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Audio and Photo Source: Pretty Sure and Sabrina Scholkowski
In this podcast, our Founder and CEO, Orion Brown discusses with Sabrina Scholkowski the importance of representation in all things beauty and travel. The two touch on Orion's entrepreneurship journey and what all went into creating the BlackTravelBox we know today. That's not all folks!
Listen in and read on, because you are not going to want to miss this!
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Episode 44 - Pretty sure representation matters in beauty
Sabrina Scholkowski (00:00):
Have you ever thought that beauty industry could be more inclusive or diverse? Do you actually have specific products that you take on vacation or what do you actually bring with you when you travel? Lastly, do you find it easy to shop for hair beauty products in the beauty aisle, in your target and Mona Priya or wherever it is that you're listening? Well, today's topic is one of my favorites and we're going to find out just exactly that. So stay tuned. Hello everybody. And welcome to The Pretty Sure Podcast the podcast where we talk about life, love, travel business, and everything in between life tends to get messy sometimes. And nobody really taught us how to live it. We're your new best friend confidant and host yours, truly Sabrina. I will always have your back and it is my mission that you never feel alone again because I'm always here.
Sabrina Scholkowski (00:58):
So Fasten your seatbelts because the rise about to get really bumpy. Welcome to season two, and let's go Welcome back guys. I hope everyone is having a great time. Whenever this is released, I am currently in the really crappy weather it's supposed to be summer still, but it is raining, but nevermind, like I was mentioning in the hook. Today's topic is one of my personal favorites. We're going to be talking about beauty, but from kind of like a business and creation perspective, because today's guest is actually a beauty product, beauty brand, whatever you would like to call it creator. And it's a really special brand because I feel like it has a great purpose in the market. Nowadays. I can especially see people like my mom who has mixed hair using it. And people that can't really find their skin color or hair type products in the supermarket aisle target or whatever it is.
Sabrina Scholkowski (02:03):
So without further ado, I want to introduce you guys to Orion Brown, who is the founder of BlackTravelBox. And she's going to tell us all about her story, her journey, and her business. So welcome Orion.
Orion Brown (02:15):
Hey, thanks so much for having me Sabrina.
Sabrina Scholkowski (02:18):
It is such a pleasure to speak to like-minded people and also beauty creators. Like what I love that. So tell us a little bit about yourself, your story, and then we're going to dive into all the fabulous questions that I have for you.
Orion Brown (02:31):
Sure. Uh, I'm a Chicago native currently living in Denver, Colorado. Um, I started BlackTravelBox technically three years ago on my birthday last week.
Sabrina Scholkowski (02:42):
Orion Brown (02:43):
Thank you. But it, as in, as is tradition, you know, a woman never tells her age. So for people that know us, they know us to be about a year, year and a half old. Um, because we launched, uh, a little bit after I actually had, um, started the, and
Orion Brown (03:00):
Yeah, I, my background is in brand management. I've had probably nine different lives when it comes to career and really got to a place where I wanted to get my hands back into a brand and into a business and saw a need. I'm a passionate traveler and, um, kind of went from there. So that's me.
Sabrina Scholkowski (03:21):
That is amazing. So first question for you, did you always know you wanted to start a business or was it just something that kind of happened to you? Cause you said you have like nine lives, different careers. So what was a little bit of that situation?
Orion Brown (03:34):
Um, so I'm not going to give you, I think the typical story, I feel like every entrepreneur I hear says, like they came out of the womb selling stuff, right? Like it's like, Oh, I had a lemonade stand when I was one and a half. And then I went on to like sell baseball cards and made my first million by the time I was 16. That's not my story at all. I was quite happy with the umbrella of a bi-weekly paycheck and uh, good health insurance and like living that kind of corporate life in that regard. Um, but really for me, BlackTravelBox and becoming an entrepreneur was a combination of two things. One is I mentioned, you know, just really kind of missing having my hands in a brand and in a business, I had done it in the food sector, um, in the corporate way for almost a decade and had gotten away from that and gotten into some other areas and tech and things, and just really kind of miss that.
Orion Brown (04:31):
But by the same token, you know, it's, it's 2020 now, but at the time it was like 2018 and in the United States and I'm a Black woman coming in through the corporate sector. I'd spent 15 years in corporate and I was just exhausted. Um, I was just really, really exhausted by the, the culture, the politics. Um, I loved my work, but it was just like, yeah, you know what, this corporate life isn't for me anymore. And so those two things sort of culminated at the same time where I had this passion project that I was kind of working on and, you know, made sort of the decision to go ahead and step away from corporate for a bit. And I was like, well, you know, this is perfect timing. I guess I can work on this bit, this business, this passion project that I'd been doing. So it was really more coincidental happenstance as opposed to like design.
Sabrina Scholkowski (05:27):
I feel like a lot of people that are going to be listening to this can relate to the corporate situation. I especially relate to that because that was one of my struggles as well. Um, I was like, there's so many men here there's like so many political there's so many levels. Like even if our women led team decides something, it still has to go through like five filters. So I totally relate with you for being like it' being tiring and all of those things, but so proud of your first starting BlackTravelBox. So in that note, tell us and tell the audience what it is and how it started. So kind of like the story behind Black travelers
Orion Brown (06:02):
Box flash, all the blocks is a personal care products company and a lifestyle company, I would say for travelers of color. So everything that we make is in forms and formats, that's meant to actually travel well, get you through TSA and are made with more unique hair and skincare needs in mind. So it's a really inclusive brand and we see inclusive brands popping up, particularly in cosmetics, you know, so makeup, but we're not seeing it as much in hair and skincare. Um, you know, I created BlackTravelBox out of my own frustration. I had been to like 16 countries and I was on a trip actually to Japan. And didn't really like, was so comfortable with travel at this point that I sort of took for granted, like checking the weather and being super anal about every place. And it was like more and I'm like, we're going to be in Tokyo.
