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Audio and Photo Source: Dr. Frances Richards.
BlackTravelBox Founder and CEO, Orion Brown, had a candid conversation with Dr. Frances Richards, on her Black Entrepreneur Experience Podcast. They spoke about everything, from the inception of BlackTravelBox and Orion's journey from the corporate world to mental wellness and initiatives to support the Black Community.
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Black Entrepreneur Experience Podcast
Welcome to the Black Entrepreneur Experience Podcast inside the business, buzz, and brilliance of black entrepreneurs. Here's your host, Dr. Francis Richards.
Dr Frances Richards (00:12):
What happens in Vegas goes all over the world on black entrepreneur experience, episode number 170.
Dr. Frances Richards (00:21):
If you want clarity about your life and or your business, you can schedule a one on one coaching session with me. You can send an email to email@example.com. Thank you for joining us. As we elevate the black entrepreneur experience by interviewing CEOs, thought leaders, innovative thinkers and black entrepreneurs across the globe. I'm your host, Dr. Francis Richards. Our next guest is on a mission to enable travelers to be their best selves wherever they travel, wherever their travels take them. Orion Brown is the founder of the personal care company, BlackTravelBox. Welcome Orion.
Orion Brown (01:06):
Hello, thanks for having me.
Dr. Frances Richards (01:08):
You have such an amazing background. Why don't you fill in the gaps and share with our audience what you'd like them to know about you and your company?
Orion Brown (01:17):
Well, definitely. I started BlackTravelBox back in August 2017, and it started out as a passion project. I'm an avid traveler 15 years in corporate and every time I had the chance to take vacation time, I took it and enjoyed it thoroughly. But I found I was having difficulty finding products that actually worked for me. If I'm going on a 10 day trip to Japan, how do I find products that actually work for my hair and my skincare needs because I certainly can't find them in another country. It started as a passion product and an opportunity to create something that would get my hands back into a brand. Everything that we make is in forms and formats meant to travel well, gets you through TSA and we have natural ingredients, primarily things like shea butter. So very relevant to the black community in particular as well, providing us with safe and reliable products that are easy to work with and really meet our needs. I'm excited to continue to build on that. And we've got a lot of fun stuff coming.
Dr. Frances Richards (02:20):
Talk about how did you pivot with the travel market and COVID-19?
Orion Brown (02:27):
What I would call several micro-pivots as well as some larger ones. My primary concern is that we're always really clear about what our business is, what our brand is. BlackTravelBox is a brand that is focused on travelers of color. So it's about out-of-home product usage, but it's also about cultural relevance and both the ingredients, the tone and manner, and what we bring to the table. The elevated beauty of the brand and all of those things really still needs to be intact, even if we're making pivots on the business to get through the challenges. So things like massive sales and differentiating the value of the brand was something I wanted to avoid. I want to give people an accessible way to reach the brand, as well as stay true to our mission. I mentioned that I personally am an avid traveler. One of the things that travel does for me is a form of self care. I'm a firm believer that self care is particularly important to our community and while people aren't able to travel right now, finding ways to provide self care is something that we want to encourage. Basically a COVID Relief Kit is what we called it
Orion Brown (03:37):
And it's a donation-based product. So you can come onto our website, purchase a product, and it goes to a frontline worker and for them it is a form of self care. So with hand-washing being at home, but when you're caring for hundreds of people a day, your hands are gonna be dry, cut up and just callused. So one of the things that we did was included our body balm which is this really rich, emollient, vitamin and mineral rich balm that is great for really dry skin. We also included our lip balm. So again, wearing those N-95 masks, and oftentimes people are putting on cloth masks on top of that, the dryness of the moisture pottery. It's just terrible for lips and skin care products. And also give people the opportunity to give back to the community that's dating back to us. So all of those frontline workers are folks that are supporting and doing work in communities, which are communities of color that are actually dying most frequently to COVID-19.
Orion Brown (04:46):
So are you manufacturing the products yourself, or are you working with other vendors to get the products?
