Happy Monday to my delightful squad! I have been excited for months to bring you this particular Mom That Inspires and the day has finally come!! When I started writing this series my immediate thought was that I hoped to someday share today’s incredible mom with you. Grab your cup of coffee ladies and settle in because this is going to be the way you want to start your day!!
Truth time-I live an hour or so from Disney and have only taken my children to the most magical place on Earth once. (Somewhere there is a Disney fanatic gasping at this revelation). Our experience might have been nonexistent if not for the woman I’m writing about today and that would have been a shame. It has been said that all children should go to Disney, especially all somewhat local Florida children and we almost didn’t. When I think of the trip of a lifetime we took I think of Carolyn Holst and I always will. She redeemed my husband and I from catastrophe..period!! I’m going to tell you that story later in this article and you’ll understand what I mean.
Simply put Carolyn Holst is an awesome woman. I have known her for 4 years since moving to Tampa and my first memory of her still makes me smile. I met her at a play date she hosted for a Moms Club I had just joined (hoping to meet new people and for my children to meet new friends) shortly after arriving. She welcomed my daughter and I into her home, her tidy and child friendly space, that was filled with sweet children and lovely moms for me to meet. I was nervous about meeting this new group of mothers but I remember feeling completely at ease with Carolyn. She was so warm and friendly and full of encouragement and I left feeling like this was a community where my children would be happy. Fast forward several years later and I have spent many, many afternoons standing next to Carolyn waiting for our children to be released from school every day at the parent pick up area. I have witnessed the smiles on the faces of her children on a regular basis as they saw her waiting for them, it was a look of genuine love each time. I have gotten to chat with Carolyn and get to know her even better and the more I got to know her…the more I liked her.
I’m not just sharing Carolyn’s business today but I’m also sharing the person that she is. What she gives to others and who she is- this is definitely something worth talking about. Her job is to make magic and memories for families, which is in my opinion is a career worth striving for. Outside of her business, she makes that magic too just be being herself. She is a loving and involved mother, a dedicated wife, a caring friend, a kind person and yes..brilliant at her business too. Please join me now for the conversation I’ve been excited to share with you and let me properly introduce my friend Carolyn Holst to you:
Tell me about yourself and your family:
“I am still in my 30’s (laughs)! I grew up on Long Island with my parents and younger sister. I was heavily involved in tennis, golf and band/orchestra. During the summers, beginning in junior high, I was a tour guide at the Vanderbilt Museum on Long Island. After high school graduation, I went to the University of South Carolina and graduated with a degree in Psychology and Elementary Education. Right after graduation, I decided to continue working towards my masters degree in Early Childhood Education. After a year and a half, I received my Masters and started my career as a second grade teacher. Four years later, I moved to first grade and begin my journey towards earning my Doctorate Degree in Education Leadership. After earning 30 credits, we found out that we were expecting our first son. From that point, my career in teaching was put on hold because I have known ever since I was young that I wanted to be a stay at home mom! After my first son was born it was a short 23 months later that my second son was born! At 8 and 6, my boys are the light of my life. I am thankful and blessed to have a husband who is amazing at being a dad, Drew is my rock. We’ve been married 12 years and have certainly enjoyed life’s roller coaster thus far! I’m super lucky he loves Disney as much as I do and that he is as supportive as he is. None of my life would be what it is today, without him.
Just a year ago, I joined a book club with the group of amazing moms/friends! I finally found that I can make time to read, be a business owner and a mom. Our monthly book clubs are more than just books and wine. It’s a time where I can interact with other mom who stay at home, or who work (in or out of the house), share stories, struggles and laugh at things that only we would understand!”
Tell me about your business:
“Carolyn Holst with Ears of Experience began in June of 2014. 4 1/2 years later and it’s still going strong! I am an Independent Agent and Concierge for all Disney destinations with a company called Ears of Experience, LLC. I am able to work from home and create magic for families all over the world! It is my responsibility to take the stress out of planning their trip and to provide my clients with a more memorable Disney vacation. I specialize in Disney Destinations including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Adventures by Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland Paris and any other Disney Destination resorts. I am also authorized to book Universal Studios Orlando!