Orion Brown (06:56):
We're going to be a Kyoto It'll totally be fine. And we decided to hop over to Okinawa to visit some friends. And Okinawa is a whole different climate. Like there's no way to describe I got on a plane in like DC weather. And then 30 minutes later got off a plane and it was like Barbados in the middle of July. And I was like, what just happened? So I immediately for his death, my skin was sweaty. My scalp was wetting. My hair was sweaty. It was just like, I was a sweaty mess. And here I am with my little ounce and a half bottles of conditioner to get me through the next 10 days. And I was just like, this is, so this is so much BS. I was so mad and I was really frustrated. And so that night, you know, a couple of nights later, actually, I was like, okay, so I can't be in any of my photos cause I'm gonna look crazy.
Orion Brown (07:47):
Um, this is really frustrating. I wish there were things out there. Like I wish I could just pop into a store and know that they would have stuff that would actually work for me or go to a hotel and be like, Oh, I ran out of stuff. And just like be able to pick up something that wouldn't ruin my hair or be terrible on my skin. And, um, my partner at the time was like, isn't that kinda what you did? Like you may brands, right? So why don't you make this one? And I sat on it because you know, we all have that little voice. That's like, you don't know what you do this in front of me already exists. You just don't even know about it. You just didn't even do any research. So I spent probably the next six months kind of ruminating and passively doing research and got to August of that year and was like, all right, it's time to either, as my aunt would say, or get off the pot, are we going to make something out of this or not?
Orion Brown (08:41):
Because it doesn't seem like there's anything out there, uh, for travelers like you, for women like you who are on the go and meet these things. And so I sat down that day and I, I registered the LLC. I was like, I'm not getting up from this couch. This is Ellis into company exists. Wow. Such a go getter. I was working off of my own. I don't know if it'd be laziness, but just like knowing myself. Cause I had sat on it for so long. I mean, and it was just one of those things that I was like, I know if I register it, I will have an app. Like sort of like the government knows I exist, so I have to do something with it. Right. Like I'm gonna have to file paperwork for this. And that was, that was exactly the kick in the pants I needed. And I really started.
Sabrina Scholkowski (09:24):
Yeah. That's a great anecdote. So actually before creating BlackTravelBox, what would you do in those situations where you were traveling and you wouldn't find products? Like would you just compromise? Would you go around town, like a mad woman looking at 50,000 different places? Or what was your standard emo if God forbid you forgot product?
Orion Brown (09:47):
You know, I don't know that I really had too much of a standard cause I was a little hit or miss. Um, I mean there were definitely times I remember like being in Ireland and trying to pop into, you know, the pharmacies there and then realizing, okay, the pharmacies here actually just deal with drugs. Um, they don't have random stuff like ours do. So like trying to find a Tesco or something random different. Uh, so that's always an interesting challenge in and of itself learning how to shop in a place that is smaller. And even if they speak the language, it's still, you know, it can be difficult to kind of like describe what it is that you're trying to get to and what you're looking for. So I've done that. I've done the, you know what, I'm just gonna look crazy and enjoy myself.
Orion Brown (10:29):
Um, that was particularly frequent when I had dive trips. Um, because it would be, I'd be oscillating between sunburn and like super dry skin and hair that is super frizzy because you know, I've been diving, it's been in salt water and doing a whole wash day. Does it make sense? And I've done a little bit of everything. And it was, it was really interesting when I started talking to other women and finding out some of the crazy stuff that they were doing. And when I say crazy, it's, you know, desperation crazy. Right. So it's like, and I just put it in dollars and I brought all my full size stuff, like slept all your stuff. And then he like wills and it's like a whole thing. Or I had with me. And this was the one that really got me where women would tell me multiple women would, you know, I would hear this as a theme.
Orion Brown (11:18):
I didn't even know people were doing it it's Oh, what you do is like, you get a ride. If you're not like driving or, you know, or you get a rental car, so you can get around, but you find the grocery store and then you get coconut oil or grape seed oil and you use that to kind of make your product stretch. So like, when you really have to look good, the little bit of product that you have, you can use it. And then in between you just kind of like touching up with oil and I'm like, you are not a piece of chicken. Why are you covered in oil? Like, unless you have an allergy, which is a little bit thing, like I know there's people that have sensitivities, you cannot, and you just, you know, like can't risk because you don't know what's in stuff. There's no reason that you, as a human being, shouldn't be able to go to a store and find one product made with you in mind.
Orion Brown (12:06):
So, um, that kind of put a fire in my belly and, and I've been very passionate about beauty, double standards and, and the kind of predication of like this idea that there's such a thing as normal skin, normal hair, it's a false hood and it not only hurts African-American women or, you know, African diaspora women across the globe. It hurts all women because we're not like women aren't monoliths, you know? Um, and so the ideal, the ideal doesn't exist, but we're still trying to attain it. And we're still being treated as if we fit into it. And that, that kind of burns my shorts. So BlackTravelBox all the way,
Sabrina Scholkowski (12:45):
Love that. And I definitely can relate not for myself, but because I traveled with my mom a lot and she has kind of like frizzy hair. So her go-to actually, I was laughing at like, in my mind when you were saying the coconut oil, um, my mom, whenever we go travel and she knows it's going to be like a tropical place, she purposely goes like the day we're flying out, she makes me book a plane, like a flight midday or something. So she can go to a salon, get her hair straightened, whatever, and then tries to wait like a week. If it's a long trip, she'll wait like four or five days. And then wherever we are, it doesn't matter if she doesn't speak the language, she'll go to a hair salon and be like, please do keratin or something on me. I'm like, that's insane mom. Yeah.
