Sandy is probably the most committed Disney lover I’ve met, and she turned that passion into a business, where she could spend every day helping others have the experience of a lifetime at her most favorite place on Earth. Or...
Sandy is probably the most committed Disney lover I’ve met, and she turned that passion into a business, where she could spend every day helping others have the experience of a lifetime at her most favorite place on Earth.
Originally working as a conference and events specialist, she made the transition to Disney travel 15 years ago and jumped right in to start her own agency so she could live her dream of making Disney her job.
Today, Sandy runs a successful travel business focused entirely on Disney adventures and experiences. She proudly commits her own time and resources to be the most knowledgeable expert out there on all of the Disney attractions, events and secrets.
Her steadfast commitment to serving and delighting her customers has paid off as she has built a strong list of repeat customers who continue to come to her year over year (often more than once a year!) to help them make the most of their vacation.
In this episode, we will talk about building a business around fandom, how knowing your customer intimately is crucial to your success, how to manage a business during an industry-crushing crisis, and creating personal and business resilience in uncertain times.
I was so delighted to have this conversation with Sandy, and I can’t wait for you to hear it too!
Skip to Topic:
3:09 The benefits of deep immersion in your work
3:30 Making the transition from conference and events to Disney travel
6:00 Creating a unique advantage around your clients
7:32 Building a strong referral base
11:20 Leveraging fan-based communities for creating exposure
13:10Why no-pressure selling actually works better
17:20How high-touch customer service benefits your revenue
21:33Breaking in to a saturated market
22:09Managing a solely commission-based business
25:25Leveraging a partner-driven ecosystem
27:27The importance of selling with integrity
28:12Managing a business crisis during COVID lockdowns
37:40How to ensure your business (and people) are resilient through uncertainty
41:22Planning for the business and planning for yourself together
46:03Establishing yourself as an expert in your field, on your terms
50:12The truth about being a travel business owner vs. what everyone thinks
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Welcome to the Real People, Real Business show. My name is Stephanie Hayes and I'm a business strategist and coach who loves to speak with like-minded entrepreneurs to share their real stories and the gritty details of building their businesses. On this show, you won't hear about glamorized entrepreneurship journeys that you see online. You won't be told how to make six figures in six weeks. Instead, you can expect to hear real vulnerable and inspiring stories you can relate to that have helped create the foundation for each of our guests businesses. Goodbye, boss babes. Hello, real life entrepreneurs today. I am so excited to welcome Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk. Sandy is the owner of Instant Impressions Travel Services, which focuses specifically on Disney travel. We're gonna have fun today and helps others create magical memories for their families. Enjoy all that Disney has to offer. Welcome to the show, Sandy, and thanks so much for taking the time to share your story today.Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
Thank you. I'm excited to be here.Stephanie Hayes:
Okay. Tell me everything. How the heck do you get started on a Disney business? Cuz I kind of want.Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
You know, I tell people it's kind of an odd story. I, I like to say I grew up a Disney girl, but I also tell people I'm from New Jersey. My father doesn't fly. So being a Disney girl meant my siblings and I get into, you know, the station wagon with my parents make that 20 plus hour drive down to Walt Disney world. And I just became enamored with the magic as a young child. I'll admit I'm old. I just celebrated my 50th birthday. And when I was young, you could only buy Disney things in Disney. There were no Disney stores around the country. They didn't license their product to at the time Bradleys and two guys, the equivalent of target and Walmart today. And probably every three years, we would make that our family vacation and I just fell in love with it. It is definitely as cliche as it sounds. It is my happy place. I can go there and de-stress, and just through a bizarre series of events, I ended up needing a career change and this kind of fell into my lap. As I maneuvered some business changes in my life and some personal things. And it's been a phenomenal journey for over 15 years now. I loveStephanie Hayes:
it. And by the way, you don't get to call yourself old, cuz I'm closing in, on my 50th birthday too. And I think that we are just starting to become very, very young. So I love the story. I will say that going to Disney's does not sound like a relief of stress for me. I feel like it would be more, but it sounds like your job is to make sure that your clients do go to Disney and have a wonderful time. ThatSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
is stress free. It is. So even though I am a Jersey girl now and always have been I am currently in Wal Disney world in Florida, nine to 12 times a year out on the west coast in Disneyland, two to three times a year on their cruise ship, traveling their adventures. So I am really living the Disney life outside of Florida. And so we're able to really say to clients, this is what's new. This is what's worth your time. This is what's worth your money. This is where you wanna be at this time. And. It's not, I always say it's not a one size fits all answer. So what is perfect for your family? Isn't perfect for my family. Maybe your family doesn't like fireworks or you love Broadway shows, but hate roller coasters. And so we can really build that perfect vacation for you. So you wentStephanie Hayes:
into this as almost a career change. Is that, did I hear you correctly saying thatSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
I did. So when I was in this career change, I actually had a conference and event planning business, and I tried convincing some of my clients to start doing events in Disney because I loved Disney events. And then I got divorced. I had a young child and I say it's a little comical. I needed to travel less, which the conference and event built business is huge travel. And so. I got into travel because I used to say to my daughter, I'm gonna be gone for a week for this meeting. Stay with grandma and pop, pop, be good. And then I'll take a week off and we'll go to Disney. And so we started going two and three and four times a year. And then somebody at her school came to me and said, Hey, I know you guys are kinda the Disney family. Now let me talk to you about this opportunity that might exist. And it's really how I transition my business from conference and event into Disney. So we do family travel for Disney, but we also do school groups, corporate events and things like that. So we kind of cross over a little bit, but it's all about the magic.Stephanie Hayes:
