Meet Rachael Coyne who is running a successful business alongside battling cancer

Despite battling with cancer Rachael Coyne is proving to be an inspirational business leader alongside her husband. Andrew Vaux reports on her incredible story.

Travel expert Rachael Coyne is an inspiration to all – flying high with her business dreams, despite receiving the devastating news that she has incurable cancer.

Whilst many people would have given up their business ambitions to concentrate on their own personal wellbeing, Rachael has risen to the challenge – driving forward her travel franchise which she runs with her husband Colman from their Huddersfield home and becoming one of the UK’s top performers.

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For the pair, dreams of running their own travel agency, and living a better quality of life, started to materialise when they were both in West Yorkshire Police.

The coupleThe couple
The couple

Colman was a detective sergeant in Bradford for many years and Rachael, was a police help desk supervisor. At Bradford South Police Sports and Social Club, Colman organised trips for thousands of police officers, staff, and their families all over the world.

One of his experiences, in 2010, involved accommodating and bringing back a large holiday group stranded by the Icelandic volcano eruption, which grounded flights across Europe.

The pair realised that life in the police wasn’t their long-term career plan as they prepared to enter their 50s and, as keen travellers themselves, they made the decision to invest in a Not Just Travel franchise and set up their own part-time travel agency in 2013.

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Their goal was to take it full-time as soon as possible and retire from the police. For the couple, franchising was key, as they wanted to leverage a proven business model, as well as get the training and ongoing support they knew they would need.

Rachael explains: “We realised that even when we reached retirement age from the police, we’d still be young and have many years left ahead of us and so we started to plan what we might do.

“We’d always had a passion for travel, but at first it was more of just a hobby, with Colman helping with the travel club at work. But the more we did, and the more we investigated the opportunities, we soon realised that this could eventually become a business. We got to the point where we started thinking ‘if we don’t do it now, we never will’ and so in 2013 we took the plunge and invested in a franchise.”

But, with their new business barely underway, Rachel received the devastating news that she had cancer.

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Rachel explains: “Colman and I were terrified. We didn’t know what was ahead and felt scared for my life. My son Daniel was only 17 at the time and I couldn’t take the thought of him losing his mum so soon.”

Despite the news, they kept building their business part-time while Rachel underwent five months of gruelling chemotherapy, helping Colman whenever she could. After a year, Rachel got the all clear, and soon afterwards their franchise was booming – meaning that Colman could retire early from the police.

Rachael explains: “Colman took a hit on his pension, but the quality of life we’ve experienced far outweighs this. I wasn’t enjoying my work too much and was becoming mentally exhausted. I realised I needed a change, and so I left my job on the police help desk to join Colman full time in the business.

“To say that we had no previous formal travel experience, the business really began to take off and we gradually built up a loyal group of customers. The internal support we’ve had has been second to none with excellent training and mentoring from the company. Due to the success of our businesses – regularly being in the top handful of agents nationwide – we’ve also started to train and mentor new franchisees. It’s great to be able to share our knowledge and expertise with others.”

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Just as the company was in full flow, the Covid pandemic hit.

Rachael remembers: “As the world started to close down in March 2020, we had 12 clients away in Australia and basically had 24 hours to get them home before the UK went into lockdown. It was extremely stressful, but we managed it – even having to send some of them via Hong Kong to ensure they got back to the UK safely.

“The next 18 months were extremely difficult as we had no money coming in as people simply couldn’t travel. When things started to open up, we gradually began to see business starting again, with people rebooking the trips they’d been forced to cancel.”

But the pandemic wasn’t to be the last devastating blow the couple received. In October 2021, as business was starting to pick up, Rachael’s doctors told her that the cancer had returned and was incurable – meaning that she’d need treatment for the rest of her life.

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Despite this, Rachael still maintains her positive outlook and resilient attitude.

She says: “Whilst I always knew it was a possibility that the tumour would come back, I hoped I’d never have to go through it again. I started a course of treatment with 17 rounds of chemotherapy which was absolutely vile. I now must go to hospital every three weeks for an injection. This is like treacle which wraps around the tumours and tries to suffocate them.

“It can be tiring working while I have cancer, but travel is something I am passionate about. It’s the best job I have ever had, so I am willing to put in the work.”

Before Covid, the pair had sales of approximately £1.2m. They now aim to reach over £2m in the coming months. Rachael attributes the couple’s success to their dedication and commitment to outstanding customer service.

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Indeed, it’s also this customer service which has seen the pair win several awards over recent years including The Founder’s Award, Biggest Sale Award, One Million Sales Club Award, and the Highflyers Award.

Looking back, Rachael has no regrets at all about embracing a new career as a travel agent.

She concludes: “There are dark days, but I am keeping a positive mindset and I am not going to let my cancer beat me. I am still going to live my life to the fullest, despite my diagnosis.

“As for our business, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. Colman often jokes that he used to send people to prison – now we just send them on holiday! Before the cancer I was quite risk averse. Now I’ll happily and readily take risks. Life’s too short, so live it!”