Julie Melnick first identified a need for airport support after she moved to California but returned to the East Coast often to visit family, bringing her baby along. Melnick launched Nanny in the Clouds, which would ultimately serve as a predecessor to her current business, SkySquad. Nanny in the Clouds provided in-flight childcare. Because there was no geographical focus, it didn’t work out. But Melnick continued to hear from parents asking if it would come back because help was what they needed. She re-thought the concept, obtained startup funding, and took off. 

SkySquad now offers personal assistants at Dulles, Ronald Reagan Washington, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airports, and is expanding to several more this year. We asked Melnick a series of questions about starting and running her own travel-related business. 

Women Leading Travel & Hospitality: What’s it like being a woman in the travel and tech industry?
Julie Melnick: It does seem to be a male-dominated field, especially in the airline industry. So it’s interesting, especially when you’re dealing with a company like SkySquad that tends to appeal to caretakers. You really have to paint the picture of what it’s like for moms and dads out there traveling with kids, or those in a wheelchair, or those who just aren’t comfortable traveling. We need to make it clear how important it is for that group of customers to have support. I think a lot of people may not have taken a trip or been able to travel because they weren’t able to do it on their own. SkySquad can play a big part in making travel more accessible. 

WLT&H: What advice do you have for women looking to launch their own business in the travel industry?
JM: Starting a business is so exciting and empowering. When you believe in your mission, it really does give you strength because you can make it about something greater than yourself. That gives you the courage to overcome obstacles. Surrounding yourself with the right team is also really important … it’s impossible to be an expert on everything, so if you can find people that have strengths you don’t have, that’s key to success in my opinion. 

WLT&H: From the perspective of a startup, what’s something you want industry leaders to know?
JM: We really want to be a tool airlines can use to improve their customer journey. We want to be an added benefit that costs under $100 so we can bring this to as many customers as possible. The ultimate goal is to be an option in the bookings process and to raise expectations. The airport experience doesn’t have to be suffered through; customers can know someone will greet them at their car, get them checked in and through security, wait at the gate and anything else. 

WLT&H: Now that restrictions are being lifted, what do you foresee for the travel industry in the near future?
JM: We’re really excited about our growth and becoming a household name. We’re seeing a lot of people starting to asking questions about travel, talking about it more. Even if people aren’t traveling now, when they’re thinking about summer break or next fall, we want to make sure we’re top of mind.