Nita Cooper is the CEO and founder of Stars and Skyes Travel in Fayetteville, Georgia. Before starting a travel agency, she used to work in education. Cooper made the career change to better accommodate the needs of her family at the time.
“My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” Cooper said. “So, I had to make a decision to try to continue running my private school or try to find something where I could be at home to take care of my mom. So that’s how I started being a travel agent.”
Cooper’s mother was also a travel agent who planned cruises, which sparked her love for traveling. Cooper’s traveled often since she was a child; her trips include destinations such as Indonesia, Spain, Austria and many others.
Due to her experience as a seasoned traveler, Cooper was accustomed to people asking her for advice on how to plan their vacations. She decided to turn that into a business.
Her travel agency is named after her two daughters, Star and Skye. She’s grown from working alone in her home to being an employer for several agents.
“Throughout the years, eight years now, we have grown to have a storefront with six agents,” Cooper said. “We have one in [Washington] D.C., we have one in South Carolina, we have one in Texas and the rest of us are here in Georgia. Everything, all things related to travel, that’s what we handle here.”
2020 was the hardest year of business for Cooper. Trying to stay afloat amid the lockdowns due to the pandemic was a challenge for her.
“This is my source of income, this is how my family survives, and everything stopped moving in 2020,” Cooper said. “Nobody was traveling. Everything was canceled, and as a travel agent, we don’t get paid until the client returns from their vacation.”
Because of COVID-19, Cooper was forced to cancel over 800 clients in 2020. Once the country started to reopen, Cooper took to social media and started taking small trips to show people what traveling with the new health and safety procedures looked like.
Because of changes in mandates regarding travel due to the coronavirus, Cooper highly recommends traveling with a travel agent to navigate the logistics of planning a trip.
In the future, Cooper would love to have a YouTube travel channel, and move her agency into metro Atlanta. She also wants to create a virtual experience for her clients that will allow them to see the resort before picking a destination.
Despite the challenges she has faced, Cooper still has a lot of passion for sending people on their dream vacations.
“I love what I do,” Cooper said. “I really love it. It’s not easy, but the rewards outweigh the challenges.”