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Audio and Photo Source: Beyond Normal Podcast Sponsored By VelourIt and Kenneth Groom
Our CEO and Founder, Orion Brown sat down with Beyond Normal Podcast host Kenneth Groom to discuss a plethora of hot topics going into the new year. Get to know Orion before BlackTravel Box and find out how BlackTravelBox came to be. Learn what entrepreneurship means to Orion and her view on how Black entrepreneurs can move toward world domination. Relate to Orion's and Kenneth's candid conversation about the effects of the digital age and pandemic.
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Beyond Normal Podcast Sponsored by VelourIt
Episode 27 - BlackTravelBox
Kenneth Groom (00:00):
Thanks for tuning in to the Beyond Normal Podcast where we highlight minority business owners and founders, and we use this platform to shed light on your entrepreneurial journey.
Kenneth Groom (00:26):
Welcome everybody to another episode of the Beyond Normal Podcast. Again, we got a great, amazing guest. She's actually a friend of a friend of the show. So next up today, we actually have Orion Brown. She is the founder of BlackTravelBox. She's doing some amazing things when it comes to the Black travel experience and just thinking about the melanated skin and hair, right. When it, when it comes to us going different places and being in different parts of the world, how's it going?
Orion Brown (00:54):
Good. Good. Can you hear me okay?
Kenneth Groom (00:56):
Yes, we hear you loud and clear.
Orion Brown (00:58):
Okay, awesome. Um, so you know, we're in the middle of COVID with all of these digital things and sometimes stuff goes in and out. So definitely kick me if I freeze, but I'm really excited to be here. It's going to be fun.
Kenneth Groom (01:10):
Definitely, definitely. And I know what you mean by freezing. Uh, we all have been there in some form or fashion during, uh, the pandemic where the screen freezes and then it's like, isn't my wifi, is it? Yeah. You get caught in that weird pose,
Orion Brown (01:27):
It's never a flattering pose. You're never in the middle of a word that makes you looks like loose or anything. It's always like, you know..
Kenneth Groom (01:34):
Or you're like, it looks like you're blowing the nose or doing something crazy. So definitely, definitely I'll log in. You know, I appreciate you being on for an episode. Um, you had an amazing story, so I wanted to make sure, um, I have you on and allow you to show your, um, your story with the audience. Um, so, you know, give folks a little bit of background before BlackTravelBox, right? Tell them a little bit around, Orion Brown, right? Leading up to you being the founder of the BlackTravelBox. What was going on before this?
Orion Brown (02:05):
Oh my gosh. I, so I've had nine lives. Um, I've definitely worked in a number of different places. Um, not to go too far back, but I, I like to say that I was pre-med since like the age of four, I was like focused, you know, I was like, I was going to be one of the Huxtables and go all the way. And then I got into college and I was like, this is a long time be eating ramen. I don't know if we gone. Um, and there were other things to consider and I really had to take stock about my third year of college and say, what is it, what do I need to do to go survive in this world? And then what do I want to do? And so I started looking for management training programs and trying to find a way into the corporate space, um, because the most exposure I had, I grew up on the South side of Chicago.
Orion Brown (02:53):
I've moved around a bit, but that's, that's my hometown. Um, most exposure I had to corporate spaces was like, I knew the right building to go into downtown. You had to go to the bathroom, like, don't go to the McDonald's don't don't even mess with the McDonald's you find the nice building that has the bathrooms on this side of security. So you can go and they got the good hand soap and that's the whole thing. But that was really all I knew because I had been a science nerd up until that point. And so I went into a management training program with JP Morgan and kind of learned the basics of being in the world as an adult and TPS reports and all of those types of things. Um, and did internal consulting and project management for them stayed on and did some in-house project management work.
Orion Brown (03:38):
And then finally got to a place where I felt like, all right, now I can choose what I want. And now that I've done what I have to, to, you know, build a reputation to learn, um, to get that experience under my belt. Now I want to choose what I do next and, and have a perspective on it. And so I went back to school, got an MBA, um, at Duke and, um, popped back out and went into brand management and brand, uh, brand strategy. And so within the food industry, baby, this chin, I earned this chin, um, when you're in the food industry, I was just telling people about this the other day, I worked for Kraft foods for a number of years and you get the phone call. It's like, we're working on our fall listing our fall menu. Um, and so we have about 15 or 20 desserts here that you need to taste and approve.
Orion Brown (04:32):
Yeah, that voice in your head is like,
Orion Brown (04:37):
Well, you're like, okay, well, it's good. I got good in health insurance. Cause it's about to go down. It's going to be jelly, rollouts and cakes and everything. Um, and so in that space, I got to really learn how to be strategic, how to own a business and do it in intrepreneurialy, right. Because entrepreneurship is outside in the world. intrepreneurship is within, you know, an umbrella of, uh, you know, the corporate, I want say moneybags, but it kinda is right. Like you get that corporate covering. And so I really learned intrepreneurship there, um, that has taken me into other places. And we all have had those career moments where we've made choices. I've been laid off twice. I ashamed to say it, cause baby severance is a beautiful thing. Um, but just understanding like as you start to pivot your career and you're balancing things like your personal life, where you want to live financially, what looks, what looks like, what, um, and so I've bounced around a little bit, gotten to text or to do, um, consulting for fortune 100 clients and really helping them understand their consumers. And about the same time was when I was like, you know, I really missed, I missed the jelly rolls, but I also missed the thing, having that tangible thing on the shelf. And so that's where I started to think about, maybe I should create something of my own. And so that was sort of the impetus of BlackTravelBox
Kenneth Groom (05:58):
I love it. And, and you mentioned something there, the idea around, uh, creating, uh, uh, physical products we're in such like a digital focus age, right. Where everything's just like, it's on your phone, right? There's nothing, there's not supposed to be anything that's like physical that you can touch. Like we were supposed to somehow like eat in our heads or something like that. And like taking all the movies, like the matrix, I, all the movies that we saw. So it's very interesting for you having that background, you still saw the value. Right. And having a physical, tangible product. And that's something that our mind think about when we were growing up. Right. You think about like the FUBU's or the world, just like having something that was for us by us, some of these products, it still is a moneymaker, even though so much of the world is still being pushed to that digital, that digital space.