Orion Brown (13:29):
Yeah. Just, just the convenience of being able to feel like yourself and experience the place that you're going to, rather than being worried about what you look like is I think, you know, a core benefit of, of what I'm trying to do with this brand. Like, so you've done running around and booking, you know, like if something happens, like if you're like suddenly get tickets to like an amazing show and you want to go like full on, you know, drag glam, wonderful, go out, find somebody hook you up, get the makeup done, get their hair done. But for most of us when we're traveling, whether it be for business or pleasure, we just want to look like ourselves and happy and nice and enjoy ourselves and feel like comfortable in our skin. Um, and so that's, that's sort of the goal to help women feel comfortable in their skin.
Sabrina Scholkowski (14:18):
I love that. And I'm sure you're actually doing a great job with it already. So I would love to talk about what we were talking about the whole diversity in situations. So what is your take on why there hasn't been such a diversity leap in terms of beauty hair and skin, not cosmetics, but you know, like creams and hair products and all of that?
Orion Brown (14:39):
Well, I think, you know, I think the first big leap actually began in the late nineties with the natural hair movement, particularly in the Black community. Right. So, um, I grew in sort of the generation that that switch happened in and, you know, it was like, it was pretty standard. If you've ever seen movies like good hair, it was standard to see girls as young as five, getting chemicals, put on their hair to relax their hair and make it straight because of the expectation that it makes you more acceptable in public places, in schools and all of these different, you know, spaces, which is, you know, its own problematic thing. And then we started to kind of rebel against that and go like, we we've all lost. All of our edges are gone, broken off. You know, there was a sort of fallacy in the Black community that we couldn't grow long hair.
Orion Brown (15:33):
And it really wasn't that we couldn't, it was that the products that we were putting on our hair just wasn't particularly healthy and the way in which we were trying to conform, um, not to say that there is nothing, there is nothing wrong with a good you blow out and all of that stuff, more powerful, more wear your hair straight. It was more like convenient, but that pressure, I think we created a new norm where that pressure to be, that kind of went away. And that's where Carol's daughter came out of. And, uh, and a lot of other brands that are now, you know, at their 25 year apex and like really, really massive. They came out of that space of people being like, I need to put natural stuff on my head, cause this is crazy. Um, there was a study a couple years ago that they just looked at, you know, products in the quote unquote ethnic aisle.
Orion Brown (16:21):
And it's not even just like the relaxers, it's the serums, it's the, you know, shine boosters that had chemicals, both not only in the ingredient line, but chemicals that weren't on the, even though on the ingredient list that they found in the products that were just unhealthy, uh, hormone disruptors. And those are the types of things that cause fibroids, which, I mean, Mo if you ask most Black women, at least in the U S if you ask them, like, do you know or are, you know, have you known about somebody in your family or friends that have fibroids? Most of us know several people that we can like name off the top of our heads. Um, and so, yeah, there's been that kind of movement in the hair care space. I think the skincare space hasn't quite gotten there. Um, you know, it's one of those things that we're starting to see differences, like brands like Black girls sunscreen coming out, um, which again, you know, these things aren't about, it's not about like having our own stuff.
Orion Brown (17:22):
It's about filling in the gap in the marketplace, because if you just grab a random bottle of Coppertone and put that on, you're going to come out, looking like, uh, I don't know of zombie mess. Like, like if you would be, if you want to be like in a, in like world war Z 2 then yeah, totally put that on. But otherwise it's terrible. And, and they've been formulated for lighter skin tones and ignored the fact that Black people have skin and we to protect it, even though it does, you know, as we say, it does not crack until it does, uh, we would like our skin as well. And so we're starting to see those changes in the skincare aisle, but it's incremental. And it's, you know, it's, it's small, all of those still culminate to, if you go to the little travel care section, the travel section is just woefully under-representative when we talk about products that have, uh, inclusive formulations and use cases. And so they're, they're not particularly inclusive. They're not particularly innovative. They're like, let me take a big bottle and put it in a small bottle, same issue that the bottle wants to explode. You end up putting like saran wrap around it. There's so many travel hacks to get travel size stuff, to work for travel that it's just like, why not make something that works for travel? And then why not inclusive?
Sabrina Scholkowski (18:48):
Definitely. I honestly don't know why nobody has done this before, because it still blows my mind. Like I'm a fellow traveler like you, and I'm always like, okay, what products am I going to actually take full bottle size? And what products can I live with? Like off samples. Like I purposely go to like Sephora and those stores. And I'm like, can you please give me samples of this? And I will save those for when I have a long trip, so I don't have to take my bottle. Like, it's crazy.
Orion Brown (19:12):
Yeah. And it's, it's interesting to me. I mean, you know, my hypothesis would be that it's expensive for most of these major companies to create truly innovative travel size products. And while the travel size product industry is big and you know, it everybody's like, you know, purchasing these things and spending hundreds of dollars a year on these items. Um, they're just sort of like, you know, it's not really worth it to me. I'll let them figure it out. Cause it does take some changes from a manufacturing perspective and a lot of different things and they're not making as much money on the tiny versions of stuff. So, um, yeah, so I, you know, it's, but it's so simple. And I think it's an interesting concept that, you know, once everything that we make is made for being used at home, which is a very different way of looking at it.
