Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrew Garnett.
Andrew, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today? Sometimes, the best things happen by accident… I used to be a recruiter for AT&T call centers. However, one day, AT&T decided to sell off that division and I was downsized. I was having difficulty finding work but was approached by a travel agent who had requests for wheelchairs, scooters, etc. for their clients who were traveling. I figured I would give it a shot. I couldn’t find a job anyway. So, I started from my bedroom and made deliveries with my car. As things progressed, I got a storage unit and rented a van on busier days. From there, I rented a warehouse, purchased a van and hired some staff to fulfill the local deliveries. In order to keep the momentum of the business moving forward, I would wake up at 3:00 AM and drive to Port Canaveral, make deliveries there and drive across the state to Tampa, and drive back to Miami the same day. I basically was available 24/7 to continue the growth of the company. Today, the company services 215 metropolitan areas in 68 different countries and the only time I have to get up at 3:00 AM is when I have an early flight.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you? It hasn’t always been easy. Life can be tough when you are blazing the trail. I can tell you that there was quite a bit of resistance to some of our services in the early days. I was even told, “That is not the kind of clientele we are interested in.” However, things have changed and the Baby Boomers are looking to continue traveling even though they may need some assistance with oxygen or a mobility scooter. With that change, the naysayers are looking to capitalize on serving the aging population and earning their business by accommodating their special needs.
We’d love to hear more about your business. Special Needs Group is dedicated to making travel not only possible but also enjoyable for anyone who wants to go. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean a profit, but it is the right thing to do. I am most proud of the fact that Special Needs Group has made more dreams come true than can be measured. Because of what we do, people experience travel in real life instead of watching it on television or surfing the internet.
We are mostly known for providing wheelchairs, mobility scooters, oxygen equipment, etc. to people traveling on cruises and staying in hotels. However, we do provide pretty much anything special needs for people traveling. That would include assistive listing equipment, providing sign language interpreters, Braille printing, beach wheelchairs, etc. Our company is also known for training the travel professional community with our SNG Certified Accessible Travel Advocate Program. This program was designed to get travel professionals comfortable with addressing any clients or prospective clients who have some sort of a special need. Prior to our course, no one spoke to the travel professionals about this subject in a meaningful way. That definitely sets us apart.
Additionally, Special Needs Group is the only company with a global reach to assist people in practically every corner of the earth. Someone can literally begin their vacation in one country and end it another halfway around the world without skipping a beat. Our agents will be at the other end to retrieve the equipment and get it ready for the next customer. No one has the reach with the variety of equipment that we have in our inventory. Our company is also known for our philanthropy. We have been successful so we feel an obligation to give back to society. We support several organizations and provide support in times of disaster.
What are your plans for the future? What are you looking forward to or planning for – any big changes? Special Needs Group expects to continue our growth and to provide services in a growing footprint to serve anyone who wants to travel. That goal is not only for a geographic area, but also for providing solutions for more than just mobility assistance, hearing impairment, and respiratory issues. We are keeping up with technology and trends as they come so that we can provide any solution no matter what the special need is. We continually look for and bring on new products and services.
An example of pricing for a one week cruise (7 Days) out of Miami or Fort Lauderdale, a standard mobility scooter would cost $185.00 to rent. The price includes delivery, pickup, use of the scooter and theft and damage insurance. South Florida is one of the most economical locations. Places like Europe and the Far East would be more expensive options.