College Student Megan Maloney Discusses Re-Launch Of Online Travel Business

By Rebecca Susmarski
The Register-Mail, Galesburg, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Megan Maloney’s travel site, “Charity Pro Travel” allows customers to book flights, hotels, rental cars and vacation packages. The company then donates 50 percent of all commissions to the charity of the customer’s choice.


Before she even reached her teenage years, Megan Maloney founded her own business when she thought of a way to help others in the wake of a personal tragedy.

The Knoxville resident lost her grandfather and uncle to cancer, and her grandmother died of a heart attack after surviving her battle with breast cancer.

In 2008, Maloney, then only 11 years old, asked her father Brad if there was a way they could help other people fighting cancer through an online travel business Brad planned to test.

The result was Charity Pro Travel, which the Maloney family put on the shelf for a while before Maloney re-launched it this year.

The site allows customers to book flights, hotels, rental cars or vacation packages, and Charity Pro Travel donates 50 percent of all commissions to the charity of the customer’s choice.

“It has always been my dream to bring this idea to fruition and to really make a difference,” Maloney said.

Now 20 years old and on track to graduate from Illinois Central College this year, Maloney plans to kick off a major marketing campaign for the site this fall, but she has already made some big changes since the site’s reboot.

Charity Pro Travel partnered with Priceline to provide the site’s travel-related products. Maloney also hired Keith Hudson, a family friend and father of pop star Katy Perry, to be the organization’s CEO.

“Dad and I started talking about re-launching the company in July 2016,” Maloney said. “My dad had previously shown Keith the concept and had told him that if we ever re-launched, he would like to have him involved.

Keith is an amazing man with a huge heart and shares the same passion to make a difference. So, when we called Keith with the idea, he was all in. We couldn’t have a better partner; he is such a smart guy with great personality. I really love his style.

Currently the organization is comprised of LLC partners who run operations, marketing and charity partner services, Maloney said. As the organization continues to grow, she hopes to create a staff and move the business’s headquarters to Ft. Meyers, Florida. She also plans to expand Charity Pro Travel’s marketing capabilities even more.

“We didn’t have much in 2008 as it was just a (proof concept) test and with no social media then, we really didn’t have a platform to advertise affordably,” Maloney said. “With the re-launch a few months ago, we have several platforms for affordable and effective marketing. We are working every day to get the word out and booking continues to increase every week.”

Maloney took some time to talk with The Register-Mail about her plans for the business’s future, the lessons she has learned about business over the years and her not-so-distant plans to meet Katy Perry.

RM: It’s very inspiring how you turned a personal tragedy into a way to give back to others through Charity Pro Travel. Why was giving back so important to you?

MM: I was more than upset after the loss of my family members; I was mad. At 11, I really didn’t understand cancer but I knew I hated it and wanted to stop it. I really wanted to be the one that made a difference and stop this horrible disease. As I got older and started learning more about other diseases, homelessness and other social causes, I knew that I wanted to make a difference any way I could. It’s my passion to help, and there really isn’t an easier or better way for everyone to help. Everyone travels — online travel is a $160 billion business — imagine all the good we could do. So, why not use Charity Pro Travel?

RM: You started Charity Pro Travel when you were 11. What lessons did you learn about entrepreneurship when you were young that you still apply to running the business today?

MM: I learned a lot from watching my dad over the years; he has owned and operated restaurants most of his life. Most importantly, I learned that there will be successes and failures, and that you have to prepare for both. I also learned that it’s all about attitude, to never give up on your dreams, treat everyone with respect, develop relationships and to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. If you apply those lessons, you have a much better chance of success.

RM: What was the hardest part of getting Charity Pro Travel started?

MM: It’s all been hard and there are still challenges every day. In the beginning, it was finding the right strategic partners to build out our vision. When we were taking about re-launching, we needed to find someone to build our travel portal and quickly ran out of options. One Saturday afternoon, we put a proposal together and sent the concept to a generic email address at Priceline. Within an hour, we got a call back from one of the executives to set up a conference call. Priceline loved the concept and a week later we had a contract with the Priceline Partner Network to manage our travel.

