Interview

Five minutes with ... Mika Caram, Manager, Murals Hostel and Cafe

We catch up with Mika Caram, Manager of Murals Hostel and Cafe, to learn about her transition from corporate sales to travel, and the lessons she learned along the way

Mika Caram began with one accommodation and no experience in vacation rentals, but with a wealth of face-to-face sales experience in corporate settings. A strong believer that “luck and money follow energy” she has worked hard to build Mikheyla Fox Homes, a vacation rental property management company based in Cebu, Philippines.

Blog: What were the key moments in your journey that defined your position now?

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Mika Caram, Manager of Murals Hostel and Cafe
Mika Caram, Manager of Murals Hostel and Cafe

Caram: I started out with a bachelor’s degree in medical technology. Back then, medical courses were hyped as guaranteeing high-paying jobs, but after graduating I volunteered at a local hospital and didn’t like it. It made me realise that I didn’t truly love medical technology. I also tried selling insurance and pharmaceuticals. I was given awards and closed millions of dollars worth of policies and products. Although I was getting paid very well, I didn’t want to get stuck doing one thing for the rest of my life.

Then, by chance, a friend asked me to drive her to a job interview in Cebu City. She persuaded me to apply at Air Atlanta Icelandic, and I ended up becoming a flight attendant. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. I realised I loved travelling and learning about other cultures. Ultimately, that experience helped me decide to start my own travel-related business.

Blog: What have been your major successes since entering the travel industry?

Caram: Over the course of one very busy year, I helped set up three hostels and cafes - we want to keep expanding this chain throughout Cebu Island. I currently manage 31 short-term vacation rentals, and that list keeps growing. I am also creative director of Colors and Peach, a beauty salon in Cebu City, which now has two operating branches.

Blog: What have been the challenges?

Caram: After I left the corporate world, I was living on 50-peso [US20-cent] meals per day, so I know how it is to start from the bottom. At that point, I had invested everything I had into one property and turned it into a prototype for practice before expanding. That experience taught me that sometimes you must start with nothing to learn the value of everything.

Blog: What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

Caram: Like others who have come across their passion later in life, I wish I had known what I wanted to do when I was younger. I don’t regret my degree or the choices I made, but I wish I’d known that I loved travelling so much. Maybe I would have made decisions that would have led me to experience more cultures earlier - but that’s something I can always keep doing.

Blog: What has been the most surprising moment of your career since entering the travelling industry?

Caram: I was surprised at how quickly I was able to grow my single property listing into multiple properties, even though I’m still new to the business. I think I gained traction because my service is rooted in empathy. I always put myself in the shoes of the traveller whenever they need help.

Blog: Did you have anyone that mentored or inspired you?

Caram: I’ve always looked up to successful icons who started from nothing, but I personally knew no one doing exactly what I was doing. I suppose I am making an example with my own life.

Blog: What one piece of advice would you have for someone starting out in the travel industry?

Caram: Don’t fear failure. In any industry you choose to pursue, you always run the risk of failing. Not being afraid to fail helped me take big risks, which in the end helped me realise what I really wanted to do.

 

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Takeaway
  • After a few stops and starts in the corporate world, Mika Caram found her true passion in the travel industry
  • She poured all of her savings into one vacation rental property and expanded as Mikheyla Fox Homes, a vacation rental property management business now offering more than 30 properties
  • A believer in the power of empathetic service, she attributes some of her success to putting herself in the shoes of travellers 
  • She advises other partners to be fearless in their pursuit of success; being unafraid to fail can help you find your true path