Orion Brown (06:49):
Well, I think at the end of the day, consumerism, isn't going anywhere. Right. And you know, if you just think about, if you just take a quick inventory of how many items are on your body right now, I'm pretty sure you bought all of them. Um, when you take a look around, if you're sitting in your living room, how many there's things all around you? Yes. You're online all the time, but even the way you get online is a physical product. And so, you know, as, as things evolve and, and digital marketing and digital advertising makes things and technology makes things easier and whatnot at the end of the day, the way we shop changes, but what we shop for really kind of doesn't. So like you said, there was no digital version of eating dinner. Like you still got to eat something. Now, the way that dinner came about whether or not it was organic, all of those other things that, that separate. Um, but you, you can't eat ironically a bite. You can't eat a bite.
Kenneth Groom (07:47):
Exactly. And like you, like, you touched on it, like the biggest companies in the world, they do have a digital focus. Uh, we all know who we have been purchasing from during COVID and their stock prices are through the roof. And so to your point, as I look around my house, I've bought a lot of stuff during COVID, um, that I'm actually surprised that I bought, I'm not sure why I bought it three or four months down the road right now, but I did
Orion Brown (08:16):
You're nesting. I mean, so many people have been nesting cause they sit down you're you're you pay for what you spend your time with. Right. And so you're like, if you like to drive, if you're, if you drive your car back and forth to work hour or two every day, then you're going to invest in like a good sound system. You're going to invest in other people, the car you're going to invest in those little covers for the, for the steering wheel. If you live somewhere cold people sitting at home and they're like, I need a new rug, curtains, you know, it's just something to play with while I'm in here, you know, that's a good group space where exercise, bike, and then it just goes downhill.
Kenneth Groom (08:52):
Got it, got it. Um, during the last year, again, we all have been at home buying things we may have needed, or we may have not needed. Like, what's that, what was your biggest splurge purchase, uh, during, during the last year when we were all in the house during ther Pandemic?
Orion Brown (09:07):
Oh, I, well, I bought a couch. I bought this couch actually. Um, but that was really more out of necessity. Um, but I didn't really splurge too much because I was just more or less focused on nesting and more focused on building the business and keeping the business afloat. So, you know, BlackTravelBowx is for travel and out of home use it's personal care for home use. And so when nobody leaving their house, so really my splurge was spending time on, um, you know, the business, which sounds really dorky and probably kind of sad, but it's true. Um, I think the only other thing that I would say it was sort of a splurge was, um, a lot more self care stuff. So because I was spending so much time inside and so much time just kind of working, I wanted to be, find things that could help just kind of me wind down. So it was the bath salts and the candles and wine actual wine to wind down with. Um, you know, and, and normally I would cut HBO off, you know, like it's like, Oh, it's the end of the insecure. Okay. We good. We don't need HBO anymore, but now we're like, no, we might keep that. Just, you know, keep that HBO max subscription.
Kenneth Groom (10:26):
I get it. I get it. And we actually got somebody who chimed in, uh, Jordan Crump. Yup. Uh, LOL a lot of pointless shopping by everybody. More time at home means more time to think about stuff about exactly. We've all been praying to that. Uh, hopefully I think, uh, w w what you just said, Orion though, is around, uh, putting our money, putting our resources into building something. Uh, and like you mentioned, you mentioned self care on, you mentioned the business. I definitely want to make sure that we pivot your, you make amazing segue. This is an easy segue, but essentially, you know, uh, why create the BlackTravelBox right now, as we're coming out of this pandemic? Like, what was it, what was the thought process behind that?
Orion Brown (11:04):
Well, so BlackTavelBox actually came about just before the pandemic, which is, you know, so it's always funny when you look at things, in retrospect, you go, you can laugh at it. But at the time I was like, Oh Lord, how are we going to whole pandemic? And nobody's traveling. Um, but I really, I, I launched BlackTravelBox as a company, not necessarily as a brand in market, but, um, in 2017. And that came out of a trip that I took with my partner at the time we went to Japan and, you know, we fly into Tokyo and it's like spring time. And the weather is beautiful to sorta like DC in the spring. So you've got cherry blossoms. It's really mild. It's really nice. And then we decided to hop over to Okinawa and I was like, okay, cool. But you see all this right here, right.
