THE travel bug hit her while on a two week vacation in London 20 years ago. The two weeks became a five year excursion around Europe and the beginning of Marina Doms' journey to Stars in Transition.
Working in a hotel restaurant in Scotland, a flower factory in London and a memorable holiday at iconic Disney World in the US, all added to the wealth of experience that has seen Doms build her unique travelling brand.
Born in Cape Town, Doms moved to Bloemfontein when she was six, and later matriculated at St Michael's School for Girls, in 1987.
She then moved to Cape Town where she studied beauty and therapy. In 1992 she was invited by a friend to a holiday in London.
"I was supposed to come back but I enjoyed it so much, I decided to get a job and stay on," she says.
After traveling around Europe, au pairing in France and skiing in Austria, Doms landed her first travel job with London bus company Insight Coach Tours. With the same enthusiasm, she studied a travel and tourism diploma through correspondence at the then SA Technikon.
In 1997, she came back home to work at Cape Towns's Thompson Tours and, a year later, she moved to Port Elizabeth to work for travel company Amatola Tours. After this, she decided to start her business with savings from her work abroad. She called it Stars in Transition.
"Being a mom of two children, and having the continuing desire to have my own travel business, I saw a niche in the market in 2008 to specialise in the travel and leisure needs of family and children."
She still had to save up money to make up the needed capital and was assisted by the Small Enterprise Development Agency with financial support and marketing material. She registered the business as a closed corporation.
"I then started promoting my services via e-mail, word of mouth and posters at schools – gaining business slowly."
She initially had to work from home to lower her operating costs, she explains. "I started my business with tours and holiday school activities and shuttling children to school. But I wanted more."
Doms focuses on creating "memorable holidays" for companies and families, and a blend of the two, nationally and internationally. She says a recent proud accolade was when she was named a finalist in the emerging entrepreneur category in last year's Businesswomen's Association's regional business achievers awards. Growing a business at the height of the global economic recession in 2008 was bound to be difficult, she admits.
"It has been a slow growth ever since. I have stayed positive and surround myself with inspirational people. I have been mentored, through Business Women's Association, by Adrian Gardiner from the Mantis Collection, and am currently being mentored, through the Abafazi programme, sponsored by Coca-Cola Fortune, by Trish Difford, a legend in the travel industry in Port Elizabeth for the past 37 years."
Among her highlights, she says, was organising an up-market honeymoon itinerary for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's daughter on her two-week trip to South Africa in 2005.
Doms says her business is driven by passion.
"I get excited when I put a package together. My clients' excitement and satisfaction means everything to me."