Dr. Frances Richards (04:54):
So right now we are self-manufacturing out here, in Denver. It's a really interesting story, because initially my goal was to come into the marketplace, go find a manufacturer that does lower minimum order quantities, right? Works with startups and new businesses and develop products with them. And I ran into two major issues. One is language like we don't make products for after kinky hair. Having that sent back to me in an email from the company was definitely a very eye opening experience. And I did notice that with several companies that were rather interested in working with small businesses, but found that the African American consumer wasn't there bread and butter. The second challenge is when you're talking smaller quantities, the complexity that you can get out of the main partners is relatively low. So when I was running large brands or fast foods, $30 million to spend with a new product launch over the next five years, you're going to jump through hoops and create whatever product I needed to figure out how to do that and change your manufacturing set up.
Orion Brown (06:02):
But we were talking about spending $10,000 on inventory, it's a different discussion and because our products are uniquely made for travel, the way we make them is really atypical to what is in the marketplace which makes it harder to get a partner, to work with us, to do that at scale,
Dr. Frances Richards (06:21):
Orion, what problem exists in the world today that you would like to solve?
Orion Brown (06:27):
Right now, I am very much focused on mental health and wellness. And I think it's the discussion of mental health. Just health people can have a conversation about being diabetic. They can't necessarily have those same types of conversations about being schizophrenic or bipolar or even just depressed. That's something that's a personal passion for me. It is tied into the company in the sense that for a lot of people travel is that valve of self care. That is that way to manage these things that they're not having the discussions about.
Orion Brown (07:03):
They're not necessarily going to therapists about it gives them a release out for the frustrations and the challenges that they're going through. For me, if I could change anything, it would be opening up that discussion more. And I am trying to do that, but I don't know if I can change the world overnight in that regard, but I do several things to encourage them, not only disseminating information and doing the things that we do through the brand and the business, but also working with community organizations right now, we're organizing a five K walk here in Denver for our five points neighborhoods, primarily African American. And we want to get that neighborhood really talking about mental health and wellness. And we're using this as an opportunity to kind of create a platform for it.
Dr. Frances Richards:
And what does self care looks like for you personally?
It is a workout and will. Self care is a workout and will, especially if you're really type-A and I'm pretty type-A. So I'm the type of person that will stay up all night and work which isn't truly healthy. I will kind of push myself harder than I need to oftentimes. And so for me it is a workout in managing my own willpower to take a step back. And so things that I do, I try to focus on mental, physical, and spiritual. And at least have one thing that I do consistently in each area. So from the mental perspective i work with a therapist, which I think is phenomenal, even if you're just rambling, it's just great to just be able to ramble and there's no, there's no repercussion. There's someone there to just help you think about it, to pat you on the back and say it's going to be alright or to pat you on the back and say go ahead and cry it out. I think thats a wonderful outlet.
Orion Brown (08:41):
From a physical perspective, I try to balance eating right with exercising. And when I say that I do not mean it in a fitness instructor way where it's like you need to be on a diet and you need to be in gym five days a week. It's more of, if I didn't move the way that I want it to today, am I at least eating clean or eating right for the day. And then tomorrow I will. And I'll walk upstairs, I'll walk upstairs and listen to a podcast for 25 45 minutes and just go up and down the stairs. And I stop when I need to, because I'm not a fitness guru, but it gets my blood pumping and I think it's really good.
Orion Brown (09:26):
On the spiritual side, I make sure that I do take time to pray, to meditate, to really think about sort of the broader what's important to me. Why am I here? What is my purpose and what am I doing about that? And am I moving myself in the direction towards it? With all of these things, to me, it's serenity, right? So it's learned to accept the things that you can't change. Don't have anxiety over that. I'm not going to be a size two and that's okay. Change the things that I can, be courageous enough to step up and speak up when things aren't working. And I have the ability and the voice to do something about it. And then just be wise about the two and know which is which so that I I'm releasing myself from responsibilities that don't exist, that are either up to God or up to someone else. And the things that I can, that I'm moving towards that and making some progress so that I can feel like I'm doing the best that I can. And that truly is enough.
Dr. Frances Richards (10:23):
So Orion, tell us what you are most grateful for right now in your life.