Orion Brown (11:49):
Okinawa is basically a 30 minute flight, but it's light years away. I mean, it's North Carolina in the middle of August, hot, hot and muggy. And I got there and I was just like, I can't believe this. Cause you know, they got me on those little bottles there, right. Especially if you're taking those smaller flights, those puddle jumper flights, you can't bring a bunch of stuff. And so I'm traveling light. I got my emergency. Like I got my one wash. I did my, did my wash and go did my set before I left. I got one more that I can do while I'm on the trip. And then I'll take me all the way home. And that was not the case. And I was like, my hair, my hair was sweating. My skin was sweating, my scalp, everything. And I was just like, this is some bull. Where am I going to find products that I can use in Japan? Um, and, and I also really realized that that is not, I mean, Japan is, you know, um, this really far off sort of concept, but it's the same issue, whether you're in Toledo, Ohio, or Toledo, Spain, like it's still hard to find products that are made, um, for people of color and people with textured hair and people with melanated skin. And so that was really where the idea was born. And then I just started to develop from there.
Kenneth Groom (13:02):
Uh, you touched on a lot there, um, like that pain point that you saw, um, you know, like you said, you were all the way in Japan, but then you realize, Hey, this is something, you know, you could be, like you said, Toledo, you could be hearing this in the States, right. In certain places you go that hair right there, hair is something, uh, when it comes to, you know, Black culture is something that's important. Right. And so you saw that pain point. And that actually led me to my next, you're perfect with the segways, but I actually, uh, I went on your site and then there were a couple, I know that you're a, the IG is popping. Right. Um, in terms of your, your IG, it looks amazing. But one of the things that popped up for me, one of the first posts that I saw was that travel is my self care. Right. And so when it, when I think about like that Black travel experience, now, it seems like a lot of people are getting their passports. A lot of us are traveling, so you should be able to travel somewhere and then kind of be able to take care of your hair, take care of your skin and not have to worry about that, because that could be something that just derails you completely, right. It just takes you out of the mindset. Oh, I'm not going there because my hair and my skin won't be right. Right.
Orion Brown (14:07):
Nothing else you you're, you're distracted. Right. So if I, when I really sat down and said, okay, is this actually a problem? Or I'm, am I just pissed this one time? Right. Is it just this one trip? And when I really sat down and thought about it, there were so many trips where I'm doing stuff like trying to hop a cab from wherever I am to find a drug store, to see if the drug store carries something that I can maybe use, or, you know, dealing with the stuff at the hotel and having messed up results. Um, and then just having the general, just, uh, perturbedment of just knowing, like I gotta, I, if I want to feel and look my best, the way that I normally do at home, I'm going to have to bring all my stuff with me. And I'm not even high maintenance.
Orion Brown (14:52):
I'm, shmedium maintenance, I'm not even high maintenance. And so, yeah, that's one of those things that it's, as I started to talk to consumers too, and do that, that consumer insight work and talk to more people, I'm hearing women travel hacks that I never heard of before, or we go to the grocery store and get grape seed oil or get coconut oil. And I'm like, that's dope. But also you're a whole human being. You shouldn't be hacking together ingredients just to have products that, you know, here at skincare, bruh, it's different if you're roughing it, you're out in the Bush somewhere, that's different. But, um, if you're in a civilized location, there should be products that actually recognize the fact that people of color exist. And so, um, I really wanted to go after that. And then also just kind of the double standard that we see within travel. Usually if you see any people of color in any travel ads, they're not THE traveler, they're the flight attendant or the bartender or whatever. And so we spend a ton of money, a hundred, and I want to say $9 billion in 2019 on travel on, on travel, domestic and international. And so there's this massive Black travel movement, and we're not being seen there too. So it's like beauty and travel. Both of them are missing out on an opportunity with us
Kenneth Groom (16:11):
And that Black, that Black, uh, spending power, like that is a real thing. Like you being able to quantify those numbers. Um, we spend a lot of money on looking good
Orion Brown (16:23):
Black women in particular spin nine times every other ethnic group on beauty and personal care, nine times. Wow.
Kenneth Groom (16:30):
Okay. I thought I was spending a lot with my haircut, but I don't think so.
Orion Brown (16:34):
Y'all got it. You guys have it easy, but you, but you started the, the market is starting to turn and they're starting to starting to see brands like young King haircare and others that are looking at the masculine side of beauty where beauty, you know, we use it as a, as a feminine term, but I mean, beauty, personal care, whatever you want to call. It grooming That's, that's the, y'all got stuff to spend that money. You're about to go in your pockets. A lot of you already are.
Kenneth Groom (16:59):
I believe it. Um, you've done a great job of, um, you know, um, being on different media outlets. Like the social media, I say, Ivy is popping. Like you, you, you figured out a way to make sure where, um, you can get the message out around this product. I'm curious to know, like, as you're learning, as you've been learning about your business, like, like what was something that you learned throughout the entire process that you really would have liked to know? Like when you first started that would have just set you up, you know, just to be a little bit further than you are now, but what's that one thing like, man, I wish I would've known this from day one.
Orion Brown (17:31):
Ooh, that's a good question. I think, um, I'm going to answer it, but also not going to answer it in the sense that the thing that's most valuable is the experience and you can't like, it's like when you're a teenager and people try to tell you about life and you're like, y'all know me, I'm grown and the, you get grown and then you're like, Oh, they were, they were right. Yeah. Um, I think the process, especially coming from the corporate space, the process of becoming an entrepreneur and understanding what that means from a day to day basis and understanding that you can't work 24/7 and that you have to structure it just the same way you would structure working for the man as it were. Um, and, and, and what that actually means in terms of risk tolerance and all of that. You can't really like, people can tell you, but you don't know until you experience it.
