Having spent 25 years tackling some of the toughest crimes in West Yorkshire, Colman Coynes decided he wanted a change.
Now the former detective sergeant and his wife, Rachael, who also worked for West Yorkshire police for more than 30 years, have embarked on a entirely new career. Rather than locking people up, they are sending them on holiday.
The couple run the Not Just Travel agent (part of Hayes Travel ) franchise Jetset, from an office in their Huddersfield garden.
“I was late joining the police as I had run my own business for a number of years,” explains Colman.
“When I hit 28 I decided it was a now-or-never moment and so I applied.”
But at that time there was a recruitment freeze in West Yorkshire Police so it took him a further three years to realise his dream.
He then spent his time working his way up in the force in Bradford and Leeds, making it to DS and dealing with some of the area’s worst crimes.
But police cuts a few years ago made him assess what he wanted to do with his life.
“We just couldn’t give the public the service they needed or deserved and that made an already very stressful job even worse.”
So he decided to explore other career avenues.
For a number of years he was event organiser for Bradford South Police Sports and Social Club, arranging trips for thousands of police officers, staff and their families all over the world.
“We started to realise that we had the makings of a business plan,” says Rachael.
“Col was organising the trips for nothing, which was fine as it was for our colleagues, but we realised that we could actually make money doing it.” And so after 25 years of service Colman decided to leave the force and start Jetset travel.
But just as they were about to launch the business, while still both doing their day jobs, Rachael was diagnosed with three different types of breast cancer.
“It was a huge shock and we very nearly pulled the plug on the whole thing,” she recalls.
“We were both working and then planned to start our own business at the same time. It suddenly felt too much.”
Rachael went through two operations and very intensive chemotherapy for five months.
“Having something like that happen makes your reassess what you want from life and if anything made us more determined to go ahead with the business.”
Rachael, 52, returned to work on the help desk at West Yorkshire Police until earlier this year when she resigned to work in the business full-time.
“We both had decent pensions, I’d worked for the police for 32 years, although Col did take a cut in his by leaving after 25 years, but sometimes it is about more than just the money. We were doing it for a better lifestyle.”
And from around 100 clients, they now have around 700 and turned over £1.2m last year.
“We offer a personal service that people just can’t get from the internet,” says Rachael, who has a 22- year-old son.
“We offer bespoke packages but being both ABTA and ATOL protected I think people feel safe booking their holiday through us.”
The recent collapse of Thomas Cook had made people even more cautious, she said.
“We were booked to go on holiday through Thomas Cook ourselves and so lost ours and are going through the process of claiming. But we made sure that all our customers who were booked with Thomas Cook were okay.”
She said many people came to them because of that personal service.
“I have one lady in her 70s who wanted to go on holiday but she was nervous. We not only book the holiday, we can print off the tickets, sort out the seating and anything else.
“We are also contactable 24/7 via What’s App and I think that gives people peace of mind.”
Many of their customers are repeat business.
“We do still get a lot of police officers and other people who just don’t have time to trawl the internet and want someone to take that pressure off them.
“They trust us to make the right choices for them. Especially when it come to organising a big trip like touring America, Col has a lot of knowledge and knows how to put a trip together. People tend to get back from a trip and then immediately ask us to sort another.” One of the most popular destinations in the last few years has been Australia while people are cautious about trips to Europe.
Another area where they have seen growth is wedding lists.
“So many people live together now that when they decided to get married they really have pretty much everything they need,” explains Rachael. “We offer a honeymoon gift service where people can help pay towards the couple’s honeymoon and that is proving really popular. If the full price of it isn’t met then the couple just pay the difference.”
Colman says he does occasionally miss his old life in the police, especially when major incidents happen, but on the whole he knows they made the right decision to start an entirely new career.
Jetset’s Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/jetsetnotjusttravel/