Orion Brown (20:07):
It's like there's 1,001 products you probably have under your sink already. But like, is there one of them that when it was, when they made that they were like, I need to make this, so it's not messy. So it lasts you a long time. So it's easy to like put in your bag. And so you don't have to have like any fights with TSA, like probably not. Yeah. And it's great to right. And like, so many of our customers are like, Oh yeah, I have your body bomb. I have one in my car. I have one in my purse. I have one in the desk at work. And then I have stuff in my gym bag. And then I have my go bag. Like for those of us who were like any day, I might just like up and spend the night or go out and play or want to have a change of clothes or going to the gym. You know, you have that like extra little set of stuff in the trunk of your car. That's, you know, that's how they're being used. And, and it's, it's the convenience of not having to schlep a big thing and worry. Yeah,
Sabrina Scholkowski (21:03):
I definitely agree. So you sound like you have a ton of knowledge from like travel and sizing and all of that. My question is, did you know any of this before creating your business or was it something that you figured out along the way, let alone the business side, like the actual I'm going to create beauty,
Orion Brown (21:20):
The products? Yeah. I mean, from a formulation perspective, it was completely new. Um, I'm going to say something that's going to sound kind of dumb, but it's fundamentally true. If we're not making something that's heavily chemical, like unhealthy, like harmful chemically Laden, it's actually pretty easy to make, like it's rocket science comes in when you start using like different polymers, isomers versions of different chemicals and all that stuff, and you're trying to make something. And the only reason you do that is because you're trying to make like a bionic woman of a product as cheaply as possible. Right. And, you know, having worked in food, you know, I understood enough about the R and D process and the testing and the types of things is actually more robust than frankly cosmetics are. So I had enough knowledge to be dangerous. And there's a ton of knowledge in the marketplace.
Orion Brown (22:17):
Like to be honest, that the cost of entry to, to start a skincare brand is pretty low in terms of like the barriers to entry are pretty low in terms of like, you could start a skincare brand tomorrow formulating at home, or you could go out to a third party and have them formulate for you. For me, it was, I started out with really basic things like the most polarizing items. So shampoo conditioner, or the two Banes of my existence and the Banes of a lot of women's existence. Um, even the guys were like, yeah, I don't mess with that. Like, wow. You know, pay attention. I love it. Um, and then thinking, okay, well, what's the replacement for the body lotions that are notorious for leaving ashy knuckles and making the skin look worse and feel worse. And so, you know, creating like basic body balms and things like that, while the way in which, you know, we make stuff is fairly proprietary. Um, the ingredients though it's like is Shea butter. You say butter sauce, you whip it. Like it's so simple. Um, but it's also things that, again, you look at these big manufacturers they won't do because they're used to taking the same lotion formula and changing the scent and putting a label on it. And that's sort of how the industry works. You're getting, you're buying the same thing with like 15 different labels on it and branding and sense and maybe colors. We'll give you the notion that it's different when it really isn't.
Sabrina Scholkowski (23:51):
I definitely agree with you on that. Having worked on that side before product development, when I found the same thing out, I was like, this is a mental, like, why,
Orion Brown (24:01):
Oh, wait, I got to tell you. So I worked on the light and this is psychologically. It it's, it's a psychological truth. It's not a physical truth in the sense that I'm crystal light. And I think this is true for country time and probably other similar beverages, lemonade and pink lemonade. People are divided like seriously divided on which one is their favorite. Like if you love yellow lemonade or you love pink lemonade, and the only difference is the color. It is literally the coloring that they use in the powder. No, you're kidding. There's no flavor difference, but you're thinking, well, it's what your brain experienced now. Raspberry lemonade is a thing. Strawberry lemonade. Those have different flavors in it, but pink, if it says pink lemonade, they're telling you exactly what it is is lemonade. What is pink? My mind is blown and it's, it's really funny, but we all have sort of those psychological association.
Orion Brown (25:02):
So maybe your mom made you pink lemonade and it was a fun tree. And so now assume like, you're, you know, you just kind of associate like pink lemonade is the best lemonade. It tastes better. And you have all of these associations with it. And that's how brands, um, sort of leverage your emotions to kind of get you like, excited about it. And that's where you'll see things like country time talking about, you know, the, the, the pureness of summer and all of this stuff, because they want to get you to establish [inaudible] and thinking about it and excited. And then you have your preferences and that's how you end up with a business that doesn't cannibalize itself to eliminate flavors. Cause two different people are buying them consistent.
Sabrina Scholkowski (25:42):
That's honestly insane. You have literally blown my mind. Cause I'm also into like branding. I used to work in branding and I knew it from like a product perspective, but I honestly did not know that lemonade and pink lemonade were the exact same thing. I swear my mind is completely blownt right now. I kind of want to do a blind test just to make my brain realize
Orion Brown (26:03):
Sock or something. Cause I mean, it's, it's really funny. It's, you know, people swear, swear by them and there's different things like when people swear by like Manet's versus like miracle whip, okay. Two very different products. They have some similar ingredients, but the flavor profile is completely different. I totally get it. Pepsi versus Coke, actually two different products, two different flavor profiles, pink lemonade lemonade saying it's exactly the same.
Sabrina Scholkowski (26:33):
I'm shocked. I love this. I'm completely shocked. You have blown my mind. So do you think having in the food Sector actually helped you like pivot into the beauty brand sector or like totally unreleased?
Orion Brown (26:52):
No, I think it's very related. I think there's two pieces to it because I am a firm believer. I had a very strong reverence in working in food because I was a decision maker because I was a brand manager. I had a really strong reference for the consumer because the decisions I made affected what people put in their bodies and what you put in your body affects your health. It affects your livelihood. It affects, it affects everything right? And so for me, that reverence was one that I was very cognizant of making good decisions, not cutting corners that would be harmful to people, things of that nature. And I think that that's very, very relevant in the cosmetics industry. The largest organ in your body is on your body, which your skin. So what you're putting on your skin, including your scalp, which means the stuff you're putting on your hair, you put it on your hair, it gets on your scalp or at least the back of your neck, but you're letting stuff into your body.
Orion Brown (27:53):
Um, and so having that basis of that reference, I think is really, really key because there's so many times that it's easy to cut corners. It's easy to say, well, maybe we should just do it this way. Well, we should just like, you know, spin it. And it's like, I really want to do right by consumers because I think that's the only way that we'll become healthier as people healthier as a planet. That's a whole other conversation, but that was a big thing that I took away. I think in terms of technical knowledge, as a brand manager, you could sell tires, toilet paper, or, you know, eyeliner or macaroni and cheese. If you're a good brand manager, you can do any of those. Because, you know, I grew up in Kraft foods, which is a brand company that does like it's full management of the business.