Orion Brown (18:21):
But that being said, something that I actually learned, um, in this process is also to go with my gut. Um, because a lot of, a lot of the process of me learning to be an entrepreneur, I, I came in very much open and saying, you know, I want to learn. And I know there's a lot for me to learn and I don't know this space. Um, but I underestimated what I brought to the table. I really did. And so now that, you know, I'm a couple years in and working on this and, and revisiting certain aspects of it and, and, you know, picking up amazing opportunities and things like that, I'm looking back on it and going, I knew that day one, I knew I wanted to do that day one. Why didn't I second, guess myself, why did I go in circles? Why did I listen to all of this extra chatter? Um, and, and not focusing on the fact that there are some core skills that I know I can bring to this. And they're the reason why I thought I could do it in the,
Kenneth Groom (19:16):
And what do you feel like it would take to wear that entrepreneurial label that it, some of us want to wear and others just may not know about it.
Orion Brown (19:24):
Exactly. It's so there's a few, there's a few pieces in there, right? So to unpack, I think before you take the leap, it is understanding what the definition of entrepreneurship is and getting away from sort of the pop culture, uh, entrepreneurship, I'm a tech founder. I sell a SAS product. I, you know, I coded something, I got a billion dollars to, to, to build the company. And then I sold it for a bajillion, um, that isn't necessarily entrepreneurship. And we've had entrepreneurship, particularly within the Black community for generations. Right. It's a generational thing. We've got barbers, we've got corner stores. We've got, I mean, one of my favorite shows, you know, the Jeffersons, they had the cleaners, that was a huge thing. Then he was a business owner, business owner, and entrepreneurship typically don't get said together because you don't see the dry cleaner on the front of Black enterprise in general.
Orion Brown (20:20):
Right. Um, and so I think we have to understand that the definition of being an entrepreneur is someone who is creating a business and building something, even if, even if you're licensing a business, or if you're doing a franchise that's still entrepreneurship, you're creating and building something sustainable. And then from there figuring out, well, what are the different flavors that, that comes in? Because there are a lot of people who are entrepreneurs got day, day jobs. I mean, that's just, that's just a nice capital raise. They're like my capital raise is I work nine to five and then invested in my, my company from five to nine. Um, and so whether it be side hustles, full, uh, you know, full-time, uh, built businesses that you're working in and on, or whether it be ultimately building your wealth through those other channels and then going back and investing, it's all sort of in that sphere of entrepreneurship.
Kenneth Groom (21:20):
Appreciate that. All right. I think you hit it, you hit it right on the nail in terms of, uh, we got to really define what entrepreneurship is for our community and in a lot of cases, right? It's your local business owner. Um, it doesn't have to be this tech enabled, you know, um, idea where there's billions of dollars raised. No, like it really starts from the ground up. I would think about a lot of times in our communities, if somebody, you know, a kid who's as young, as, you know, eight years old, they're selling cookies, or they're doing different things in their community, that's where it starts. That's where you kind of start to cultivate that it's not necessarily something that we're just, we're born to be entrepreneurs or not. We just got to figure out what that flavor like it, like you mentioned, like what our version of that is.
Kenneth Groom (22:03):
And, um, I think we got all the tools and, and I appreciate you bringing up. It's just the way that we position it has gotta be changed moving forward. So I, I'm actually excited to see, you know, just some of the people in the entertainment space, they're figuring out different ways to like, Hey, I can do the same thing that I was doing in music. I can do it over here in products. And now master P is doing stuff. He's the example that I always think of, he's selling like, you know, oodles of noodles. He selling like different things. I never would have thought 20 years ago, I was going to see masterpiece. Right. So, so you hit the nail, right, right on the head there. And he sounded all kinds of stuff. And we've been doing this for so long again a month, like, you know, Black history month is an excellent mom to, to, you know, refresh on those things. But in addition to that, we gotta figure out how to make every day of the year Black history month. Cause we gotta keep, keep the momentum going all year long
Orion Brown (22:56):
And celebrate and celebrate the, the excellence that we bring as a culture. Um, it's, it's not about being exclusionary. It's about highlighting the things that we don't see in our mainstream every day we have reminders of quote unquote, mainstream pioneers, but it's, it's a revisionist history, right. There's a lot that we have contributed and a lot of other marginalized communities have contributed and we don't get to see that. And so we have to be our own advocates for it,
Kenneth Groom (23:27):
Couldn't say any better. So, um, you know, again, a perfect segue just in terms of, you know, the conversations that we're having right now in 2021, uh, whether it's politics, whether it's, you know, social equity, um, you know, tell me a little bit around how you're feeling around, you know, how we, how we ended 2020, right. Um, with all that went on pandemic, uh, again, the social equity questions, the politics, like, how are you feeling around, you know, maybe the way that we ended 2020, how do you feel about momentum for somebody like you and your business? Like how do you feel like that, how the momentum is going to build or not build for you, um, moving forward after those after a year like we had in 2020?