Orion Brown (10:30):
I'm actually grateful for the time that had to myself during this period. I think with COVID, I think people are now realizing that the slow down that we've maybe missed because we're all kind of running really fast and doing a lot of things this time. Can you be really cathartic in a lot of ways, it's sort of a forced slowed down. And I think that's definitely been the case for me. I think that the isolation allows for, can allow for, I know it's not great for everybody and it's not great for me every day, but it has allowed for some really good reflective time. It's allowed me to reconnect with people in my life that I maybe hadn't made the time to do so before. It's allowed for me to work through a lot of my own feelings and things that i've held against people and all of that. Because when it's quiet, you hear your thoughts a lot clear, right? And so I'm really grateful for that. And I think that there's been a lot of growth that has happened over this period. And even some months leading up to it. That's just been... it's been really gratifying for me. And I feel like the more gratified that I am in my existence right now, the better I can present myself to the world and the better I can present my company and what I'm doing here.
Dr. Frances Richards (11:51):
What was that aha moment that you knew that your business was going to be successful?
Orion Brown (11:57):
It was kind of a gut moment. So back in 2018, I was still working full time working in corporate. I left the plantation and I was thinking about what to do next. And the next logical step was just to get another job. "I don't want to be miserable here but I'll be miserable somewhere else, as long as they are paying me kind of thing. And I took a step back and said: "God I don't know, I really don't want to be back in this. I really don't want to continue life in this corporate space in the way that it's been going. So I'm going to take some time and work on this passion project of mine, Black Travel Box. And I want you to be really clear with me if I should not be doing this. So if I'm going to fail, let me fail spectacularly. And if I'm going to win, then I need you to be really clear with me and give me some clear signs that I need to keep going."
Orion Brown (12:48):
And during that time, I accompanied, my then partner to an event Inc. 5,000 and he was at a speaker there and I got a VIP pass. So I got to be a plus one in a space that I had never set foot into before. And besides... a number of really wonderful things happening over the course of that trip. I was sat next to Jim Ledbetter at dinner. He was the editor in chief at the time of Inc. magazine, and we just had a really great chat about food and InstaPot's and why it's annoying to make food for kids's classrooms because they're all allergic to something. So we were kind of talking and he goes so tell me about your business? So I start talking about it and in my mind, I'm like its a small... It's a small passion project, I haven't really launched it yet, but I tell him, well this is what I'm trying to do. And he goes, "Great. Let me introduce you to this person," basically his right hand woman. The first thing out of her mouth was I know who you are. I know about your company. We were just talking about you.
Orion Brown (13:51):
And we were going to approach you to do an interview, but thought that since you were still in beta, we would hold off. And I was floored. Now, obviously in that situation, you've got to keep a straight face, but inside I was like "you like me, you really like me. Thats amazing!"I didn't know what would it be? And from there, we got insane PR over that three month period, I hadn't even gone out and done anything. Just a couple people have heard about us. And it started to snowball. I was getting notes from people saying "this was so needed, thank you for making this company." and that's when I knew, that period, that test period, where I said, God, let me fail or let me win, but be really clear. That was sort of the turning point for me to say, I need to do this full time. I need to see it through. And I believe that this needs to exist in the world.
Dr. Frances Richards (14:39):
Talk about that. Transition off the plantation to entrepreneurship.
Orion Brown (14:45):
The transition from the corporate world at first was pretty Rocky. I'm pretty type a and so it's a very different thing when you're working in and creating for yourself and there's an onus, you own it, right? So I spent a lot of sleepless nights where I again, had to learn to take better care of myself, because that was the first thing. I'm like figuring everything out and the learning curve is steep and it's not even just a how do you do business? I'm very adept at business. I say this with no hubris. It's just true. I'm adept at doing business. However, it's very different when you're working with a different resource set. It's very different when you're not only doing the strategic plan, but you're also doing the tactical execution. So there are nights that I was just figuring out how the postal system works and how to actually mail out orders to people. That was a rough point.
Orion Brown (15:44):
I would say, just trying to figure out the technicalities of everything, but not only that, how did I manage myself as an entrepreneur? That was the first rough patch. I think the second one was really figuring out fundraising and what that space looks like, because there's a lot of things that people don't tell you. They'll present how wonderfully they've done things. And they'll give you great advice on how to speak to folks, but they don't tell you the behind scenes of how their networking, how they came upon the right person, those types of things that really make the fundamental differences and no matter what your presentation or your pitch is. So that was sort of the second big hurdle for me in transitioning.
Dr Frances Richards (16:26):
Orion, what can we do right now to support your business?