So like, walk me through this. So cuz I've, I've only been to Disney world in Florida once, which is weird, cause I'm on the west coast and I could get to California a lot easier, but that's just what happened. To me, Disney was like really overwhelming, right? There's a lot going on. And so what, what is it that you are offering your clients? Like what's their experience that's different than maybe how I would've experienced it. What, what do they get different when they go on their trip than if they were to do it allSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
on their own? That's a great question. And it really varies. Every client is different. We say we do as much or as little as you want, we offer what we call concierge planning. And to me, for a client perspective, the best part about it is it doesn't cost you a. Disney commissions travel agents. So if you go online and you book the vacation with this, this and that to it, and it costs you $3,000 or you call me and my team and you're booking the exact same vacation, it's still gonna cost you the exact same $3,000, but Disney pays us a commission because we're answering your questions instead of them. Right. So you're getting that single point of contact. So. When you have a question, three months down the road, somebody has your history and they know how that fits into other things you've said. I always tell people when I start working with them the best and worst thing about planning a Disney vacation is whenever you tell somebody that you're planning a Disney vacation, they have a suggestion for you. And so we constantly get calls and emails that says, Hey, I was on the playground at school, or I was at my cousin's house for a baby shower. And somebody there said, we're at the wrong hotel. We really need to switch to this. Or, you know, if we don't have a dinner reservation at such and such, we're totally missing out. Can you fix that for us? And I always say, it's my job to give you your choices and do what you want. And I'll say, sure, I can change hotels for you. You told me that you only like deluxe resorts and they're recommending a campground to you or your budget is a moderate price, but they're recommending a deluxe. Or you said to me, your family's a meat and potatoes family. And while the Moroccan restaurant on property is great and it has entertainment. Your family's not going to eat when you go to dinner at the Moroccan restaurant. So while their family may love it and think it's the be all and end all. It's not the be all and end all for you so we can get to know our clients. If they're willing to give us some details and then craft what works perfectly for your family.Stephanie Hayes:
So, how are you finding clients? Are these, are these people kind of just searching or do they hear you through word of mouth? Like, what's your, what's your kind of mainSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
source of clients? So I'm very proud to say that my team and I work so hard on creating these great vacations that I think our number one source of new clients is referrals from people that have worked with us. They've worked with us, they've done their trip and we've proven that we walked the walk. We just didn't talk the talk. And then they got there and it was something different. We do get clients from marketing events. We go out at. Family fairs and festivals and farmer's markets. And you'll find us with a table handing out the Mickey stickers. Like you can get right on main street and talking to people about Disney. And then I think the last way that we get clients is I am a weekly featured expert on a podcast, all about Disney. So people hear the podcast and end up coming to us that way as well. Because again, they can see, we know what we're talking about. Yeah. There's a lot of people that can talk to you about Disney. They can even give you a lot of information about Disney. It's kind of like Google, how do you know the information they're giving you is right. Yeah. And so sometimes that's kind of the barometer. And so I think all those things put together, give people the confidence in us.Stephanie Hayes:
So what, what are you doing to ensure that people, when people do land on you, that they're saying, yeah, that's theSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
right choice. I'm a big explainer in life. If you can't tell already I talk a lot. So I I'm very down to earth. I talk to people and it's how I train my team as well. We're gonna treat you like we'd wanna be treated. Everything has a good and a bad to it. So we're gonna say to you, let's look at this hotel. Here's why we love it. Here's the thing that might concern you. And it might not because again, not everybody's the same. So maybe you have a five year old and a seven year old and they're okay. Sharing a bed. So for you that there aren't three beds in the room. Isn't a concern, but for somebody else with an 11 year old and a 13 year old, they don't wanna share a bed or transportation's a big concern for your budget. So we go through all the elements so that we've narrowed down some choices for you. And then we talk about it. And again, obviously how we approach a Walt Disney world and a Disneyland vacation where we're doing a hotel in park planning might also be different than how we're working with you. If you're looking at a Disney cruise vacation, or one of my favorite ways to vacation with Disney is adventures by Disney. They are small group guided tours to bucket list destinations around the world. And so I've been to Italy and Peru and Costa Rica and done a Dan river cruise with them. And people don't always think of that as Disney. So we'll talk about why do you wanna do that with Disney instead of another tour company. Now that you've picked that you definitely want those Disney differences, maybe, you know, where you wanna go, maybe you don't, maybe, you know where you wanna go and I'm gonna help you. Pick the tour that has kids closest to your kids' ages, or I'm gonna get you on an adult exclusive tour, cuz you're celebrating retirement and you don't wanna be surrounded by a lot of children. And so every vacation that we play on is gonna be slightly different.Stephanie Hayes:
I often say like the best marketing you can do is to be really good at the work that you do. Right. And to have great results because those clients are gonna talk to other clients and you're gonna become known, but there's like a pretty significant kind of Disney community out there. Right? Like there are all sorts of Disney focused well there's travel agents and then there's collectors and then there's all sorts of things. Have you ever tapped into any of those kind of fan base community driven?Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
Definitely. I mean there's a lot of fan base communities on something like Facebook. And as you said, it's everything from the average person traveling to podcasters. I mean, I am not only, not only the only travel agent that specializes in Disney, but there's probably close to 200 podcasts just about Disney. Yeah. So Disney is a huge community. And again, I think one of the things that sets us apart is that firsthand knowledge. No, I don't live in Florida. I'm not going to the park every other day, but we're going anytime. There's an event, anytime there's something new and people see that they'll follow us on social media, see us on Facebook and Instagram to see, yes, we're there for opening day of flowering garden festival. And we're there for the Halloween parties and the Christmas parties. This past year, Two different times. I actually flew east coast to west coast because I did Christmas parties on both coasts two days apart. I did the food and wine festival at one coast and the flower and garden at the other in the same week. So we're always walking that walk. And I think one of the things that made me kind of zero in on that is one of our big differences is when I talk about our marketing events. And when I train our team on our marketing events, it's not uncommon. I am a very laid back sales person. You either wanna go to Disney and you want a book with me or come to me when you're ready. I'm not gonna pressure you to book a vacation. That's not how I like to be treated. That's not how I treat people. And so that comes through when I do marketing events, I'm not the person standing in front of the table at the booth, you know, handing you a flyer when you walk by in a costing you so you can't get there. I'm behind the table. You can see all the Disney things. You're gonna come to the table. If you're interested, if you're not, I'm not gonna force you to go to vacation. And people will look at, you know, the different flyers we have and some information on the table. And then I'll say, you know, are there any questions I can answer for you? And very often I'll get the response at least a couple of times a day where the person will say to me that I can answer any questions you have. I go to Disney all the time and I'll say, oh, that's awesome. You know, when was your last trip? What did you love? And usually that person will tell me that they haven't been there in two years or three years. Yeah. I'm there every month. So, you know, when they start talking to me, you know, they'll say to me, well, what's your number one tip. And I always share for somebody who tells me, they're the Disney person, my more obscure Disney things I've done that are available to the general public backstage tours. One of my favorite things to do is a dining with an Imagineer program and pre pandemic. It was very hard to get reservations for it. It was held three days a week. If there wasn't a holiday in that week and 12 people maximum at that lunch. And at the time there were 28 different Imagineers that did the program. So every time you came, you never know who you were getting. And so I talked to people about that program being one of my favorites, because my bucket list was to get to do lunch with all 28 of them. I've only done 13. And they haven't brought that program back since the pandemic. But when I talk to people about it, I'm like, well, you've done the dining with the imaginary and they're like, I've never heard of that. And so we start to talk about it again, then they see, then I know things, and then they'll start to ask me what they think are their more obscure questions. And sometimes they're surprised that, you know, I've been there or I've seen it. When Disney opened BTU their star wars land, I was at the opening on the west coast for it. I was at the pre-opening on the east coast by three months in, I had been to BTU four times already. I have many clients who still haven't made it to BTU, even though it's on their bucket list. So we really do try hard to be there when they're doing things. Obviously we're coming out of a pandemic. I was there the day that they opened the hotels back up in Florida. There were no theme parks open yet just hotels. The manager actually told me I was literally the first guest on property at all of Disney's hotels. I was there the day that they reopened the magic kingdom, the day that they reopened Hollywood studios, I was on the first cruise for the general public back out of port Canaveral. So I'm always going to get and see the new. So, what I'm hearingStephanie Hayes:
from you is that like, there's all these kind of different layers of your clients. There are the people who are like might go once or twice in their life. There are the people who, who are like regulars, who go, I know people who go like nine times a year and there are, then there are the corporate people who might be booking for schools or groups or, or whatever. And what I'm hearing is that your depth of expertise and just your immersion into Disney and your passion for it, that's your key selling proposition, right? Is because you can speak to these experiences that absolutely completely suit wherever I might be on my DisneySandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
journey. Definitely. And I think that's, we really, that's a great way to summarize it because we try really hard. I say, I'm very lucky. I have the best job in the world. And some of the best offices in the world, you know, my office might be a balcony on a cruise ship cause. What other people are considering vacation while it's a great destination. For me, it is work. I'm reviewing things. I'm doing a lot of things. One example I give is when they come out with a new firework show or a new theater show, I'll watch it two or three different times from all the different ways that you can get in, where are they gonna seat you? If you have a dinner package, where are they gonna seat you? If you stand by and wait to get in, where are they gonna seat you? If you have their special genie plus pass. So I try all the different ways. And again, it's not one size fits all because you might not wanna do sit down dining. So even though that might have the best seating, then I'm gonna say to you, all right, that's the best seating, but you don't want sit