As a Conceirge, I book my clients resort and vacation packages, take care of all the details from personalizing their itinerary, making sure dining reservations are booked and meet their needs, if any celebrations or dietary restrictions are present that they are noted, Fast Passes are taken care of, ways to save money, price watching and providing my clients with the tips needed to maneuver the parks (and cruise ships) with ease! I am also a text away when my clients are on their vacation! The best part is that I cost no more to my clients than if they booked with Disney directly! Being available to my clients 24/7 is something that is priceless. When they need me, I know them and they know me! They do not need to call into a call center and have to explain who they are or what their needs are over and over. And to top it off, I’m an hour away from Mickey’s house! Which means, my family and I travel to Disney so often that we are able to bring a first-hand experience for new attractions, shows, restaurants and anything else that my clients and potential clients find exciting!”
Along with being a Concierge for all Disney Destinations, I’m a full-time mommy to two adorable and loving boys, ages 8 and 6. I am co-room mom to both of their classrooms and very involved in their school. I have also been teaching Faith Formation for the past two years at our church. This year, I have scaled back to being one of their substitutes simply because my business has grown!”
What made you decide this was the right business for you? What do you enjoy the most about having this business?
“At first, I didn’t know it was a business that had the potential it does, nor did I know I would be as successful as I am. With that said, I took a risk by starting my business based on the simple facts that I knew I love Disney, that I enjoy planning and organizing daily schedules and that I love helping others! Taking the stress away from others in order to make them happy also makes me happy. With all this said, I knew this business was the best fit for me and…. boy was I right!
The thing I enjoy most about having this business is the fact that I am able to make such an impact on people’s lives all from the comfort of my own home and be able to be home for my kids at the same time. It is challenging but it’s worth every second.”
Have you always loved Disney?
“A 22 months, I was fortunate enough to have parents that introduced me to the magic of Disney. Year after year, My childhood was spent vacationing in the Happiest Place on Earth and as a child-the smells, sounds, character interactions and of course the Disney magic that surrounded me minute after minute, almost instinctively made me fall in love. I gravitated towards all the Disney movies, the classics, the stories, the fairytale of it all. It was truly a place and brand, that is at the forefront of many precious, childhood memories.
In the years following, it was only natural that as soon as my husband and I could, we would bring our children to Disney. Luckily my husband knew the value in what Disney has to offer so it didn’t take much arm-twisting for us to go! But as we were there with our boys for the first time, seeing their toddler expressions and hearing their little child voices filled with excitement when they saw Mickey and Pluto for the first time, it was then that my love and passion for all things Disney was reignited. It was then that I relived those same childhood experiences, on numerous occasions and acquired a sincere appreciation of the innocence, joy, and excitement you get when you immerse yourself in the Disney experience. It’s my happy place.”
How did you get started in EARS?
“Almost 4 years ago I came across a Facebook post from a lady I knew and respected. She was not only the “expert” who planned our first Disney trip, she was a neighbor, friend and someone who I knew was full of life and had a passion for her business.
I also had a passion for planning, organizing, helping others and a very strong desire to work from home to be with my two young boys, not to mention, living on one salary with two kids is not easy. After weeks, yes weeks, of getting answers to my questions, research and “putting it all on paper” my husband and I decided it was the right time to take a leap of faith and with some trust in Amy, and faith in her company and vision, I joined EARS. I have learned over time that this is the most perfect career for me in so many ways. Financially, I am now making what I was making teaching and then some! Ears has helped our family move ahead, buy our first home, give our children the lives we’ve always dreamt of giving them and it offers me the chance to do and fulfill what I love and what I love to do, all from the comfort of my home.”