Orion Brown (24:11):
Yeah. I mean, I would definitely say at the beginning of 2020, I was given this, I was given 2020, the side-eye like hard. I was like, Oh, this is what we're doing. Oh, you showingout. Okay. I see. You know, and then coming into 2021 though, I think I got to a place of surrender. And I think, I hope many of us have done this because the amount of control and busy-ness that we came into 2020 with, and this is the way the world is, and this is what has to be, and then being stripped of all of that, um, you know, besides what's happening in our personal lives and like, cause all of that stuff is still there and we were still losing people and stuff is happening and moving and all of these things on top of a full major pandemic on top of things that for me in particular, um, affect my ability to launch and scale my business.
Orion Brown (25:00):
Um, but coming into 2021, I will say the first two weeks of 2021 where like a whole month for me, I was like, yeah, this is like a month or three. This is out of control. Y'all is, y'all are still wiling is 2020 part B. Um, but giving up is just sort of surrendering to the fact that there's always going to be stuff going on in the world. We aren't, we are not, unfortunately we haven't learned our lessons yet on a number of fronts. This isn't the first time we've seen the issues that we have. And so ultimately it has to be about, are you here doing the thing that you're supposed to be doing at this time? Um, and, and how does the timing workout? You know, for me, I look at BlackTravelBox and I go, it's going to be insane once I have the operational capacity to really scale up the business that I'm working on actively to get in place now.
Orion Brown (25:52):
And everybody like lets the cork out of the bottle, it starts traveling again. So how these two things, you know, I'm viewing these potentially segwaying probably in the summer and the fall is actually excellent timing. Um, you know, had I launched the business, had I gotten, uh, you know, half a million dollars in investment back in 20, 2018, 2019, and hired a whole bunch of people and started doing the work, the momentum would have hit 2020, and then it would have bottomed out. So I don't look at while 2020 was rough. Don't get me wrong. Rough. I wouldn't, I wouldn't want to redo that. Um, I do look at it as, you know, whether you call it blessing in disguise or still silver lining because it, because I hadn't ramped the business up yet because I wasn't the overnight success, which most people know overnight successes usually take 10 years anyway. But, um, because that wasn't in place when COVID hit, it allowed me to take a step back, focus on the fundamentals of the business and really start to build a strong community and understanding around what we mean to the world and why. And there were so many points of clarity during that time that I think it only allows me to show up better for the business and the business to show up better for the consumer in this year.
Kenneth Groom (27:16):
That's an excellent way to, uh, look at it. Um, making a lemonade from the lemons, you know, just those phrases around, you know, these situations, like you said, they occur markets have peaks and then they have valleys. Um, so from a timing perspective, I think even if you're a small business, um, even the small business owners that I've had conversations with, there's somewhat of a low leveling out of the playing field. Think about, you know, all the corporations, a lot of the things that they're doing, they're doing the same things that somebody who can run their business right from their phone when it, whether it be, you know, just reaching out to your, your, your audience directly getting some of that feedback. Um, and so the leveling of the playing field, I I'm actually looking forward to that. I think we're actually going to be spending more money.
Kenneth Groom (27:59):
I, I, I'm scared to say that because my bank account is going to suffer, but at the same time, there's going to be some point where we have some of these things that are behind us. And then we get to really like move forward with our own, with our purpose, with the things we really want to do. Um, and so it's an exciting time, but to your point, it's like a silver lining thing where it's almost weird to say that making it through a pandemic in a year, like we had in 2020, there's some excitement about moving forward, but I'm not even sure how to explain it, but it does feel like, uh, moving forward, we're going to see more business owners like yourself. Um, and so 2021, I'm glad to hear you say it's somewhat of assumed silver lining in that you're looking forward to making more money moving forward. That's what, that's what we want to hear.
Orion Brown (28:49):
I mean, and I think it's also, you know, people say, well, it is what it is. And, and, and typically we mean that in sort of a, there's nothing I can do. I'm powerless. And to some extent that is true, but I think if you look at it like my power and how I react and how I respond and how I prepare as opposed to my powers to change like the situation, I think that's really, really the key. So if, if we get another wave, if everybody goes back inside, if it gets worse before it gets better, I know that I have the power to pivot. I know that I have a power to engage my audience. I know I have a power to utilize my skillset and my, my value add to stay afloat, to keep the idea of float, to continue to bring this to, uh, the world, which I think BlackTravelBox have, uh, has a place the world.
Orion Brown (29:41):
And even if I don't do it, if somebody else did it, I would be cool with that because I know we needed as a culture. I know we need. And so for me, it's truly surrendering to, I can't change what's happening all over the world. I can only, I can only affect what I'm doing and just take it as a serenity prayer. And every, every time something happens, it's like, okay, so what's the right thing to do. Do I need to sweat this? Do I need to not sweat this? Do I need to step in and do something? Do I need to take a step back? That's all I can be concerned with
Kenneth Groom (30:12):
Facts. You drop in gems, but we're here for guys. We're here to listen to the gems. Uh, I want to take, uh, take it back to the BlackTravelBox just a little bit, um, around the products that you offer. Um, you know, very concise that, like, I, I think it's a few products, but can you kind of give us, um, quick summary on the actual products that you offer for the audience, but then tell me in particular why it was so, um, was it intentional for you to just pick a handful of products or like you mentioned before, when you think about some of the bigger companies or even in fashion, there's just all these skews of you just throw a bunch of products out there and then you see what sells later on, on the back end and see things like, could you tell if it was just a little bit around the products that you offer and then, uh, why you took the approach? I think you did a really smart thing versus some companies tend to do the exact opposite.