down meals. So here's second best. And here's where you're gonna be. So it's really about kinda getting into that nitty gritty for those that need that extra detail. And with that, it also allows us to do a lot of planning for families with special needs. We are certified in special need planning as well. And so we look at things like it's not just about seeing the fireworks. It might be that you can't be in a crowd or you love to see the fireworks, but the noise of the fireworks is a trigger for your child. So we'll talk about locations outside the park that are gonna be a good fit for your family to watch. And again, the more a client is willing to talk to us. The more we can do. It's always interesting to me, some will complete our online form and it says, can a specialist call you to discuss your trip? Many people check. No. And so that's okay. We give them a couple of options. We tell them how to kind of decipher between those options. And we send it back. I have clients that I have never spoken to I of corresponded in email many times, but they don't wanna hop on the phone or they don't wanna hop on a zoom. I have clients that I talk to on the phone. Usually I say to people, even if you're not a big phone person, give me 15 minutes. When we start, let me just ask a couple of questions and really sometimes the answers we get. I'll give you another question to make sure that you're really asking me for what you want so that we give you your needs, even if you don't know what they were upfront. SoStephanie Hayes:
the number one thing clients want to feel is known, right? And it sounds like you're, you're doing a lot of that. Do you notice a difference in the clients who you've had a chance to engage with in that way versus the ones that will only ever bookSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
via email? I do know that I can say that I do only because the ones that will only book by email tend not to give us a lot of feedback. When we ask for it at the end of the trip, they tend not to send me a, a picture during the trip. I have some clients there now, and I'm loving all these photos that I'm getting. I got one yesterday at like one 30 in the afternoon of somebody with their daughter at a character met Neil that we had arranged. And they're like, Tusker house was totally the perfect thing, like you said, and here's a picture of their chimes in the middle of their trip. And I haven't even asked for feedback when every client comes home, we send a welcome back email and we ask for feedback. But those that don't wanna engage generally. Don't right. So you're not sure whether you hit the mark as much as you think you did or hope you did, right? I'm gonna go with our success rate is high. And so hopefully we met their expectations and that people are quicker. To give negative feedback than positive. So sometimes I go with no news is good news. But I do enjoy hearing from clients when they get home. And you know, whether sometimes they'll say to me, you know, I know you said that this section of the resort was a far walk. We didn't think it was that far. Okay. And so maybe I'll reposition how I say that to people, you know, I thought it was far, but usually at the end of the night, I'm pretty tired, but I have other clients that say to me it's not bad. So maybe the distance depends how athletic your family is. If your family is going out for five mile walk every afternoon, a distance for you is gonna be just different than a distance for me.Stephanie Hayes:
Okay. So what I wanna ask you is go back to the beginning when you were, you were doing travel or sorry, conference and events, and then this opportunity presented itself. What was it like sort of transitioning in, I mean, you've mentioned that there's lots of competition and there are lots of people who do Disney travel, and I know I've heard of it too. Mm-hmm what, you know, how did you get past that sort of, you know, I'm assuming a little bit of imposter syndrome and some of the, some of the challenges that came with like gettingSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
started very carefully. I will say that when I started, there was nowhere near the number of people doing it, that there are now, it is definitely a bigger segment of business, but I started very conservatively. I wasn't necessarily in a position to jump in with both feet and run with it. One of the things about being a travel specialist or a travel consultant, concierge, whatever word you wanna use. I mentioned earlier that it doesn't cost the client anything extra, cause we're commissioned by Disney. But what that means on the flip side is we are commissioned, we are solely commission. And we don't get paid until a client travels. So some clients I'm working with, they might not book their trip till eight weeks before their vacation starts, but Disney people really, if they're not Disney regulars, as I call them, I have people that will call me two years before their vacation or three years before their vacation. And so I'm working with them month after month for all this time, leading up to their trip. And then all of a sudden they call me and say, you know, Sandy, you've been wonderful to work with, but my daughter's grades, aren't great. We're taking away the trip or, you know, we had a change, our family's buying a house. So that means no vacation for two years. And when that happens, that means that we get zero payment for all the work we've done up until. So I transitioned into the role by keeping my conference planning and starting with the travel to see, could I build up enough business for it to be a sustainable full-time income for me. SoStephanie Hayes:
you said something interesting there just around the, the fact that you are you're you really, your client is Disney, right? Like they're, they're, who's paying you, correct?Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
Yeah. They're, who's paying us. But it's the individual client who gives us that ability. If you were to call Disney directly Disney, isn't gonna send you to me. No. So weed and authorized by Disney, but we are not part of the Disney call center. So my client is real you, because if you are not happy with me, you can say. You know what I know I've been working with you for six months, but I don't wanna work with you anymore. Right. I'm gonna call Disney and tell them I wanna work with them directly. So our client is you, you steer the ship, you are picking the vacation dates. You are picking the resort. Disney kind of pays us on your behalf. So it's a little, they're not, there are no, it's just opinion. You're not partner is how I look at them. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it's, it's harder to have, but they're not my client. Really.Stephanie Hayes:
It adds just another dimension to, to the way that you work. Right. Because there's like this, it's not a direct relationship between the client and the money, but the client is the facilitator for that for you to get paid. And so is there anything else you need to be considering or keeping in mind when you are, you know, working with clients or selling clients that You know, that would influence your partnership with Disney.Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
Yes and no. I, I pride myself on treating people the way that I wanna be treated. Yeah. I run a good business. I am lucky that Disney is a phenomenal partner to have And they value the travel community. So part of the way that Disney works, they're not like this big faceless thing for me, nor am I to them. They have district sales managers and regional sales managers just for the travel community. So I have somebody who works for Disney, who is semi-local to me, who I see face to face with one on one meetings, at least every quarter. She's somebody that I can pick up the phone to and talk to reg. I talk to her multiple times a month, right? She then reports to a regional who, again, is somebody. If I need to escalate something, I can go to him. I know his boss and can go to her. So it's a real partnership. Are there times where they'll say to me, well, we wish you would do this. More. Yes. Do I say to them, here's why I don't do that. And I'm not willing to do that. I own my own business where you are an independent company. So ultimately, while they're a phenomenal partner, it's my business. And I call the shots, right? If I say, you know, we don't typically sell X, Y, Z, because I'm very upfront with my clients. And I'll say, here's the difference between that and that I think I'm unique in a sales role, that if you've ever been in a, especially a commission sales role, the number one marketing tip that anybody will give you is that you need to upsell a client, right. If you know, they wanted the economy car and you can move them up to the midsize, go for it. My contract for the members of my team that work with me that are planners. Just like I am says that if they're cut upselling, they will be fired.Stephanie Hayes:
Oh, interesting. Tell me moreSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
about that. They sell people the right vacation, right? My job is to create magic for you. And if I do it right, I've sold you the right vacation. You're going to vacation again. You're gonna come back to us again and you are gonna refer us, which goes back to your very first question. Our number one source of business is client referrals. I will sell you the right trip. Doesn't mean that I don't have deluxe clients. It doesn't mean that I don't have people that spend 20, $30,000 with us and other people that spend three. But there's a right vacation for everybody. And there's, I always say, unfortunately, my money tree isn't growing, we all have a limited amount of funds and we can all only do so many things value to me is what you get out of something that you're purchasing, not what the price is we buy. And we sell to our clients to create value within their vacation.Stephanie Hayes:
Okay. You mentioned something when we were first talking before we got started recording. Let's I mean, let's just talk about it. We had a pen, we have a pandemic, we had a pandemic. We are somewhere in the middle of a pandemic. And I think the obvious question to someone like you is like, how did this affect your business?Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
What business. Without sounding like a broken record. I relive the pandemic, the beginning of the pandemic moments, the way other people relive big events in history. I was sitting on a plane and don't tell United airlines. I don't shut my plane until they ding for the flight attendants to sit down. My phone is on cuz I'm a control freak till that last minute, when it really has to go off. And we were sitting on the time act at Newark, headed down to Walt Disney world. And I get a text from a friend of mine that says, did you see the news? And I said, no. What? And he said Disneyland, which is out in California, just announced their closing due to COVID. What do you think? And do you think what Disney world is closing? And I said, you know, California's different. They, you know, There are much more conservative, not a big deal. Can't imagine Walt Disney world closing, shut my phone, pay for the wifi. And I'm watching the news the whole two hour and 20 minute flight down to Orlando. And I'm watching all these different things be announced. The New York mayor is making announcements. California is making announcements, but Florida's looking, we land in Orlando. I pick up my rental car, I'm driving to my hotel. I'm literally the third car in line to check in with security to drive in. And my phone starts vibrating like crazy. And I look over and now I've got multiple friends texting me. Did you hear Walt Disney world is closing? So now I make my way to the first car to check in. I say, you know, I give him my magic band skinny and I say, is it true? And I hold up my phone. Is it true? You're closing in 72 hours. And he's like, I don't know what you're talking about, lady. I'm like, all right, I'm gonna go turn my computer on. I ran to my room. I checked in, I started to check all the news and the first thing I did is email my team. And I said, you know, I'm here. I literally just checked in to somewhere that's closing. And I was there for their wedding conference, their wedding showcase. So I was there for a large event being held in the ballroom in the next 48 hours. We crafted a statement to all of our clients looking back. I can't decide if I was naive or if I was just being optimistic. I said to my team, it's a two week closure. , that's what they told us. It's a two week closure. Here's a recommended statement to all of your clients that are traveling in the next two weeks. We're gonna move their vacations. If they're willing to a month from now or two months from now, whatever works for them. Here's a statement to send all of your clients traveling three weeks to three months from now, so that they're not nervous. It's just a two week closure. And off we sent the statements. I responded to my own clients. I supported my team. I went to bed, I got up the next day, I went into the theme park. You kind of wouldn't know anything was happening. I went to the kickoff event for the conference that I was at really wouldn't know anything was happening, following all the news, responding to emails. And now the news is not looking so good. You know, you're kind of seeing it unraveling again. Keep in mind. I'm in New Jersey, it was really New York and New Jersey that were the first to shut down. So even though Disney