Women share their sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny, always true experiences on the road - and how to laugh AND win at business travel.

Stories from the Road

  • Jessica Poitevien

Community Spotlight - Shirley Wants You to Travel With Swagger


Shirley Cohen is no stranger to travel, business or pleasure. For seven years she traveled the world working in various sales roles and often combined business trips with her own leisurely explorations. A long layover in a new destination was her favorite business travel perk.


As Shirley continued to rack up the frequent flier miles, improving her packing skills along the way, she came to a few realizations. She noticed few women flying in Business Class. And no singular brand offered travel solutions for the small but mighty number of female business travelers who traverse the globe regularly.


These epiphanies sparked the birth of a luxury travel brand site, SWAGGER.


“We want to give better travel experiences to women with better travel products dedicated to women,” Shirley said. “It’s not another product designed in black for men and pink for women. It’s a brand dedicated to women.”


With her business-focused clientele in mind, Shirley said the SWAGGER products not only are practical, they are mature and feminine without being too “cutesy, ” as many brands mistakenly believe women want. You won’t find Barbie pink, funny logos or tacky patterns in SWAGGER’s line of products. Instead, you create your own travel uniform with packing cubes, jewelry organizers, toiletry bags, eye masks and more, all in the same set of elegant colors -- white marble, black marble, rose gold, light pink and a silky brown. Over time, Shirley hopes to add other products to the SWAGGER line, making it a one-stop shop for all travel needs.


“In business travel, especially flying Business Class or Premium, you want to look your best,” she said. “You need to sleep well, eat well, and take care of yourself. You don’t want to have too many flashy things. You are the face of the company you work for. You’re representing them, so you need to always look good.”


Pivoting in a Pandemic


Armed with a business plan and tons of travel experience, Shirley quit her sales-related job, took a well-deserved break and began her market research in February. Then the pandemic hit.


At first, Shirley and her business partner, Sandy, questioned moving forward with their plan. Believing that normalcy would return at some point, they forged ahead with a new focus. Instead of specifically targeting businesswomen only, SWAGGER aims at multidimensional women who travel alone and with family, for business and pleasure -- women who balance career and personal goals. Whatever their motivation, Shirley simply wants to encourage women to travel more and do so in comfort.


“With the pandemic, we realized there would not be a lot of business travel, but people will travel more locally and have more family-oriented trips,” she said. “Our products are pretty versatile. They can be used for road trips or staycations, and once it’s safe to travel, people will travel like crazy.”


When this time arrives, Shirley wants women to be ready with high quality products, each tested by herself and the SWAGGER team. With that mission in mind, SWAGGER officially launched its shop in September.


“People tend to buy these things in the airport where they don't have time to compare prices or check the market to see if there's better quality or design,” she said.”It’s an impulse buy, and you don’t make the right decision when you're buying in the airport.”


The Italian Wedding That Started It All


Beyond a strategic business move, Shirley’s pivot brings her journey as a traveler full circle. Before she ever stepped on a plane as a business traveler, she trotted around the globe with her friends, mostly on a budget. When a friend invited her to a wedding at a fancy Italian resort, it changed her view of how to travel in style.


With wedding guests sharing villas, Shirley found herself in the same accommodations as a woman who worked as a Versace buyer. Needless to say, she was dripping in Versace from head to toe, including her luggage and everything inside it.


“I was embarrassed to open my suitcase in front of her,” Shirley joked, recalling the plastic grocery store bags she used to organize everything from jewelry to dirty laundry.


Mesmerized by how neat, stylish, and organized this guest was, Shirley had a lightbulb moment, a first glimpse of what it’s like to be a chic traveler and how that can help you travel with more confidence. She would take the lessons along as a business traveler, and eventually to SWAGGER.


“There is a growing community of women entrepreneurs, but I think the world in general needs more women in business. It needs more women to be brave,” Shirley said. “And it connects to the name of the brand. Swagger is to walk with confidence and travel with confidence around the world.”


A Broader Mission of Empowerment


Although Shirley and Sandy didn’t plan to launch a travel business during a pandemic, they’re taking on the difficulties in stride and hoping to inspire other women along the way.


“It’s a year of challenges for everyone, and the toll is often on women more than men,” she said. “But it’s also a year that we can take the opportunity to transform our lives and take chances. You never know where it might take you.”


Running her own business for the first time, Shirley said she hopes her story lets other women realize that anything is possible.


“We really want to empower women through better travel products,” she said. “We want to show women that they can travel, travel alone, travel with family, travel in style. They can also become entrepreneurs like we did. They just need to try and take the risk. Don't be afraid to take the risk, and do it with swagger.”