Tell me about the benefits of what you do:
I get to talk Disney to anyone, anytime, anyplace and it’s usually a happy conversation! Who wouldn’t want to talk about cruises or deluxe resorts and the convenience of the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom? Or how about on an Adventure by Disney vacation, the adults can learn how to stomp on grapes and make wine in Italy, while the kids are off on an adventure with Adventure Guides learning about culture hands-on? That’s only one benefit of what I do!
The best thing about my business is that my whole family gets to enjoy the numerous times we play at the parks or sail Disney Cruise Line. With my sales and earnings over the past few years, I’ve earned free nights in different resorts, been able to enjoy a year of waterpark tickets and get to take advantage of discounted rates for certain trips.
I love being able to get up close and personal with all four Disney ships and stay up-to-date on one of the worlds largest companies!”
What are some challenges of having this business?
The biggest challenge of having this business is time management. Over the years, I have learned to “shut the phone off” and not answer calls during dinner, for example. I will let calls go to voicemail when I don’t know who they are or when I have my kids with me. In the travel industry, however, it’s not easy to let things wait till “later”. If a family wants to travel in 3 months, for example, I have to find them not only a resort/ ticket package that works, but as soon as they book, I need to learn what my client’s wants and needs are and figure out what they want their trip to look like and from there, make their dinner reservations, customize their magic bands, get a sense of what Fast Passes will make them happy and take their itinerary from a blank slate to almost complete. It’s the same with the Disney Cruise Line, if a client books close to their sail day, excursions, dining, special events, etc. must be taken care of.
With that said it’s a challenge when I am engulfed in family and household life and my attention needs to shift to doing something else I love…making magic for others.
Another huge challenge to this specific business, is the ever constant changing/ updating that takes place in the Walt Disney Corporation. Changes happen almost daily and it’s my job to keep up with the changes that take place and continue my training, all in order to keep clients up-to-date on what’s going on and to make sure that the changes will be smoothly integrated into their itineraries.”
What are your goals as you continue?
“To be honest, I have some personal and professional goals that I hope to accomplish in 2019. Many of them overlap since I’m fortunate enough to have a business that my family can benefit from!
Professionally, I’d like to reach 1000+ Facebook likes and increase my Instagram following. I also want to implement a newsletter that will go out quarterly. I want to increase my yearly income by 20% and increase my monthly sales goal by $10,000.
Personally I plan on hiring a cleaning company to come twice a month and work towards my goal of staying at every Walt Disney resort. I have 4 resorts left to stay at and I hope that in 2019 I can scratch them off the list! In addition, 2019 is the year that we will go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We have yet to do either. And 2019 we are sailing to Alaska on the Disney Cruise Line. My goal is to book at least 2 Alaskan sailings for clients.”
Tell me about some of your successful, moments in this business:
“Since the beginning, I have held a position in the top 10 out of approximately 300+ agents. My sales have increased year after year due to hard work, passion and the desire to be the best I can be.
Two years ago, I was asked to give a presentation at our yearly conference about some best practices for reaching potential clients out of my current market. It was an eye-opening presentation for many and to this day, I love when they’ll send me a message about their successes in reaching a larger audience.
These are two examples of successful moments and accomplishments that have happened but nothing beats getting an email or Facebook review from a client who just got home! I hear about how happy they are, the memories they’ve made and how they found the value in what I did to make their trip memorable and magical, that is the biggest success of all!!”
Can you share something others wouldn’t guess about the behind the scenes of your business?
“I work from home so yes, I wear pajamas or workout clothes the entire time! (Laughs) But that would be easy to guess! Have I had a glass of wine while chatting with a client over the phone? Only if they have one too!!
Something that most people don’t know about the behind the scenes is that I have a home phone and I’m always on both my cell and my home phone at the same time! Probably 9 times out of 10, I’ll use my home phone to call into Disney Cruise Line, Disney World, etc. (I’ll be on hold for minutes, sometimes hours) and I’ll use my cell phone to text clients, call clients, all simultaneously! I know it sounds crazy, but I’m pretty good at multitasking! And it streamlines my call time in order to spend more time with my family.”