Orion Brown (16:36):
Oh, I love that question. So there's three things that I want you guys to do. Number one, we're @blacktravelbox on every platform, but Instagram is our bread and butter and sheriffs and other people that you think would enjoy our products. Avid travelers, folks with dry skin, folks that believe in self care. Anybody that would be aligned with our mission and our vision, please do share us. Check us out on our website, theblacktravelbox.com. We have wonderful products. We've got, if you are a frontline worker, we actually have a discount for you. That's going to be inclusive of hospital workers, police, fire, anybody out there risking their skin. We want to cover it in body balm and show you we love you and care for all the work that you're doing. So definitely check us out there and you to take care of yourself. I really want to see our community flourish. And it is a really challenging time. If you want to hop on and email me or find me on social orion_helana, on our platforms, I'm happy to cheer you up. I'm happy to be a sounding board. I think this is what we all should do. Listen to each other, give each other five minutes and help support each other through a challenging time. So those are the things that I want you guys to do. And that will, that will be very fulfilling for me.
Dr. Frances Richards (17:58):
What is the biggest achievement so far in your business?
Orion Brown (18:02):
Hopefully this doesn't sound corny, but the biggest achievement in the business so far to me is getting letters, DMS, emails, LinkedIn notes from people globally saying, thank you for making this. This is what we need. Please keep fighting for it. I didn't start the business to be a bazillionaire, I'm not looking for Bezos' trillionaire status or anything like that. I would like to make a good living, don't gt me wrong. That's the point of being in business. I believe in capitalism, but I think that there's something really moving to know that I create something for our community. That is real. It's not just in my head that we need it, but people really connect with that. And not only that, they feel that it's important enough to just say, Hey, I see you. I encourage you. And I want to see more of this. 15 years in corporate, I hadn't seen a lot of opportunity to really serve our community and serve us as consumers.
Orion Brown (19:04):
We have immense buying power, being able to serve that purpose is huge for me. I know what we do today. Whether this company is around in 10, 20, 50 years or not. What we do today will influence what it is. We start creating these pathways and creating businesses that are truly inclusive and not only cater to our community, but bring elevation to the products and the shelves in which they're on. That will change what we're sold in the future. That will change what's on our shelves in our homes. And so that's really important to me. So that that acknowledgement has been an amazing achievement.
Dr. Frances Richards (19:45):
We can learn from successful entrepreneurs people or brands. Tell us a brand or a business that is dominating that you admire and why?
Orion Brown (19:56):
I really am loving the Honeypot company. Starting out, I think they started out selling out of like... Oh, I'm going to butcher this. But I think they started selling outside of the Wright brothers convention. It was like I made a thousand units, put them in the trunk of my car and I went and sold them and we sold out. And I love that sort of everybody wants to hear the rags to riches story, but in seeing the founder of Honeypot speak at events, now she is a corporate executive and not at any negative connotation at all whatsoever. So just seeing that transformation that she's made over the last several years, the company is black owned, but it is a mainstream company, which I think is wonderful. And I actually really love their products. Go check them out. But just to seeing the infrastructure that's built there, the way that it's being paid, it's not just another for us by us business, which I mean our business is essentially, but I love that she's created this totally mainstream company, natural ingredients, wonderful scale.
Orion Brown (21:01):
I think every other week I get an email from them saying that they've gotten into a new retailer and that should be more commonplace. We shouldn't have to go, it this a Black owned business or not. Let's go look them up in the green pages or whatever. We should be able to go, Oh yeah that's just is what it is. Every other business that's on a shelf is either black owned or minority owned. And we make great businesses and we work very hard and we have wonderful vision and insight for our consumers. So I really admire what they're doing because it creates again that infrastructure for commonplace business ownership within the black community and other minority communities. So that in 10, 20, 50 years, we won't even necessarily be asking that question. At least not in the same way, because it will be common place. We're going out, we're creating great things. We're building wealth and we're serving our global communities with it.
Dr Frances Richards (21:54):
Orion, what is one valuable lesson you wish you knew before starting your business?