was shutting down the state of Florida, wasn't shutting down. I go to the conference the next morning. One of my good friends was right inside the door. I hadn't expected to see him. And I went to hug him and I said, do we hug now? Cause you were reading all this news, you know, Don't touch other people and he goes, it's you and me? Why wouldn't we hug? And I say to him, you were like the last person I hugged before the pandemic, I was in a ballroom with thousands of people unasked after New York and New Jersey announced, they were closing after Walt Disney world announced they were closing, went to the conference, flew home two days later. Never would've thought I'd be home for as long as I was. And again, I don't think Disney thought that, you know, the two week ex closure became a four week closure and then three weeks in, they announced another two weeks and they were very sure we were gonna reopen. I think most of the country really thought this is gonna reopen. So we had a tough time. I'm not, it was the worst year for my business, for my emotional wellbeing for my team's wellbeing. Because again, we're commissioned. So as clients are canceling their vacation, they don't even wanna wait for Disney. Every cancellation means we don't get paid. We've got news, you know, fast forward a couple of months into the pandemic. Now we've got news that the resorts are reopening. And again, I've got my flight reservation going, but I'm going, but the cruise ships aren't back yet, which is a large part of our business. I mean, it took almost an additional year to bring back cruise ships. And even now they're not sailing anywhere near house full. They are Walt Disney world. When they opened, opened at an extremely reduced capacity. So that even sometimes when we'd have people that would say, you know what, my kid's school just announced, they're going virtual next week. We're gonna go to Disney. They can do school in the hotel room, and we're gonna go into the parks at night. Now you needed something called theme park reservations to control occupancy. And I'd have to say to people, there's no reservations available. Or Disney has 35,000 hotel rooms. They didn't reopen 35,000 hotel rooms. So I'd have to say, I can't get you a room on property because only 50% of the resorts have reopened. Disneyland was next to open for us, but they only opened to California residents. So here I am sitting in New Jersey chomping at the bit, cuz I wanted to be there for opening day again. I am definitely one of those people. The day Walt Disney world opened, I was crying on main street. I think I bought every souvenir they sold that said their slogan was together again. That we were all able to be back and enjoying the magic together. But it was a rough two years. Keeping my team motivated, keeping myself motivated financially as a business owner. You know, there is no paycheck coming in every Friday. And in order to walk the walk I'm traveling, which I do at my expense. So I'm buying airfare, I'm paying for rental cars, I'm paying for hotels, even though my income. Isn't what it was. But you know, it's interesting. I said to you prior 2021 was my year of most travel ever in my life. I did, my email signature has a little graphic to it because I was kind of keeping track of what I did at the end of the year. I was like, wow, I'm gonna show people who are calling me saying, is it safe to travel? So for 2021. I was on 43 planes. I flew 25,488 miles. I spent 68 nights in hotels. I visited five other countries. I did 12 trips to Walt Disney world three trips to Disneyland. I did that adventure by Disney, that guided tour that I was talking about in Europe, I did an ocean cruise and a river cruise. So incredible amounts of travel every way that you can travel and knock on wood. I did all of that without getting COVID. I took a break from travel right after Christmas. I was home. I was supposed to be home for three weeks. And at the end, right before that three weeks was up, I contracted COVID the only places that I've gone from my house are the supermarket and target. It had to come from one of those two places. So I say to people, listen, my view is very different than it was two years ago. I'm now convinced everybody's gonna get it no matter how careful you try to be. I'm glad I didn't get it while traveling so I can continue to say to people, you never know what life brings. Live your dreams, make your memories with your family, go for it. And I continue to travel. Now we're three months into 2022. I've been to Disneyland twice while Disney world three times and on in ocean cruise. So all of that in eight weeks and I had COVID in the middle.Stephanie Hayes:
I mean, you're such an upbeat and positive person. I mean, I, so we're just sitting here talking about like basically business catastrophe . I mean, what do you attribute your kind of your resilience to?Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
I think it's for a long time, people have said to me, diversify your business. If you call me and say, we wanna take a Royal Caribbean cruise or help me, we wanna go to Aruba. I say to you, Stephanie, I so appreciate your calling. I'm not the girl for you. I believe our value is in our expertise and you can't be an expert in everything. We are experts in Disney. But what that means is when I say to you, Stephanie, I can't help you. I'm turning away business and I'm losing money essentially. but when the pandemic, I'm not sure if we can even say, was coming to an end or in the middle, whatever we still are. There is something about Disney and Disney magic. People were headed back to Disney, I think before many other tourist destinations, I think more people visited national parks in 2020 and 2021 than ever, you know, great outdoors be outside, be far away from people. But we hear so often from our clients. I don't wanna go, but I have to go. I'd be a horrible parent. If I didn't take my child to Disney and the way we know I, we did our job correctly is I call those the one and done clients. They think they're going once and never again. And the way that we plan their vacation, they come back and they're ready to book the next one. And they're no longer the one and done that Disney magic. Is contagious. You know, I, I will say that probably two and a half, three months into the pandemic, I really wasn't optimistic. And I got my car from New Jersey, cuz I booked three different flights that were all canceled. And I drove to Florida just to sit by the Disney sign, to be by the magic. And there's, as you said, there's so many fan groups. There's so many people who say I haven't been to Disney in 20 years, but I remember, and you watch their face change and that magic and that emotion comes back. And I think knowing the impact that we have on families gets me through, I have a phenomenal team of agents. I did a lot to try and hold them up and. Make it look like I was much stronger than I was sometimes to hold them up. But somehow they knew in the times where I wasn't sure how we were gonna get through and what things did we need to do and evolve. They were there for me sending, you know, silly memes or a little gift, you know, I'm a diet Coke girl. The joke is I can drink diet Coke, you know, four liters a day. And all of a sudden I get a delivery of diet Coke. And it would just say, you know, thinking of you, I'm lucky to be surrounded by phenomenal people, even though I'm surrounded by them. Virtually my team works all across the us. There is nobody near me, but we are a team. So that's how I got through.Stephanie Hayes:
Oh, man. I love, I mean, these, this is like the, the inside and the heart of our businesses. It's just the people who are leading them and, and bringing your team. It sounds like you're just an incredible leader. I wanna shift focus a little bit and ask you like, what's next? So we're kind of coming out. I don't know if we're coming out or we're like lightening up on the whole pandemic and things are starting to open up a little bit more. What's like, what's what does your business look like in the next sort of three to five years?Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
That's a great question. And I think when I kind of, as a business owner, you always look at those things. I look at it in two ways. What's next for the business, but also what's next for me within the business. Cuz those aren't the same, what I wanna be doing where I wanna spend my time. Isn't the same. I, I believe we are the spreaders of Disney Goodwill. I do truly believe in what I sell and love what I sell. We send more families than I can count every year. Everybody's heard of Walt Disney world, whether they've been there or not, they know that there's two theme parks. Do they sometimes call the place in Florida Disney land when that one's really Walt Disney we're on the other one's California. Sure. I think for us, for a business perspective, we're looking at expanding all things, Disney. We, everybody knows Walt Disney world and Disneyland, but we're spending a lot more time talking to people about Disney cruise line. And as I said, the adventures by Disney, a quick story when they announced these almost 14 years ago, and they said, we're gonna go to these bucket list destinations around the world. And I said, I don't get it. I will readily tell you all 14 years ago, I did not even have a pass. And I said, we're all about Disney and Disney magic. I don't understand what in Greece or what in Spain is Disney magic. You don't have a theme pike there. What are you doing? And they explained the concept and I said, yeah, we're not gonna sell that. That's not us. That's not Disney. I get that. You put your name on it, but that's not what we do. And I was very lucky, literally 10 years ago, cuz my passport just expired. I was selected to travel with adventures by Disney and they sent me to Italy, my daughter and I went for Christmas 10 years ago. We both had to do rush passports cuz neither of us had one and this was our opportunity. And. I remember being on the adventure. And I had been to all these different marketings and trainings that I had to do. And they would say a lot of things. I'm like, oh, that's great lip service. And then I was on the adventure and I'm like, this is what they mean by that. And this is what they mean by that. And here's this and here's that. And at the end of seven days, I said, if I could travel this way twice a year, I would die. Happy. And I think it's the most unknown Disney product there is. I have had the honor of doing nine adventures in, in the last 10 years. I even did one this past year during COVID and now I spend a lot of time spreading the word about, especially for a mom, the greatest vacation you will ever take. I call adventures by Disney, the ultimate mommy vacation. Because I'm sure it'll shock anybody listening to this. If you're a mom and you're a business owner, you're probably the planner or the family. You are the one who's figuring out the vacation. You are the one, not only doing the laundry and getting the suitcases packed, but you are packing the emergency bag with medicine and maybe the post kitcards to stand home and the cards to keep everybody busy on the airplane and all of those things. And when you travel with adventures by Disney, your adventure guides are that person. And so you as the mom actually get to go on vacation, somebody else brings the snacks. Besides you, somebody else is holding the tickets for admission and buying them and figuring out do you turn left or do you turn right? And so, while I traveled, often, I said it was probably the first vacation where I relaxed granted. It took till like day four. They were teasing me. I am. I was a scout leader. I did some teaching and every time we moved, I was counting heads. And they're like, that's not your job, this trip. I'm like, but that's so ingrained as you, as the class mom and all of those things. So I would love to see more people love adventurous by Disney and have the opportunity to travel that way. Like my family has. So that's a big thing for me in the coming year. We've worked on it. I actually started a big marketing campaign for it right before the pandemic. Bad timing. I also, after about five years, two months before the pandemic started, I agreed to be part of a podcast. And I was asked to be on the podcast for years. And for years I said, you know, I'm not a podcast person. I will be very honest. I didn't listen to podcasts. I didn't have time interest. Didn't know what they were. I listened to one that was recommended to me. Totally. Didn't love the format. And said, I know that they have thousands of listeners, but I don't know why it's not, for me. It's not what I wanna do moving on. And I'm very grateful that Jeff was very persistent to me. He kept coming back and saying, will you reconsider? Will you reconsider? And somebody recommended a business podcast to me one day and my daughter lives about an hour away from me. I was driving home from my daughters. I listened to like three episodes of this podcast in the drive home. And that's when it hit me. And I called him and I said, all right, I'm ready to do it. If you meet my conditions, I wanna be the encyclopedia for Disney, for podcasting. Our episodes are gonna be 15 minutes a week and they're gonna have a specific topic. So if you wanna know about the Halloween party, you're gonna listen to this episode. And if you wanna know about. The food and wine festival, you're gonna listen to this episode and hopefully people subscribe and listen to everything, but if they want