Orion Brown (31:06):
Yeah. And I'll just touch on really quickly. The reason why you see companies with all this skew proliferation is because they're making a retail play. So retail naturally incentivizes you to do that. What you do is you create a line of products and you balance out how much space you can afford to pay for and how much space a retailer is going to give you. And you make as much as you can fill in because you know, back in the day when people were still in stores all the time, if you have foot traffic on an aisle, you knew product was going to move. Just getting distribution, makes product move and makes product turn in a world where one, I knew that, um, products for African-American women and men don't live everywhere. And even where they do, they don't, you know, we still have an ethnic aisle.
Orion Brown (31:55):
That's its own issue that that needs to be addressed, but that ethnic aisle can be a little, you know, a little four foot set. It could be 8%. It may not even exist in certain stores. Um, it may exist in a chain of stores, but only in certain locations. And so not really having access to distribution, I knew that this brand really needed to be direct to consumer as quickly as possible. And then, you know, going into retail as a nice to have, because if I can send you your product in three to five days, or I could send a product directly to your hotel that saves you the trip of trying to run around town and figure out what place carries it anyway. So I, I really do think about that full experience that we have when we're trying to figure out our stuff.
Orion Brown (32:40):
And it's not just about the product not existing, it's also the product not getting distribution. And there's a number of reasons why it potentially could, or would not, um, you know, based off of regionality, based off of being a new brand, not having the money, all of those things. And so I really focused in, on, um, direct to consumer and then in the direct to consumer space that there's no need to have all of these skews because we're not trying to fill up a shelf with 15 different flavors of something. Right. Um, and so really it's about, is this going to solve the problem for you? And I really started out in the business focusing on, you know, sort of an MVP product to use the tech term of basics that are just the most frustrating for us. The most frustrating for me, the most frustrating for you.
Orion Brown (33:30):
You go to the hotel, your hands are dry. You go to put the lotion on and your knuckles are asking her how sway, how are they putting more Ash on your knuckles? Right? And so if you need some things for skin moisturizer hair, okay. I, one of the biggest things like I can keep putting protective styles in my head. And one of the things that I heard from a lot of women is, um, and I'm going to answer that question. What is it bias rehab? I'm asked to answer that question in a second. Um, but this idea of like women are actually wearing their hair and protective styles and not washing it and not keeping up with what would normally be their regular hygiene at home. If
Orion Brown (34:09):
People will say, Oh, no, but you know, you can go out
Orion Brown (34:12):
Without you're in a space that it is so difficult for you to be the human being that you were born as that you changed your hygiene, just to make it easier is like crazy. There should be things for you. And so that's where the shampoo, the co-wash and conditioner came in, because one of the biggest challenges, not only does this stuff in the hotel, not work for us sometimes. I mean, I've had, I've had run ins where my hair was messed up for days, for weeks after using shampoos that stripped it and it just wasn't healthy for it. And so there's that piece, but then there's also the, we use more, we buy more, we buy nine X because we use more. So anybody who has ever looked at the shampoo bottle and it says, use a dime size and then laughed and then went ahead and squirt it all.
Orion Brown (35:00):
And they're like, man, this wasn't a dime size for no conditioner. And so then it was about engineering products that last long, that you can get enough product that you need, and it's convenient for you to travel with and actually works for us. And so those were really the big pain points. And then, you know, I have a basic hair balm, which is like, you can't wash your hair without sealing it. So that's like, you know, a basic, um, you know, set. And then we have lip balm because nobody wants the crusty lips. Um, and it's just, it's just a pack of essential. Is it truly is the essential, this isn't the eye creams and the mist and the sprays that stuff is going to come, but really focusing in on those essentials that are the most polarizing and challenging and frustrating when we travel.
Kenneth Groom (35:45):
Thanks for that. And I know we did have that question that popped up, um, around Sephora and Ulta. Um, and them, uh, letting a Black owned products in their stores as retail retail is quote unquote, going through another apocalypse. Uh, so what do you think, uh, yeah. What are your thoughts around that?
Orion Brown (36:02):
I here's what happens. I'm gonna say this for the culture and for those of you who are not in the culture, I still love you, but we have a tendency in particularly Black women to save the world after everybody is like tanked everything, then it's like, okay, we'll let you come in. And we come in and we clean up. And when you look at where dollars are going, who's spending the, the mainstream retail space has been blind to the Black American dollar period. Like every now and again, it's something here or there, but they, it's a stereotypical mindset about where we shop, how we shop all of that. When's the last time you saw a Black owned luxury beauty brand, right? Like not, that's not a thing. Um, we don't have, we don't have those things in those spaces because those spaces don't cater us and they go, well, you just buy whatever we have.
Orion Brown (36:58):
Now that they're finding that their quote unquote mainstream market is falling out. People are moving away from retail. They have to find where the strongest dollar is. You have to go after the strongest dollar, you get one Black person in a store, they get you nine X, what you get from anybody else that you get in the store. We're more valuable at shelf. We're more valuable on the website. We're more valuable. And so when you're, when you're looking for an efficiency play as a business, as a business owner, I have to do this. What are the efficiency plays? Am I going to invest a ton of money into somebody who's going to give me a 10th of what I would get from this other person by just catering to them. And unfortunately for us, I, you know, I won't say that our bar is low.