Orion Brown (22:00):
I would say, listen to your gut. When I started out, I came in with a healthy dose of humility and I said I know corporate, I know brands, I know consumers. However, I don't know entrepreneurship. I was not the kid selling lemonade, the lemonade stand. I was not selling candy or my gym bag or pickles or chips or anything like that in high school. I said I'm going to take setback and just try to listen as much as I can. And I'm going to try to second guess myself a lot on decisions because I think I know, but I probably know. I need to kind of get more experiment under my belt. And what I realized was that's complete BS. If you have a good gut, you have a good gut.
Orion Brown (22:47):
And if you are good at accessing information and situations quickly, and coming up with perspective and point of view, that nimbleness is actually incredibly valuable. As an entrepreneur, you cannot waffle. You cannot spend time in analysis paralysis because every minute you spend is taking a dollar out of your business. I spent some time learning how to be an entrepreneur and how to listen to my gut and be okay with it. There may not be a knowledge gap, but don't second guess yourself on the premise of being on entrepreneurship, bad space of being an entrepreneurship, because a lot of people will approach you and attempt to tell you what your business should be, especially when they see you're new and you're fresh. And they're seeing there's traction. Everyone wants to prove themselves with your business. They come in, I want to be a consulsulatant I want to be an advisor, but they come in having something to prove which oftentimes has nothing to do with your business. Really sticking to your guns and understanding what it is that you're trying to create. And working from that and being confident in that is really important.
Dr. Frances Richards (23:54):
Who are your top two influencers in your life and what lessons did they teach you?
Orion Brown (24:00):
I mentioned my partner back in 2018, that accompanied me or rather I accompanied to inc. I would say I learned a really, really healthy dose of how to sort of stand in my truth and be as authentic and as me as possible. But it was a situation of just constant encouragement. And I think that that's, you always needed someone in your life who looks at you for who you are, exactly who you are, what you are, how you are and says, not only is this okay, this is wonderful. Now go out in the world and go be more of that. So I think that was a big piece. And I think the other is, it's sort of nebulous, but I look at friends that have gone through challenges over the years and particularly the ones that are, they still have joy after going through things. I have a friend right now, and I won't name names, but I have a friend who's husband went through a really debilitating disease just before we got into the COVID-19 season.
Orion Brown (25:05):
If one can call it that, where he was hospitalized and it was very scary and she's got three young children at home and I'm so encouraged by the joy that she's still able to, to find. I'm encouraged by her saying things like "At one point, I just had to realize I'm just going to get up today and just go do it. Like you can't dwell on it too much. You have to just get up and go do it." Folks like her. And I have a few, few ladies in my circle that really inspired me by their strength. And they inspire me by their will and their joy. You can look at things in your own life and go, well, my stuff is different, but people are going through stuff. And it's not just COVID, people still have lives that are going on, troubles that are happening. And when you see someone who's able to still muster up that joy and that spark for life, I think it's really meaningful.
Dr. Frances Richards (25:59):
Orion, if someone spent a whole day with you, what would they learn?
Orion Brown (26:03):
I was going to say, how to duck. I don't throw things, I'm just kidding. So if someone spent a whole day with me. I think that they would learn I'm a little weird, but I think we all are. I think this idea of people being normal is like nonexistent. We all think that everyone else is normal. We all want to be more normal like everyone else. But if you spend an entire day with me, you're going to get to know me and I have corks. There are times where I just need to unwind and watch Star Trek, I just need to unwind and I need some Deep Space Nine, just to make me feel better. for me, it's, I think people learn to not take themselves so seriously being around me. Hopefully, I think they'll learn about me in particular that I do think very deeply. I encourage others to think deeply about what they do in their day and what that means and why. And they'll probably learn how to cook because I cook a lot and I can't help but feed the folks and show them how to make it. So those are three things that they would learn.
Dr. Frances Richards (27:04):
Orion, talk about that person in your childhood or your lineage that inspired you.
Orion Brown (27:12):
Well, when I was a kid, my mom was the most resourceful human being on the planet. She was somewhere between like an NSA agent and MacGyver the way in which she could materialize resources and materialize the things that we needed in a situation where we didn't have much was awe inspiring. Until the age of five or six. Someone just asked me about this the other day. And I hadn't thought about it in years, but until the age five or six, she made all my clothes, from scratch. I remember spending. And when your kids this is really boring, but i remember spending hours at Joann fabric, going through calls and simplicity books, flipping through the pages while she was like finding the patterns and the notions and finding the best deal. I mean, I can tell you how to find all the remnant fabrics, all the 75% off stuff. Her resourcefulness was truly awe inspiring. And I think she created a life for us, particularly in those early years, that felt as middle class as anybody else's just by using her own hands.