Orion Brown (28:39):
So you're like a mini CEO. So it, you know, people are like, Oh, you're a marketer. And I'm like, maybe 30% of my day was marketing depending on the business. Oftentimes I'm spending time with our finance people and figuring out how our P and L should work, um, going to our plants and talking to the people who are manufacturing, whether we're trying to change our product formulations or how we produce them or make them more efficient or get them out to more customers. And there's so many different moving pieces that I think, you know, people are somewhat surprised when they talk to me about my business. I find that there's a lot of people that have advice for me, God bless them. I mean, people had advice for me when I was working in food. My dad was like, you know what you need to do.
Orion Brown (29:23):
You need to make a butter. And I'm like, Oh God dad, I don't even work. I'm on the beverages side, but everybody has that. Right. Which I think is really fun because that means they're engaged with it. They're like, this is really cool. I want to be part of it. You know, I get a lot of, I would say unsolicited advice. And it's really interesting because people then are taken aback by how I am of how a business works, you know, intimately. And it's because I have that brand background, you know, the types of things that I worked on, it was just, you know, it was one of those things that the businesses were very different. They were produced differently. They went to market differently. They were marketed differently. And so I, you know, I know some obscure stuff that has comes in handy and I can kind of like, you know, go, okay. So if I were to do it this way, what are the five different things I could break? And I'd probably actually seen three or four of them break before in different situations. And so I find that really helpful.
Sabrina Scholkowski (30:17):
Yeah. It's kind of been like a blessing for you.
Orion Brown (30:20):
It was a path that I didn't know was leading to something.
Sabrina Scholkowski (30:23):
I was like, I'll just do this.
Orion Brown (30:24):
Oh, the rest of my life. And then I started my own company and I was like, Oh, Oh, I learned that for a reason. Okay.
Sabrina Scholkowski (30:32):
Well, it always happens like that. It keeps surprising me some things I'm like, wait, I remember studying this in college, but I never thought I was going to use it. That's interesting.
Orion Brown (30:42):
Oh my God.
Sabrina Scholkowski (30:44):
Totally relate with you. What has been your biggest struggle in launching a business? A beauty business?
Orion Brown (30:50):
I would say unexpectedly. And it's kind of one of the things that me off, not to say that I'm an angry person, but I get a little, if I say it was a few things where my shorts, but particularly with beauty, the conversation that I have, especially talking about beauty that is inclusive is that it's a niche idea. You or niche. Oh, okay. Well, that's a lifestyle business, which is code for not anything that people should invest in. Let's just be honest when you're talking to people in the VC sort of industry, they're like, Oh, it's a lifestyle business. It's not a real venture backable business. And it's like, all right, do you know how much Black women spend on beauty products? We spend nine times that, of any other ethnic group in the us. And by the way, we spent $471 million on shampoo.
Orion Brown (31:39):
And we don't even like shampoo like that. We've been billions and billions, we're on like, you know, haircare, skincare. I mean, this is something that we, you want to look at the places that we invest our money and it's like this and shoes. So like what, what do you, what are you expecting? And so that's been a really interesting challenge and it's been a frustration, but I think the core of it for me was getting to a place where I could overcome my frustration with the response. Because if like it's a belief, it just is what it is. And so getting to a place where I became comfortable with that and saying, okay, you know what, clearly I just, I need to just show you that. That's what I'll just do. So it was nice talking to you and let's keep it moving.
Sabrina Scholkowski (32:25):
You'll come back to me. Don't worry. You have a couple of months don't invest in now. Okay. That's fine. I'll talk to you in like what six months when you come back to me. Cool. Yeah, let's do this. It's
Orion Brown (32:37):
All good. It's all good. And the thing is though, I have to say the big lesson that I've, I'm learning in all the places where, you know, maybe I thought things would be easier or different or people would be more helpful or whatever it might be is that while it would be nice to have things handed, right. It would be nice to have those people volunteering and being like, I got you. Let me just look this up real quick. Um, it also leaves room for me to say that I did it. Nobody else did this. You know, it was me and God.
Orion Brown (33:12):
I work when I couldn't do it. That was all God. And the rest of it was me trying to like work out the middle and no one else can say, Oh, I made you. Um, and so, you know, I, I feel like that's a big lesson for anybody who's out there trying to create something or trying to do something that you really believe in. If you find that you're not getting the support that you need. I, my philosophy is, is all the support you need is within you. And at the end of the day, no one can say that they gave you, gave it to you. You you've created, you can create something that is your own, or you can do something that is completely your own, um, that you can really be proud of and, and never have anything, you know, sort of be held against you around that. So
Sabrina Scholkowski (33:55):
I love that. That's a really great belief. I'm going to start adopting it as well. I haven't thought of it that way, but you're completely right.
Orion Brown (34:03):
Sarah lessen, right?
Sabrina Scholkowski (34:08):
Yeah. I can definitely agree with you on that. So you're talking about, you know, things that people would want to create a business that they should know. So specifically for BD brand, what piece of advice would you give to someone that is thinking to create a, any brand or has an idea and would like to create a beauty brand, regardless if it's like shampoo, cosmetics, makeup, whatever it is, what would be your number one tip from your experience,
Orion Brown (34:36):
If you're just starting out and you have an idea before you start going out to people and being like, well, how do I formulate it? Well, how do I package it? And all of that stuff, those things are wonderful. Those are good things to think about. And they're, they're like those first few steps, but I would start with who is this for? And what does it meant to be to them? You almost want to think of two people in your head. The first person is who the brand is for. And the second person is the brand itself. And you start with who the brand is for, because it has to serve her. Right? So like, it's sort of like matchmaking, if you have, if you have a couple of single friends and you want to put them together, you first think about, well, like, would this be a good match?
