Vicki Bjerke-Schuur, a travel industry veteran, is the founder and president of FerskTech, a business travel SaaS company reinventing corporate travel sourcing technology. With more than 25 years experience in the industry, Bjerke-Schuur has a background in sourcing and managing hotel programs for TMC clients, delivering analytical support for corporate clients, and building supplier partnerships.
Bjerke-Schuur’s path to the travel industry began in high school, where she described her desire to have a job that included travel and working with people during a “What do you want to be when you grow up?” career talk.
When she joined the workforce, she started as a front-desk clerk and moved into a sales support job. Her sales experience led her to various roles throughout Radisson Corporate and Carlson Company. Bjerke-Schuur then worked for CWT, where she realized she had found her fit in the business travel industry.
In her experience, Bjerke-Schuur saw firsthand there was a gap in the travel technology market and a need for new tools to help those like herself and her clients. She had spent years having to create workarounds and band-aids just for the RFP and hotel program tools to work efficiently.
Frustrated with the constant hassle, every year during RFP season, Bjerke-Schuur would tell her husband, “That’s it, I’m quitting. I’m cashing in my 401K and I’m building a better tool.” It wasn’t until the pandemic that she made the jump and set out to create the tool she always wanted.
In March 2020, once the travel ban started, Bjerke-Schuur was laid off (along with her co-workers and other colleagues in the corporate travel industry). Knowing travel would take a while to bounce back, she began figuring out her new path.
While contemplating her next steps, Bjerke-Schuur’s husband suggested she build the tool she had been talking about for years. An entrepreneur at heart, she had dreamt of running her own company for a long time. Her husband owns two companies, so she knew what it took to establish and grow a business.
Even with her industry expertise and support system, Bjerke-Schuur questioned if it was the right time to start her business. The travel industry was experiencing changes and uncertainty daily. However, she realized COVID provided the perfect opportunity to create tools that added value and increased efficiency for travel businesses. So, she took the plunge and started FerskTech.
Developing a business during the pandemic wasn’t without its obstacles. Bjerke-Schuur was worried that companies wouldn’t have the budget for the tools she was creating and she, like everyone else, wasn’t sure how long it would take the industry to recover.
Despite those challenges, Bjerke-Schuur says FerskTech was her silver lining to COVID. The pandemic allowed her to start her business, hire and consult with colleagues she might not otherwise have been able to work with, and build revolutionary travel tools.
For her business and products to be innovative, company culture is essential. In her career, Bjerke-Schuur has worked in different company cultures: good, bad, and mediocre. She noted the best aspects of each one and is working to instill them at her own company.
Bjerke-Schuur is dedicated to fostering an environment where every team member is comfortable sharing their ideas and offering a different opinion or perspective. She wants them to be willing to say, “Hey, I’ve got this crazy thought. Could we try this?” Her two main priorities when it comes to her team are to make sure everyone sees value in what they do and ensure everyone feels their voice is heard. Bjerke-Schuur loves that her employees are problem-solvers that want to make a difference and are willing to let go of the status quo.
Looking ahead, Bjerke-Schuur sees FerskTech continuing to innovate and build revolutionary technology. When asked about what she loves about the travel industry, she states “the people.” She’s grateful for the friendships she has made and enjoys reconnecting with everyone at industry events.
“It’s that feeling that we’re all in this together,” Bjerke-Schuur notes, “whether you work for competitors or you work for supplier vs. buyer, we all kind of feel like we’re in this together. I love that.”
As for the industry’s comeback, Bjerke-Schuur is cautiously optimistic. We will see business travel increasing in 2022. However, she believes travel will happen in a more mindful way from now on. One thing she’s looking forward to is for everyone in the travel industry being able to exhale and feel like they’re moving in the right direction again.