Orion Brown (28:19):
I mean, she wasn't up at night crying. She was up at night sewing. She was up at night cooking and she was creating. That's something that I've taken with me. Like I said, someone asked me a similar question before and that bubbled up and I hadn't even realized it. So again, I think that time to yourself to really think about and be introspective, you'll find an amazing things about yourself that you didn't know. I had no idea. My mom was such a big piece of why I am an entrepreneur today and also why I refuse to buy a surf that I can knit myself. So she was a huge inspiration in that regard.
Dr. Frances Richards (28:55):
How did you feel about who you have become?
Orion Brown (29:01):
Pretty good about who I've become right now. If you had asked me five years ago, I'd be like eh she aight, but right now I think that there's a lot of work to be done. There's always going to be a lot of work to be done. I think it's at the point in which I no longer have to learn to refine and to do better and be better than that's one of my time here was done. However, I think that some of the things that I've gone through, particularly in the last couple of years, unrelated to business, but some of them actually business related as well have taught me an ease about myself as well with my soul or an app, because I know where I'm, I know where I've been. I know who I am, and who's I am. And those are things that are hard to know. It's easy to hear it. It's easy to be told, but to know it is a practice that has to be cultivated every day.
Orion Brown (29:58):
And then just like any habit, as you start to cultivate that it starts to really take seed and blow and make more sense and you feel it and you know it as opposed to hearing it and kind of understanding it. I'm in a pretty good place. And I'm excited about what's ahead, even though I don't know what it is, which is again, that easily wonderful thing to have when you don't know what's next, but I'm very comfortable with that and, and happy with that.
Dr Frances Richards (30:27):
Orion, when it's all said and done, how do you want to be remembered? Talk about your legacy.
Orion Brown (30:34):
Yeah. I intended to say that I just want to be remembered, but no one wants to be remembered. Well, maybe some people want to be remembered in infamy, I definitely don't. I think I want people to remember that my heart, for the challenges that people go through my heart for the struggles, particularly the ones that I've experienced myself, there's an empathy that I cannot express.
Orion Brown (30:59):
I can't, there's no way to put it in words, the, the depth of empathy that I feel for folks in situations where there's been trauma in situations where there's been emotional anguish and in situations where just life has been incredibly unfair. And I think the closest thing that could potentially even mirror that is the feeling that we have as a community. When we hear about one of us being gunned down, either by police or by friendly neighbors or those types of situations, but wher we have that collective side and where we have that collective moment of anger of this visceral, humanity. And that's something that has developed in me over the years for a number of things that are pretty close to my heart. And I want people to know that that comes from a pure place. And I want people to remember that it's always been from a pure place, and hopefully the legacy is that I'm actually able to help people in those positions, to help people to not end up in those positions, to just help.
Orion Brown (32:03):
I'm not the people-person that just loves to talk to every single person. I'm not the bubbly human that's like, Oh, she's like, she's totally a people-person. I don't mind talking to folks, but it is truly that those quiet moments of empathy and those moments where I can see the struggle. I spent a lot of time encouraging people in my free time where I see them struggling at things, getting them connected to resources, et cetera. So I think that's sort of what the legacy should be. I would love for someone to look back on my life and say that she really tried. She really tried. And she, she really meant it.
Dr Frances Richards:
Let's switch gears for a moment. Talk about the worst moment in business and what was your takeaway?
Orion Brown (33:00):
I would have to say I did a pitch podcast. Actually media is a pitch and it wasn't the worst moment in that. It actually did anything negative to business. I went in and pitched with them, and I sat in a room full of, it was actually a pretty diverse room. We had a discussion, I was pitching the business and the reason why it was the worst moment. And I actually spoke with one of the, one of the investors from that sort of tribunal afterwards. And he actually confirmed what I was feeling, thinking at the time. I went in and I tried to be everything for everybody, because going into that, I felt like it was a really big moment and it's going to be great PR for the business. And so I started asking people, well, how would you position this? Well, how would you think about this business? And I got so many conflicting things and actually having talked to other investors previous, because again, everybody will try to create their vision for what you're building. I got a lot of feedback.