Orion Brown (35:17):
You know, does he like going out to concerts? Cause she's always at a concert. She really loves music and you go, okay. So he does like that, but she likes to cook a lot and he has no palette and all whatsoever eat anything. So maybe that'll work. Right. And you kind of like you iterate and you go, cause ultimately you don't want to her to somebody that's going to be a waste of her time. So you were like, really be clear about who she is. Well, okay. Is she like financially responsible? She's a person that's always taken out a calculator. When you guys go to dinner, who's the kind of guy that's going to want to deal with the girl that has a calculator ready for the dinner tab. Right. And, and what is she like to do on her weekends? And is she outdoorsy and all of those different things.
Orion Brown (36:00):
And then you come back to him and you go, okay, does he fit? And if he doesn't fit, okay, do I know somebody else that does? And so you do that iterative process. And even with your consumer, like, don't worry about making it up because making it up as completely, that's exactly it. Like you can't make up a person that doesn't exist in the world. This is why when people read novels like Harry Potter, they can still look at a person who lives in a complete fantastical world and still relate to them because there's nothing that we can come up in our heads that doesn't exist. Particularly when it comes to people being really clear about who she is, describe her, how she thinks, where she lives. Is she young and broke? Is she older? And, and, you know, rolling in it, you know, as you're on her fifth divorce and she's like loaded enough to get her own yacht, like whatever it is, make that whole picture.
Orion Brown (36:52):
And I actually personally make the picture from somebody I know or different people that I know. And I'll piece them together into a Franken lady and then I'll go, okay, so what does she need? And then I'll start to design the product around it because otherwise here's, what's going to happen. Shiny things will give you headaches and you'll never get to something you're really happy with. Cause if you have a clear decision as to who she is and what she wants, you're going to have somebody design a logo and you're gonna be like, I got 15 logos. You guys, which ones should I pick? And asking your friends on Facebook is never going to help. I can tell you that right now, unless they're ugly. Unless like the low, Oh, like there's like a clearly ugly logo and a clearly pretty one you're going to be like, I still can't pick one.
Orion Brown (37:32):
But if you know what she wants, you'll know which logo she wants. And if you know what she wants you to know what package she wants and if you know what she wants, you'll know what ingredients she wants. And you can brief everybody based off of that, the creatives, the R and D people, the, if you have, you know, hire somebody to formulate, or even if you formulate yourself, you know what ingredients not to get like, Oh, she's not going with that in there. Now we can't use that. Oh, it has to all be organic. Oh, it has all be vegan. All the colors have to be super bright. Don't send me any pastels, like whatever it might be. So that those are the two things I would focus on.
Sabrina Scholkowski (38:05):
Those are great pieces of advice. And I'm sure people are going to have their notepads writing down because that was bomb advice. So you've survived a pandemic in your business. What has that taught you for your business? How to pivot, because it's based off of like, you're traveling and you're getting these products to travel. Like what have you learned about that through your business? It's surviving a pandemic.
Orion Brown (38:29):
We are still in the process of surviving. I think we all are. Um, where are your mask people please? I understand now the rest of the world has, has good sense. We're still working it out. Um, but I think it really is. So there was two, there was one major decision that I had to make cause everybody was pivoting. Right? So you hear stories of, um, the bakery that had to shut down and they almost had to fire everyone, but then they realized they could just package up bread, making kits and sell those online great pivot. Right. Um, you know, the nail salon that created their own, like on the go truck where you could stop at the truck and put your hands in like a little plastic barrier and they would do your nails for you while you're standing there on the street. Like, so there's some really cool pivots, but ultimately when you're doing a pivot, the core of it that makes it make sense is that you're actually still on your mission and you're still on your sort of product goal.
Orion Brown (39:34):
So if you go from selling finished bread to selling bread kits, you're still essentially selling bread to people. Um, and so for me it was where is the line? And I knew the line was travel. I really, I was like, you know, the big differentiator for us because again, it's not, it's not crazy hard to get into the beauty industry and start something. Um, it's like, you know, our core really is we are for out of home use and everybody's stuck at home. So am I screwed? Like that was a conversation. I haven't fought with myself for a few weeks.
Orion Brown (40:15):
And it really culminates to a couple things. One was, you know, small pivots, like creating donation products that were basically our products bundled up as gifts for frontline workers. That was very practical. Let's keep the cash flowing, let, let people know who we are, what we're not trying to be like, uh, you know, the local insurance guy, that's like selling masks. It's like, why, why are you doing that? Oh, because everybody needs one. No, that's a little, that's a little slimy. Right? Like, um, and so, so doing those things and then launching, we launched a staycation collection, which is like, we've got candles that are basically inspired by, you know, travel locales and giving you an opportunity to kind of, you know, mentally get away if you can't physically do so. So it really was about iterating the pivot in such a way that it wasn't a full turnaround, but it was just something that was an extension that really made sense with our brand and what we could do.
Orion Brown (41:16):
And I think, you know, it's good to have those ideas in your back pocket because stuff can, you know, crap happens and it happens really quickly and it will be unexpected. And just like, you don't want to drive without car insurance. You should have some plan BS in the of, if my factory burned down tomorrow, if my website, if my Instagrams get shut down and I got to start over and I have no fans, like what is this going to look like? And how could I potentially try to get around that? So it really taught me the true, tangible value of plan B. That's okay
Sabrina Scholkowski (41:52):
To look at it. Definitely. And yeah, like you said, there's a fine line, so glad you guys didn't cross it and you still stayed within your genius zone and I'm sure you're going to continue doing great. So with that said, what do you see as the travel, the travel, the future of BlackTravelBox? What's next for you?