If you were offered a helping hand in any aspect of your life, what would you choose and why?
“This is a tough one! When it comes to helping my personal life, I’d love a cleaning service. For anyone that knows me, they know I’m a neat freak! If I had someone clean my house once a week, the stress of having to divide my time between work, cleaning, laundry, ironing (yes I iron!), being the social coordinator for our household, being a mommy and wife, would be a blessing.
As far as work is concerned, if a helping hand came along, I love help with social media. I’d like to think I have it a tinge of creativity and can produce some catchy posts, however if someone could help me with that aspect of my business, creating the posts, scheduling them and making sure they are tailored to my taste, that would be something I’d love and appreciate.”
What mistakes do you some people make when starting a new business? Do you have any tips/advice for a fellow mom getting started?
“Probably the biggest mistake people, myself included, can make when starting a new business is thinking “What if?”.
What if nobody books a trip? What if people don’t want to go to Disney? What if they want to use another agent? What if nobody likes my Facebook page? What if this is a waste of time and money? What if I mess up the first itinerary? What if I fail at this? What if? What if? What if?
Stop thinking, “What if”, and take that initial passion, confidence and drive and put them at the forefront of your thinking. Take them and run with it! With the right mindset and a little optimism, maybe a lot of optimism, starting up your business will be much more successful and fun!”
What inspires you in your business ?
“I have a few things, people included, that I not only look up to but help drive my creativity in how I run my business. To start, I follow hundreds of social influencers/bloggers that have a passion for their business, whether it’s planning Disney trips, real estate, home and fashion influencers or other moms that are just sharing what they do, I observe their creativity and see what draws me in as a follower and apply bits and pieces to what I do for my business. I know my followers love to see pictures of me and pics of my kids, so I try to mix it up by posting a variety of topics where I can be in the pic or my kids can be.
One very basic decision I made which brought a lot of attention with my was my Ears Giveaway. This was so simple yet so effective! Follow me to see when the next giveaway will be!
One special person that I certainly look up to for creativity and sales, is my husband, Drew. He is the one that I turn to for his opinion on my Facebook posts, events and any other business decision that doesn’t involve admin work! He challenges my thinking when it comes to coming up with creative posts and encourages me to look at things at different angles.”
How far in advance should a family ideally book their trip/experience to Disney?
“Anytime is the best time to book a Disney Destination vacation, however, with all the vacation possibilities that Disney has to offer, booking it as far in advance as possible will not only help the planning process but your wallet is well!
If you are looking to book a Walt Disney World vacation, book at least 6 to 7 months in advance…if not sooner! Booking options for dining and special events like Bibbidi, Bobbidi Boutique and Pirates League open at the 180 day mark so if you are looking for things like that OR if you want your choice of resorts, booking at least 180 days out for Walt Disney World is the best!
If a cruise is more your thing, Disney Cruise Line reservations are the least expensive the day the sailing gets released. Pricing for staterooms will only go up over time. So if you want to sail with Mickey in 2020, now is the time to do it!
Adventures by Disney is fantastic!!! Travel the world or sightsee in your own backyard. Booking an Adventures by Disney when they get released for the following year, is a good time since there are early booking discounts that make this type of vacation more budget friendly!”
Anything new for 2019 that families should see at Disney?
“To sum up 2019 in three words…STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE!! That’s the new Star Wars Land in Hollywood Studios! But, if for some reason Star Wars doesn’t fill your soul with pirates and pixie dust, then these exciting things that Disney has to offer in the next year, just might!
To start, the new Disney Skyliner will be opening!! With more than 6 miles of cables and five loading stations, the Disney Skyliner will be servicing 4 Disney resorts and two parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios!! It’s gonna make transportation between these resorts and parks even better! In addition to the Disney Skyliner, there are 4 new resorts being built as we speak!!