Orion Brown (33:46):
Well, you're not going to get money if you make it just about black people. Well, it's really niche, like talking about travel and well, I mean, really you should position it for like mass market. Well why is it for this person? Well why is for this person? And so with all of that, instead of going, this is what my gut says, this is what I know. And I'm just going to go and fight for the thing that I'm trying to create. I took it and created this like Frankenstein and the pitch went okay. But one of the reasons why it really did resound in everybody's minds, this is what we need to be focusing on, this is what we need to invest in, is because I was essentially pitching five different businesses at once. Instead of pitching my business, my vision. After that pitch, I did speak with one of the investors that I felt like he really connected, not necessarily because he was a huge fan of the idea, but because he asked me intelligent questions that had nothing to do with the cultural aspects of the business, but had nothing to do with my capabilities.
Orion Brown (34:47):
It was all about like, well, what's the business model, help me understand this, help me understand that I spoke to him and he said I don't know if I get the whole travel thing, but if that is what you believe this business needs to be, then you need to just be that and go do that. And don't try to be everything for everybody. That was a big moment for me. And it was a little bit of a gut punch. Not that he meant it that way, but that I knew that I was doing that. And that was a low point because I knew everything that I had been working on up to that point. And around that point had been a mishmash of feedback and opinions and all of these other things and I wasn't working towards the vision. So I had to really change my mindset from there and double down the vision and build from that.
New Speaker (35:35):
What have you not done in life that you dream about often?
Orion Brown (35:40):
I think so. Most of the things that I haven't done have to do with traveling. So it's really more of just my bucket list. I really relish the moments, those moments, and I call them the quiet moments that they can be in an amphitheater with thousands of people, but those moments and those experiences that give you chills and give you perspective things that are on my list. I mean, at some point I'll see you here. I'm really excited about those things. Those are probably the things that I think about most often of those experiences. I went to South Africa 10 years ago, 10 years ago, and looked over and saw the ocean and how the clouds rolled back because the temperature changes and there's a whole bunch of science behind it. Nothing changes your mindset and your spirit, like seeing a line in the ocean separation of clouds and water and earth.
Orion Brown (36:49):
I don't know how I'm afraid of thousands of feet, but we were pretty high, those moving moments. So those are the things that I've worried about. Those are the things that I work towards every time I can get a chance to go somewhere on my own or even with other people, but that's a great motivator for me that helps center me. And that helps me kind of reground myself and in the humanity of being, and just looking out at the beauty of the space that we've been given, I live in and hokey and philosophical, but I look forward because day day when you're in traffic and frustrated and you don't like the way that your friend did something and all of these things just highly funny, they're all nonsense, but it's hard to remember that their nonsense when you're in it. And so every day or every week, I'm spending some time thinking about that next place that I can go,
Dr. Frances Richards (37:49):
Orion, what is a technology tool or a technology platform that is a must have for you in managing your business day to day?
Orion Brown (37:58):
This is my third fight, but I'm team Trello all the way. Now I know people love Asana, these are both platforms, people aren't, but I love Trello. Trello is the equivalent to the post-it notes that I have all over my desk and are still transitioning. It's a process for me. But Trello allows you to create, not only detailed project notes and assign them to people and pretty checklist and organize them and all of that, but it also allows you to create a visual placard of all of the things that are emotion and where their emotion. And one of the things that I love the most and I'm sure is the biggest time-suck and the least efficient part of it is putting in images for each project. Cause with each image, it kind of burns it in my mind exactly what it is that I'm trying to do and how we're trying to do it. And so I love my fellow boards. I am a Trello board hoarder. If I could have stock intro, it's a really great project management tool, especially for people who are visual thinkers, learners, and planners.
Dr. Frances Richards (39:07):
If you conducted this interview, what is the one question you would have asked yourself? I'd like you to ask the question and answer it?
Orion Brown (39:19):
I mentioned earlier that a push back on the business being Niche. So the question that I would have post around that is given all the feedback of the business, BlackTravelBox, being such a niche brand, why continue that, instead of pivoting to make something more scalable? And my answer is because I didn't start this business looking for a cash cow that I could have gone into some type of tech lab or something like that. Even being a nontechnical family. I created this because I saw a real need in a very specific market. Well everyone's struggles with those tiny little tubes of toothpaste and little bottles of shampoo. It is particularly impactful to what I consider the black travel market because of the importance of the time that we're taking the travel.