Orion Brown (42:10):
Oh my gosh. As I look into my magic eight ball with people wearing masks and trying not to sneeze on each other, I would say, I think the vision is still very much the same. I think the timing is what becomes the gray area. Um, I'm really actually excited for the holidays. We have some new gift packs and things like that. That'll be coming out and, you know, gifts don't necessarily have to be practical. Like it, in fact, they're better when they're not, you know, it's like kind of cool when somebody gives you cool, you know, tube socks, but not when it's like a Christmas gift. Um, and so while you can wrap it and it is very important to wrap it very nicely. I think giving gifts that have personality that have care. And then I think we're going to have a really good holiday.
Orion Brown (42:58):
And I think coming into next year, presumably when travel really opens back up for the us fingers crossed, knock on wood. God, because things won't be normal. There won't be normal as we know it, right? Like tons and tons of people are working from home and all kinds of stuff. But I do think there will be a sort of bounce back boom in travel. Um, probably less so from a business travel perspective, but definitely more so from a, I've been in my house for eight months and you better not get in my way because I'm getting I'm about to get on this flight right from all the weddings that got canceled and all the honeymoons that got delayed,
Sabrina Scholkowski (43:37):
Oh my God, 2021 is going to be wedding and honeymoon central
Orion Brown (43:42):
People being like, Oh, I had planned for, and I still have credits on my carnival cruise. So let me go run. Um, I think it will be good and I'm not in a rush because fundamentally, you know, I started at BlackTravelBox. I mean, I started to create a brand and a company, but core of it really is wellness. Cause I really believe in the power of travel as a form of self-care. And if I believe that people should have self care and I believe that people should be well, then I certainly shouldn't encourage people to do things that won't make them well. And so when it's safe, when we've all gotten our cooties under control, we'll be here. And until then, you know, we hope people still hang around for the ride. Cause we'll have some fun stuff and you know, frankly, you still hopefully are shampooing your hair at home. So anyway, you know,
Sabrina Scholkowski (44:34):
Zoom dates and zoom meetings and all of that. Right.
Orion Brown (44:38):
Exactly. I mean, I guess they don't, zoom comes up with like smell vision. I think we'll, we'll see
Sabrina Scholkowski (44:45):
The day that happens is the death of everyone.
Orion Brown (44:49):
Rosemary mint shampoo. Cause my hair smells like my cat. Um, yeah.
Sabrina Scholkowski (44:56):
Oh my God. You're so funny. Or I am, I swear like this, it's just great. My last question to you. My favorite one, I always ask this. It's like the way I ended up before the fun part. So I'm pretty sure you've had an experience where you feel, or you felt like you're probably the only one to live it or, you know, experience it. Can you tell us what it was and what, what do you tell other people that might be living, thinking or experiencing the same thing?
Orion Brown (45:25):
So there's something that I feel like I'm the only person that's gone through it.
Sabrina Scholkowski (45:29):
Yeah. Like maybe it's a thought a fear, a situation, something that you're like, Oh my God. Why?
Orion Brown (45:35):
So, so I've had a pretty eclectic and interesting life. Um, and without getting too deep, I would say, you know, I've just, I've had a number of people in my life with mental health issues that have affected me very personally. And I think it's one of those because there is a culture of sort of get rid of toxic people. You know, you can't be in my space if you're not like lifting me up and I can't. And, and so there's a, there's a bit of a blame game that happens. And I think it's really very much external where people are like, well, you just, you're just allowing people to be that way. It's like, yeah. But if they were diabetic, you wouldn't say I'm allowing them to be diabetic. It's a physical ailment that expresses itself behaviorally. And so for me, I've had those moments where I'm like, nobody else can be going through this, right?
Orion Brown (46:30):
Nobody can be this alone. Nobody can be this, um, hurt by life or why don't I have X key person that I expected to have at these milestones in my life there. And what, the thing that I realized is we all have that thought and we're all wrong. We're all completely wrong. There is no thing that we have gone through today or yesterday that someone else hasn't gone through or a thousand someones haven't gone through, it's humorous to think that like you're, so I don't want to say so special that the world hates you, that God hates you, that there's like this raincloud over your life because there are so many worst things that could be happening. They're definitely better things, but there are so many worst things that could be happening and whatever your thing is that you're like, I'm the only one I guarantee you, there is someone else. And the best thing that you can do is find your strength, go through it and then let someone else know that they'll be okay because they probably think they're the only one too
Sabrina Scholkowski (47:38):
Beautiful. I definitely agree with you on that. It's always good to like, not give back just for the sake of giving back, but just putting yourself in the position like you were saying, when I was in that place, I would have loved somebody come and tell me, like, you're going to be fine. Staying in that lane and being like, Oh, I can maybe help someone. Or if not, at least someone out there will listen or someone out there will see it and hopefully it'll make a change. So I definitely agree with you. I always love asking a question. I always get diverse answers, never have they gotten the same line. And it's really interesting to see everybody's perspective on the questions. So it's like the most fun one that always happens. Definitely. Definitely with that being said, now we're going into the rapid fire questions that are the more fun part of the interview so that we can end the podcast. Are you ready for this?
Orion Brown (48:28):
I am. I, I should have made myself like a martini or something, but um, I'm not gonna do that.
Sabrina Scholkowski (48:35):
Orion Brown (48:37):
Okay. I'm ready for it.
Sabrina Scholkowski (48:39):
Okay. Number one, what person dead or alive would you like to have dinner with?
Orion Brown (48:43):
Ooh, Michelle Obama.