In addition to four new resorts and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that will be open late fall 2019, there are a few other exciting attractions coming to Walt Disney World! Epcot will be home to TWO new attractions..Guardians of the Galaxy and a Ratatouille ride in the French Pavilion! (Expected dates for opening are closer to 2021 in time for the 50th anniversary).
Head over to Hollywood Studios for the new and exciting Toy Story Land!!! With the opening date a few months behind us, 2019 is the perfect time to check out Woody and Buzz and with my help planning your trip, Fast Passes for the new Slinky Dog Dash or Alien Swirling Saucers, will be easy to get! Toy Story Land is great for all ages! Immerse yourself in Andy’s room and relive those childhood memories playing with Lincoln Logs and Legos!
Let’s go to the movies!! 2019 is a fantastic year for sequels! Toy Story 4 (June 21), Frozen 2 (November 29th), and Star Wars Episode IX (December 20th) will be released!! Which one will you go see?
And let’s not forget Disney Cruise Line!! New in 2019, Captain Marvel will be joining other Super Heroes during special sailings from Miami in January-March 2019! The Marvel Day at Sea is full of fun, deck shows, special youth activities, merchandise, food, heroes and villains!
The ever popular Star Wars Day at Sea sailings will be on select 7-night sailings to the Caribbean, January 2019-March 2019. Kids can learn the ways of the force during Jedi Training, all while sailing with Mickey!
But the biggest news for Disney Cruise Line won’t happen in 2019…it’s in 2020 with the release of new ports including New Orleans and Hawaii!! Bookings start…now!”
What has surprised you about motherhood? What gives you the most joy and the most challenge?
“I think the biggest thing that surprised me about motherhood is how it is undeniably possible to love two little human beings so much and so hard, that it will make you burst into tears, for no apparent reason. I just finished typing this and here come the tears!
The most joy for me in being a mom simply comes from hearing them laugh. Seeing them and hearing them play together, sharing stories with each other, telling jokes, getting hugs, giving hugs, taking the pain away when they scratch a knee and need a mommy hug! Hearing my oldest son say “And that’s why you’re the best mom!” Being able to give them everything they need and most of what they want.
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge about motherhood is letting go. Yes, I’m a slight control freak, but it’s not about that. It’s about not knowing if they’ll be safe when you let go. It’s about hoping that they’ll find their way back to me, if they should go too far. It’s about watching them grow into independent people (which is a great gift to give our children) but knowing that the more independent they are, the less they’ll need me. It’s about letting go and letting them fall or fail. It’s about letting go of the hand holding, lingering hugs at school pick up and knowing that one day the two little beings that I gave my life to for so long, will let go. Cue the tears…”
What are some of your holiday traditions as a family? What do you look forward to this Christmas season?
“There are so many things to look forward to during the Christmas season. Being together with my family, the look of joy and excitement on the faces of our children and giving to those who are less fortunate. The smell of Balsam and Pine candles (yes, we put up an artificial tree) and cooler weather are all things that make the season so special.
For my family, Christmas traditions start the day after Thanksgiving! Luckily, I’ve married someone who loves to shop for gifts as much as I do and Black Friday we’ve come to claim as “our time to shop”! Following the early morning coffee run and long lines at check out, we head home and begin our Christmas decorating…with an eggnog in hand of course!
As for the rest of our Christmas traditions, they are without question, set for life! Coming from an Italian background, our Christmas traditions are deep rooted and loved! We have our 7 fish on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning, we have pastries for breakfast in between opening presents, followed by an antipasto for lunch and ravioli for dinner…doesn’t get any better!
One of our new traditions that has been cherished for a couple of years now, is decorating gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve, after lunch, with my parents. My boys LOVE this and so do Mia and Papa! In addition, once we’ve finished our Christmas Eve dinner of 7 fish, we wait until dusk and take a walk around the block looking at the Christmas lights and decorations in our neighborhood.”