Orion Brown (40:23):
I won't pigeonhole and say we're all too impoverished or broke to travel so when we travel it's worth a lot to us. But I what I will say is travel can be very expensive. We don't often, I think from a responsibility standpoint, give ourselves a break to go do it as much as we would like to. And looking at the new travel generation and the black travel movement that has happened in the last 10 to 15 years, which I think is still a little bit of a sleeper to mainstream marketplace. We are growing into this space gangbusters. And so we're going out into the world. It's a new experience for a lot of us. The frequency of travel was a new experience, the location. I mean, we're not just going to Jamaica, but people are going in Iceland. They're going in Russia, they're going into Japan. And so I want people to get every inch, every drop of that experience out without thinking about how Black people touch your hair or what I can do to provide you something where you're not running around, looking for products, looking for the grape seed oil and coconut oil, because nobody makes what works for you because that thought is predicated on the reality that people aren't thinking about you, that mainstream beauty, isn't thinking about you and your availability of products for you is not necessarily a priority.
Orion Brown (41:49):
And so I kind of want, I want to create something that removes that issue in the world. It may not make sense to everyone, but it's not a money discussion, it is an a need discussion. The funny thing is when you fill a need, the money does come.
Dr. Frances Richards (42:12):
Orion, We've come to the part of our interview. It's called the fun facts lightning round. And I'm going to ask you a series of questions and I'd like you to give me very quick answers. If it's something you desire not to answer, feel free to say pass. Are you ready for the fun facts, lightning round?
Orion Brown (42:32):
Let's do it.
Dr. Frances Richards (42:34):
The last movie you saw?
Orion Brown (42:37):
Knives Out was the last movie I saw and it was hilarious, which is very odd because Daniel Craig is usually not quite funny.
Dr. Frances Richards (42:49):
You relax doing what?
Orion Brown (42:51):
I watch so much. Netflix. I love Netflix. I love watching movies and TV.
Dr. Frances Richards (42:57):
Your favorite singer or rapper.
Orion Brown (43:01):
Oh, that's a good one. I mean, I hate to say Beyonce because everyone says Beyonce but I love her fierceness. And I love, I think a lot of the things that other people love about her, the realness of her and her ability to capture the attention of not only the room, but of the world,
Dr. Frances Richards (43:16):
Your favorite dance song?
Orion Brown (43:18):
Yeah. I didn't have a favorite, but I do have a mix. I picked up on title and there's a lot of Rupaul. I didn't know how much I love Rupaul so I play that when I need a little energy, particularly if I haven't been out of the house,
Dr. Frances Richards (43:35):
What food do you eat every week, no matter what.
Orion Brown (43:39):
So I've been on this kale and brussel sprouts salad kick. And it has like poppy seed lemon and dressing that comes with it. I'm obsessed.
Dr. Frances Richards:
Your favorite month,
February, its when my birthday is.
Dr. Frances Richards (43:53):
Hit the gym or hit the couch,
Orion Brown (43:57):
Dr. Frances Richards (43:59):
Thank you so much Orion for spending time with us on Black Entrepreneur Experience Podcasts. Before we let you go, why don't you share with our audience the best way for them to connect with you and all of your social media handles?
Orion Brown (44:15):
Yes, definitely our company BlackTravelBox is available online at theblacktravelbox.com. You can also find us on Instagram @blacktravelbox. If you'd like to connect with me and you can find me @orion_helena on all social platforms. So definitely hit me up. And if you get bored and you like a little food porn, check me out on IG @tastymuse. That is how I spend my time when I'm not working on the business, I'm cooking.
Dr Frances Richards (44:53):
Thank you, Orion. That is a wrap. Thank you.
Orion Brown (44:56):
Thanks so much. Thank you for having me.
Thank you for listening and subscribing to black entrepreneur experience. We would love for you to leave a review and rating on iTunes and share with your friends. For our show notes and more episodes, Go to www.bepodcast.com. Join us next Wednesday. Remember, green is the new black. So keep your bank accounts and your business in the black.
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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