Orion Brown (37:43):
I think we are excited to begin to see more of our brands, more of our language, more of us reflected authentically rather than appropriated into these spaces. Um, but it's, it's, it's not hard to do. It never was hard to do so once they do it, the amount of effort that it really requires is I would argue negligible. Um, and now it really is just about coming in with a, a, an honest sense of understanding who your customer is and your consumer is, and, and truly wanting to serve them, not to take advantage of them. That's the, that's the cost of admission. Um, so when I look at Ulta and I look at Sephora and I see that retail, and there's, there's a number of things in the works where these beauty brands, these beauty retailers are now looking at big box retailers, having partnerships. We've already seen that with, um, uh, JC Penney's, I think has, has support in it. So there's, there's a lot of things that are changing on the retail landscape and how it works. But now whenever you have something break, it's a great opportunity to start bringing in innovation. And unfortunately, innovation for beauty means looking at the people who actually buy you.
Kenneth Groom (39:00):
Wow. Yeah, I think you, uh, you answered that question, uh, with a couple of gyms there, uh, appreciate the bias rehab answer and, uh, asking that question. We had Jordan chime in as well with the dime size and the soldier boy voice, uh, yeah. Nobody, myself included, like you said, I don't even know what a size portion of a shampoo or any hair conditioning product would actually do for me.
Orion Brown (39:28):
Kenneth Groom (39:30):
Handfuls, and then, yeah. So I completely understand that. And until you to, to your point that you, you close out with, you said it several times at nine X, right there, this is a valuable dollar that we're talking about in terms of businesses, putting their time and energy into it. Uh, so expecting to see more of that and kind of having a real relationship and not feeling like we just have our little area over here, that's going to be big and moving forward,
Orion Brown (39:55):
It's going to be big. So,
Kenneth Groom (39:58):
Um, and this is, uh, you know, one of my, one of my last questions I'm going to ask you is around, uh, our partner. Uh Velorit you touched on it. There's a lot of opportunities for companies. Um, uh, Brooke actually came up with this term. She said at one time, and I've been sticking with it, but it's around world domination, right. In 2021, we want world domination for the brands that we highlight. Yes, exactly. Exactly. So, uh, like what does that world domination look like you in 2021? And even if you have thoughts around what it looks like, you know, further out, but what does it look like for you to have a completely successful year where you feel like you hit all the metrics you need to, um, moving forward? So yeah. What does world domination look like for you, Orion?
Orion Brown (40:44):
Um, I think for 2021, it's, it's keeping my name in your mouth. So the opposite of what other people are saying, um, I think it's going to be about providing that awareness because we don't know what's going to happen in terms of people being able to be at home. Right. So when we talk about like the product itself and where it makes the most sense and all of that stuff and pivots and all of that, we don't know if we need to pivot, we don't need to pivot. There's no crystal ball for that. But if I get to the end of the year and we've got millions of earned media impressions, we've got thousands and thousands of people talking about us, you know, our following is continuing to grow. We're hitting, you know, that target of building a community 20, 25,000 engaged, uh, Black travelers is, is where I'm trying to get to by the end of this year of just folks that are engaged with us, that know who we are, that we're having great conversations with that we're talking to them on live every Wednesday.
Orion Brown (41:42):
And we're, we're, um, you know, showing them on our stories every Tuesday and, and all of those things, if those things are happening, then we're definitely at a success point for 2021, especially given the volatility of the environment right now, that being said, world domination, son, okay. One it's being ready for the opportunity when it comes. So not to get biblical, but you know, you gotta have a vessel to like pour into, you gotta have you, you know, Jesus kept the party going with the wine, right. But he had to have empty vessels first to fill up. And so being ready when the opportunity does present itself, is it going to be a huge, huge win operationally, um, for BlackTravelBox, because when it comes back and it will come back, we're going to want to be fly wherever we want to be fly.
Orion Brown (42:29):
We're going to want to be ourselves. We're going to, and we have spent the last year inside getting real, real comfortable with who we are naturally. And so this idea of going out into the world and assimilating in certain types of ways that we typically do in particularly as it relates to beauty and personal care, I think a lot of that is going to change. And I'm really excited to see us be at the epicenter of that. I think in the longterm BlackTravelBox, I mean, we're going to do some dope stuff. There's going to be media. There's going to be extensions because ultimately this brand and this company is rooted in sort of the new Black travel movement tradition. And that's this idea of self care and wellness. And there's just so many different places that we can go with that. Um, so I'm really excited to see how, how we can grow and all the places that it can go.
Kenneth Groom (43:20):
You guys heard it here first, uh, keep my name in your mouth and, uh, stay raised so you don't have to get ready. Um, we will be definitely, uh, that we'll be on our reel for the end of 2021. Uh, so thanks for providing that for us, Orion, because, uh, that's something we want to hear, keep my name in your mouth. Like, like you said, that's the exact opposite or something then that we would have said, and that's right. But I think we all know maybe social media has embedded some of this in us, but you know, um, the idea moving forward that people are talking about you and you're in the you're in a certain light, like it shouldn't necessarily be put into a negative, um, you know, negative thought in your mind that, Oh, people are talking about me. Oh, that must be bad.
Kenneth Groom (44:07):
Like, I don't want to be in the limelight. I think we all have, you know, a way to whatever that limelight looks for us, whether there's people, like you mentioned your social media for, and having 25,000 customers followers, the way that you interact with people, we got to really figure out how to really have people talking about us and the way that we want. Right. Um, and so I appreciate you bringing that up because that's going to be social. Ain't going nowhere. Even somebody like myself, uh, I don't like social media, but guess what guys I understand it's not going away. So we all have to figure out, you know, uh, how we can leverage it moving forward. And, um, I'm excited your, your plans for world domination. You got some numbers in there. I love it when people, um, you know, bring up those, those, those, uh, North star numbers, which are trying to chase, um, because we'll definitely make sure at the end of the year we check in and we check to see how that world domination went.