You can find Ears of Experience by Carolyn Holst on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carolynholst.earsplanner/ or on Instagram @earsplanner. You can also email Carolyn at email@example.com. When you visit the Facebook page you will find many positive reviews of this company, you will even find a 5 Star review left by me there. I want to share the story of why:
My Ears of Experience story
Two years ago, my husband and I planned a trip to Dubai to visit some very good friends over spring break. The plane tickets were purchased and the planning started way in advance and I don’t mind telling you that I even shopped for Kasbah appropriate clothing because I was going to rock that Kasbah! The day and I mean literally THE DAY that we were supposed to fly to Dubai we began to go through all the motions of getting ready to leave the house as you do. Double checking that you have everything in your luggage that you need, the tickets are in order, checking that your flights are on time and lastly gathering your passports. Unfortunately and shockingly for us as we did that final step we discovered that even though we had planned like crazy what we had never noticed is that one of the members of our family had an expired passport and we would be going nowhere the day!
We were absolutely catastrophically upset as we had spent the last three months telling our kids how amazing this vacation was going to be. After a few not so nice curse words were uttered between the two of us and some deep breathes were taken, my husband and I talked about how we needed to try to salvage this vacation for our children. Our bags are packed, our kids were excited and we had spring break off of school-more than a week to do whatever we wanted to do in THIS country. We decided on Disney and I immediately thought of Carolyn and called her.
I will never forget that desperate phone call I made to Carolyn explaining the situation as she was just going about her day getting her kids ready for school early in the morning. She was so calm and so collected as I explain to her what we would like to try to accomplish and although she usually plans these trips months or even a year in advance she was sympathetic to our plight and was willing to try to take it on.
Within three hours we were on the road to Orlando, Carolyn planning our trip as we traveled. She had found us an available room in a Disney resort the next day (we would enjoy another hotel & Disney Springs on arrival day) and was quickly booking us experiences for the next week at Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and the Magic Kingdom. She took care of our meals including special meet the character meals, she took care of our Fast Passes and really booked things that she thought our kids would enjoy and most of all-she was there for us! She kept us calm and kept the conversation positive and saved our vacation!
We had the absolute time of our lives thanks to everything that she put together for us. I can’t even list all the experiences that she suggested or took care of or the hints and and tips that she sent our way as we were there. We had the most amazing trip and made the absolute best memories as a result of what she was able to do for us. I love that I get to publicly say to the world how blessed we were to have her in our lives that day. I don’t know how she managed to accomplish what she did and I know that we completely turned her day upside down! I’m not sure that thank you is really enough to say how much we appreciate becoming heroes to our children and we were!
I remember driving to Disney telling the kids that Ms. Carolyn was helping us fix what happened. I remember talking about her as we had the most wonderful lunch at Animal Kingdom that she arrange for us. I remember talking about her as we watched the fireworks at Epcot and my children were smiling ear to ear. I remember the look on my daughter’s face when she got to meet Disney princesses at a meet and greet suggested by Carolyn and being so thankful that this experience was had. We moms can do a lot of things and yes, we make magic every day but sometimes we need help! If you want to be a hero and you want to make magic and if it’s Disney related magic you want- you need this woman!
I want to say a big thank you to Carolyn for not only talking to me today but for everything she did for my family. I also want to add my own two cents about using Ears of Experience-do it!! If you want to plan a memorable trip for your family, whether you’ve been to Disney/had a previous Disney experience before or not, parent to parent I’m telling you from my own experience this is absolutely the way to go! Carolyn did what we could not have possible done with months or even a year to plan our trip on our own.
We gave Carolyn a Mary Poppins themed gift as a thank you when we returned, because like Mary she seemed to just kept pulling whatever we needed out of her bag of tricks. Now looking back on my memories, all of them since knowing her, I see her more like Mickey Mouse. She is a friend to all the other characters (myself included), you have to find her for a successful Disney trip and when she appears you know your day just got better. She will remind you to believe in the good and pure joy this magical world contains-Disney and real life. Janet