially large way. We're on top of everything going on globally, whether it's good bad, or ugly, so we can be advise our clients who are traveling all over the globe. There were a few situations in Europe this year. Coincidentally, we did not see a turn in business from that. We had a few cancellations, but people seem to understand that this is part of the world we live in.”
What most people don't know about the business is …
“That the sports travel side of the business has been running since 2004. It was a homegrown business in a basement room, that we had when we lived in Texas for a brief time. Shayla and her team, which is two other people, had done over $2 million in sales out of this little tiny office in Flagler Beach, Florida.”
The best change I made was …
“When we first started we were marketing my wife's business as it as Gerling Sports Marketing. When I worked for Mr. Ginn, his company name at the time was the Ginn Company. He had a meeting of employees in 2006, and they were changing the name of the company because he had somebody ask him, 'what do you do? Do you sell vacuum cleaners?' He said 'I'm not branding my business properly. We sell club environment resort hospitality living and people think we sell vacuum cleaners.' I think, 'Gerling Sports Marketing? We're not a marketing company, we're a travel company. So I changed the name the next day, re-branded everything to Gerling Sports Travel. Our business grew a million dollars in one year.”
“We're on top of everything going on globally, whether it's good bad, or ugly, so we can be advise our clients who are traveling all over the globe.”
- 301 S. Central Ave., Flagler Beach
- Owners: Mark and Shayla Gerling
- What they do: Gerling Travel provides professional travel consulting services to their clients. They book cruises and tours, but also advise, consult, encourage and dedicate countless hours to ensure their clients are safe and well-versed before leaving home. They offer travel insurance plans and global travel services for individuals and small groups, specializing in African photo safaris, Egyptian tours and private guides across the seven continents.
- Awards: Standing 'O' Awards for 2013, 2014, and 2015
- Origins: Gerling travel was established in Flagler Beach in 2008 by Mark and Shayla Gerling. In 2004 Shayla formed Gerling Sports Travel to service the travel needs of the professional motor-sports industry. Mark formed Gerling Travel Group Worldwide to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a small business owner. They specialized in the luxury travel market, carving out a niche in the African photo safari industry. Mark has personally escorted dozens of clients on life changing experiences in Africa.
By the Numbers
8 Years in business
5 Employees as of January 2015
6 Employees as of January 2016
15% Increase in revenue Jan. - Sept. 2016 compared to same period in 2015
5% Increase in net profits Jan. - Sept. 2016 compared to same period in 2015