RM: How do you balance going to school and running your own business at the same time?

MM: Ha, that’s a great question. I have been living on my own, working part-time and going to school full-time for the past two years, plus working on Charity Pro. Thankfully, my dad and our great team keep things rolling and I am in and out of the mix every day getting updates and jumping on conference calls. This is my last semester and I am currently in Ft. Myers, Florida, doing a marketing internship for school (a Charity Pro project) and finishing up my last few classes online. We plan to move our corporate office to the Ft. Myers area this fall and I will work full time at Charity Pro after graduation in November.

RM: Stand Up 2 Cancer became a fundraising partner for Charity Pro Travel from the beginning. What were some others that signed up to receive donations from Charity Pro Travel right away?

MM: The 2008 test launch was just wrapped around SU2C. With the new launch we have started on boarding several new charities and organizations. It is really a no brainer for a charity to come on board.

RM: When you and your dad first launched Charity Pro Travel, you received a lot of support. How did it feel to see so many people believe in your idea for a business?

MM: It was very exciting, especially when we got a call from CNN and the “Ellen” Show. While we were sitting in the airport at LAX, my dad was reading the paper and there we were on the front page of the travel section of the Los Angeles Times. Everyone we talk to loves the concept; the challenge is getting the word out.

RM: Charity Pro Travel customers can register their favorite charities to receive donations through Charity Pro Travel. What were some of the ones that were added by customers?

MM: Our customers can select one of our charity partners or they can sign up their favorite charity or organization. Many of our charities were signed up by our customers. Every time they book a hotel, airfare, rental car or vacation package, Charity Pro Travel donates up to 50 percent of the commission to the charity of their choice. Honestly, why wouldn’t a charity want to be a part of Charity Pro? There is not an easier way of fundraising 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I would expect all charities to get on board soon; it just makes sense. Who turns down donations? Again, it’s all about getting the word out.

RM: Are there any new charities on deck to be added to the list soon? Which ones would you like to see added in the near future?

MM: We support many types of charities and organizations from local sports teams and animal shelters to disaster relief, humanitarian efforts, heath, education and more. One of my roles is to personally invite charities to come on board. I send out a personal email invite along with an outline of our Charity Fundraising Program explaining what we do. There is never a cost to our charity partners and we provide full support and a service rep, along with social media promotions, email campaigns, web links and more. I am personally very passionate about children’s causes; it just makes my heart feel good. I really get emotional with kids.

RM: What’s your ultimate dream for Charity Pro Travel?

MM: My dream is to be doing the volume of travel that companies like Priceline and Expedia do within three years. That would raise about $750 million a year for charities. Can you imagine all the good we could do? However, to get the company to that level, we have to raise funds to support the growth and development of Charity Pro; therefore, we are currently working on strategic investment opportunities.

RM: Besides hiring Keith as CEO and partnering with Priceline, how has Charity Pro Travel changed from when you first started the business?

MM: There have been many changes in the past few months. We just finished rebranding the entire website and developed an amazing new logo. Our website now features a great user experience and is easy to navigate. We have also developed a loyalty rewards program for all of our members where you can earn points for free travel, merchandise and gift cards. In addition, we have added a simple explainer video and there is nothing like our one-of-a-kind Charity Partner Fundraising Program. Simply speaking, there is nothing like Charity Pro Travel.

RM: How did you make the connection with Keith, and what has it been like working with him? (And, I have to ask, has he introduced you to Katy?)

MM: Keith is really a fun guy and his wife Mary is truly an amazing woman. My dad met Keith in a hotel lobby in Indianapolis about seven years ago and they have been good friends ever since. Keith and Mary have come to Florida and Illinois to visit us a few times and we have gotten together at a couple of Katy’s concerts. I will actually be meeting Katy later this month and am really looking forward to it. My younger sister Morgan has met her a few times and was actually dancing on stage with her at a couple concerts.

RM: What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business, particularly online businesses?

MM: Go for it! Find a good computer tech and get started. There are so many talented young people looking for projects to work on. Never let your dreams die!

Want to book a vacation with Charity Pro Travel?
Visit, and click “select your charity” under the “Make a Reservation” box.

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