information, they're gonna be able to find it. It's not gonna be like many of the Disney podcasts where this week's episode is called March 20th, 2022. What does that mean to somebody? They have no idea what they've just committed the next 90 minutes to listening to. So we're on topic we're super short. You figured out that I'm not super short. We were probably about five episodes in when I said to him, Jeff, I think we need to change our tagline. We're now Disney planning in 20 minutes a week, cuz I couldn't get it down to 15 each week. But we were 10 episodes in if that, when we had the pandemic. So I actually podcasted from Disney on that weekend that I talked about earlier. What it was like to be in such a magical place. For me, that means so much, but some place that's vibrant with tourism and millions of people visit there every year. And it's always this hustle bustle. And what was it like to watch it shut down? We even covered my first trip back. If any of you have ever had the pleasure of going through Newark airport, I'll apologize that that's what represents our state. First of all you also know it as a very vibrant place. And my first flight, probably 85% of the airport was closed. The restaurants were closed, the seats were wrapped in strands so that people couldn't sit down. I remember my first flight back to Disney being a little freaky, you know, I'm standing in the airport thinking. What did I get myself into if the terminal isn't even fully opened? So I love the outlet that the podcast gives me to share my knowledge and those kind of feelings and give people the real look at what is travel. IStephanie Hayes:
think so clearly you are just so immersed. And I think that that is so key for your business is just this, this absolute magic that you perpetuate and that you translate and you transfer to the people that you're working with and this absolute immersionSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
your work, in your passions, in your areas of where it's obviously working for you. And I, I'm so excited to hear all of your stories and where you're going next. I, I have one question that I ask everybody on the podcast and I would love to hear your answer. What's the difference betweenSandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
We hear about in sort of online business or the business world. And what's real in business.Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
I think the perception, I love that I don't answer to anybody, but there's also a reality to that. You know, even, especially talking pandemic, there is no paycheck for me automatically every Friday or people will say to me, oh, you're so lucky. I bet all those trips are business. Write off. Well, sure. They're business write off, but you know what? It's not like turning in your expense account at your business. Those of you that work in corporate America, you turn in your expense report. They write you a check. Perfect. The only way it's a write off is if I earn the money to take the trip in the first place, there's not this magical, endless expense account for me, everything that I expense I had to earn. So I think. The, the idea. Yes. You set your own hours. I finished my last business call last night, one forty five in the morning. I have, when our clients are traveling, we offer twenty four seven on call service. So when somebody's child gets sick at four in the morning, they're calling us and saying, what do you think? Where can we go? How can you help us? When there's a snowstorm or a hurricane we're working 18 hours a day, re rooting our clients with different flights, changing their hotel, cuz they're arriving a day late and now they're gonna miss breakfast with the princesses. And so it also means that the door never closes at five o'clock. Saturday is another day with a why in it to me. I would be high pressed to tell you the last whole weekend I had off. I couldn't even tell you the last day that I didn't check email. So it's definitely a trade off, but if you do your job well, You make it look like it's not all those behind the curtain, things thatStephanie Hayes:
I just shared and that's all, and that's all your customers need to know. Right. That is true. Listen, we're coming up on time. I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. And this is such an interesting business and it's so specific and there's so much nuance behind it that I, I don't think people really kind of appreciate you know, just thinking about travel. So I really love that. You've shared that with us. Can you tell your listeners how or my listeners, how they can find you?Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
Of course. So our company website is easy, is easy because we make your planning easy. So it's E as in Edward, Z as in zebra, D I S like Disney, E as in Edward, Z as in zebra.com, as I also said, I am part of a weekly podcast. So you're all obviously on a podcast platform right now, and you'll find us on all of them. Our podcast is called let's talk D. And we're talking all about social media things for Disney. You're seeing all those pictures of where I am. It's an easy way to contact me and ask questions, but you can also always email me, Sandy S a N D Y ZD z.com. I'd love to chat with any of your listeners.Stephanie Hayes:
Awesome. And we'll put all those links into the show notes, for sure. Excellent.Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk:
you. You know what, thank you so much, Sandy, and we're gonna wrap it up. I'm so happy that I had the, the opportunity to chat with you and hear your positivity and your resilience and just how committed you are to what you're doing and, and what you're bringing to your customers. I also was, was so pleased to hear about how Instant Impressions came to be and your experiences along the way, what the future of your business entails. And I, I wish you luck in the future. And as we're coming out of this, what's been probably a really difficult time for you. And thank you for tuning into this episode of the Real People, Real Business show, where we get the real entrepreneurial stories and journeys that you can relate to the show notes, resources and special offers from this episode are available on my website and social media platforms. And finally, I would love for you to join us on our next episode, where we're gonna be speaking with Heather Bartos who's an Ob/Gyn based in Texas, that is creating her own vision of women's health and wellness and building an education brand along the way. Thank you again for joining us. If you've been joined today's content, I would love for you to give us a review on whatever platform you want to help us share these genuine stories with an even bigger audience till next time, keep building, keep dreaming and keep being real.