Kenneth Groom (45:03):
I think you had the pink in your mind when you were saying it. Right. So it's okay to it's okay to have that mindset. It's okay to have that mindset sometimes, uh, Oh, somebody put a hundred million, but, uh, yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely. Um, you know, in closing, right. I always, I'll always want to throw it to my guests around you. You, you, you dropped a lot of gyms on us. Um, I thought, I just want to throw it to you in closing, uh, first, you know, let people know how they can stay in touch with the brand. They can buy the product. I know you got some offers going on right now. Um, but in closing, in addition to that, the second thing is, you know, um, you know, we want to leave people with, as we, as we wrap up the conversation, um, and look to that world domination moving forward.
Orion Brown (45:51):
Yeah. Um, I mean, so, you know, you can find us, you can see it in the bottom of the screen there, therblacktravelbox.com. That's where you can find us online. You can also find us on social primarily on Instagram @blacktravelbox. Give us a follow, share it with your friends. Um, we've got some really dope stuff coming up that I can't quite talk about yet. So make sure you get on our email list, cause you will be the first to know, um, but really, really excited. And I think that, you know, ultimately, um, when we look for support and connection with the community, it's all about the word of mouth. It's all about, um, sharing with folks. I, I get so many people that reach out and tell me, like they see things like this. And this is the reason why, like, when I say, keep your name in my mouth, it's not about talk about me, talk about, and talk about me.
Orion Brown (46:40):
I want to be here having conversations that are value at it, whether it be on entrepreneurship side, whether it be on the consumer side, whether it be on advocacy side. Like a lot of what I ended up talking about is the beauty industry is broken. We need to change it. The travel industry is broken. We need to change it. And those are important conversations to have. And when I get notes from people in they're like, you know, I'm so glad you see me keep doing what you're doing. I can't wait till you come to such and such country. He's like, Oh, they in Sweden, they're in the Netherlands and China wherever. Um, that's really dope. And so find us, keep engaged with us. We've got some really, really cool stuff coming up, um, in the next few months, um, I'm super excited. I'm exhausted, but I'm super excited.
Kenneth Groom (47:25):
I love it. And then in terms of, um, you know, just wrap, wrapping, um, like what would you want to, you know, leave people with that, that final thought, um, for them moving forward. Um, you know, as we look to, to, um, get the ball rolling, right? That snowball effect in 2021, start with that small ball, let it roll down the Hill. And by the end of the year, you got, you got that big snowball. You can use the crush, whatever you want when it comes to that world domination. So what do you, what do you want to leave people?
Orion Brown (47:51):
I think that's snowball is consistency and grace. It's both right. Um, consistency. You, you, it's really hard to get results if you aren't doing things habitually, repetitively, and coming back every day and doing it no matter whether you think has gone, like whether you feel good about it or not. Now I'm not saying be dumb, but like, you know, there's days that you, when people want to go run marathons there's days that you don't feel like getting up and running, you don't feel like getting up and doing drills. And it's like, you're not going to be able to run a marathon at the end of this unless you're consistent. And I think it's the same with business and with goals. Um, but I would say on the flip side to that, that grace has to go hand in hand because just like you're training for that marathon.
Orion Brown (48:40):
If you pull, you know, a hammy or your, your calf and you have pain running on it anyway is only going to make it worse. So you have to really know when to take a step back and give yourself the rest that you need and give yourself a moment away to come back at it full force because it is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes it feels like it's a constant sprint. And even with that, sometimes it's necessary, but you still have to know when to give yourself grace to take a step back, because at the end of the day, if you can't come in at a hundred percent, the work isn't going to be a hundred percent and what you're trying to do, isn't going to be a hundred percent. And so that truly is the balance when you, when you have your a hundred percent and is available to you and, and you're, you're ready to go and you just don't emotionally feel like it. That's when you need to kick in on the consistency and just getting it done when you're having situations where you can't bring your full self to it for whatever reason, and it could be emotional, it could be physical, whatever, um, giving yourself that grace to take the step back. We'll still continue to get you going in the right direction.
Kenneth Groom (49:49):
Thank you so much for that. Um, great closing words. That's a mic drop moment guy. So I'm not gonna say much else, uh, besides, uh, thanks for tuning in to the Beyond Normal Podcast and thanks to my guests, uh, Orion Brown, again, check out BlackTravelBox. Uh, like she said, we all are about to be traveling the world. We're gonna be doing some great, amazing things moving forward 20, 21 and beyond. So, uh, thanks for tuning into the beyond on the podcast. Thanks for tuning into the Beyond Normal Podcast. Would you be streamed across all major streaming platforms in addition to you to.
Ellee is in the building - and this week she's showing us what it means to be a globe trotting Travel Crush. This native New Yorker has climbed the pyramids of Egypt, took her whole life in her hands on the swings in Bali, and she's still pumped for more challenging, new adventures. Read on for her tips on having magical experiences without breaking the bank, her favorite hack for buying cheap flights, and how she stays in villas without the hefty price tag.
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