Sabrina Scholkowski (48:48):
Ooh. I would love to have turn with her as well. She seems so powerful and like feisty
Orion Brown (48:53):
if you read their books and everything. And I think, you know, you get these informal mentors in life. If you actually take the time, like read their books and read their memoirs and listen to their interviews and stuff. But then I just want to be like, so when was the time that you really wanted to choke former president Barack Obama? How did you find the inner strength? Not to kill him and like, you know, there's just stuff. And then she's also from Chicago, I'm from Chicago. So there's just questions about just life from her point of view that I would love to ask that are just so I don't know, surgically pointed, they're so very specific that I just think it would be really amazing conversation. And um, and she has a lot of wisdom and encouragement and there's something about her that it just seems like she comes in a room, the atmosphere changes. So, so you need to have those types of encounters. It, you know, as much as you can in life. Yeah.
Sabrina Scholkowski (49:50):
Michelle, if you're listening, um, there are two people here that would love to hang out with you. So, you know, just like,
Orion Brown (49:58):
Sabrina Scholkowski (50:02):
Okay. Number two. Would you rather travel the world for a year on a shoestring budget or stay in only one country for a year, but live in complete luxury?
Orion Brown (50:13):
Oh, luxury. I'm bougie as hell. Like let's just not, I'm not even going to pretend. I remember. So I grew up in, you know, like sort of in a cultural space that like people didn't couldn't afford, you know, passports, weren't traveling to a bunch of different countries. And so after college, I, after I'd been exposed to all these people and I had friends that were from different countries and all of this stuff, I didn't even realize until like probably my senior year of college, that there was such a thing as backpacking through Europe, I was like, what do you mean? So you have a backpack on, and then you just walk. I did not know what it was. Um, and then they would tell me, and they're like, you stay at hostels and they're super cheap and you just have bunk beds. And I was like, wait, you stay at a place called hostile. Like I'm hot. So I realized very early, even before I had my passport, I was like, Oh, I never want to go someplace that cheap. Like I just don't, that's not my style. Give me, give me bubble baths and park Avenue, all that. Um, yeah. Money, money is the root of all evil. It's just the love of it. I love the things that it gets me not necessarily what it is. So
Sabrina Scholkowski (51:23):
I completely agree with you. See, we're kind of like kindred spirits.
Orion Brown (51:27):
Oh, definitely. Most definitely. Here's the thing, the best food, whether it's tons of street food, like, you know, eating, eating street food until you puke. And not because it's because you've eaten too much, um, or going to like Michelin star restaurants that takes cash. Like you can cheaply, but if you're going to like go human backroom your way through, like, I dunno, Thailand, you're still gonna need enough money to do it.
Sabrina Scholkowski (51:55):
I agree with you on that, on that note, travel or stay at home.
Orion Brown (51:59):
Ooh, that's a hard one. I love traveling, but there is definitely a time to come home and be in my own bed. There's definitely a time to be at home. Um, right at the time I love to travel.
Sabrina Scholkowski (52:12):
Okay. And that's valid. I'll take that response magazine or books.
Orion Brown (52:16):
Ooh. Um, magazines, short
Sabrina Scholkowski (52:22):
Mountains or beach
Orion Brown (52:24):
Beach, or if you're in Croatia, you can lay on the beach and look up at the mountains. I love that.
Sabrina Scholkowski (52:32):
Looking at the ways to trick the situation. I like that. Okay. Full face of makeup or barely any makeup.
Orion Brown (52:40):
Ooh, barely any makeup with the right routine.
Sabrina Scholkowski (52:45):
Okay. That works spicy or sweet.
Orion Brown (52:48):
Ooh, spicy, definitely love that.
Sabrina Scholkowski (52:51):
And last one, would you rather wake up early or asleep out if you have the chance?
Orion Brown (52:56):
I am not a morning person. So I would probably sleep in and just kind of, yeah, I'm a night owl. So like, I start to get my second wind. It'll be like 1130 at night and I'm like, crap. I missed my pants. I'm going to be up for a while now. Um, so yeah, not really a morning person.
Sabrina Scholkowski (53:14):
Okay. Okay. I agree with you on that. Same for me. I also stay up really late and I have not been able to sleep until like 2:00 AM in the morning and this whole pandemic. So thanks corona.
Orion Brown (53:23):
Yeah. Take hot bath. Hot baths really do help me. I go for a full on hot bath with Epsom salt or like, um, you know, I was going to say flavored salts scent itself and just like soak, like you're going to a spa and you know, get nice and hot change your sheets before you do it. So that like your bed is nice and cool and has fresh sheets in it. And then I also use the calm app, um, which does deep sleep meditation stuff. And I don't know what the lady saying. I'm usually out within five minutes.
Sabrina Scholkowski (53:59):
You heard it here first, everybody now, you know, the best tip to go to bed is hot shower, nice clean sheets and meditate till you fall asleep.
Orion Brown (54:12):
Yes, definitely. Care of yourself.
Sabrina Scholkowski (54:16):
Love that. Love that. Well, Orion, thank you. So, so, so much for chatting with me today. Honestly, you are just a gem. You're so funny. I don't even know if you know, you're really funny, but like put things you say and the way you say them, I'm just like, I really want to be your friends.
Sabrina Scholkowski (54:34):
If you're ever in Paris, please hit me up. I will go out with you to eat for a drink, to walk around, like whatever it is, feel free, please.
Orion Brown (54:42):
I love that. I'm totally taking you up on it. It's done.
Sabrina Scholkowski (54:46):
I'll wait for your next year because this year it's a bit complicated, but.
Orion Brown (54:50):
I'm a wait. I want to be able to have baguettes without having to like move a mask out of the way. Cause I will eat all the bread and butter. That's just how it's going down.
Sabrina Scholkowski (54:57):
Well, perfect. I'll be waiting for your next year here. And then we'll take pictures and we'll show everybody. I love it. There's always, you will find the links and information to follow both me and BlackTravelBox, where to buy, how to shop and all of that in the episode description. So please let me know what you think. Please give me some feedback, leave a little bit for review, send this to someone that you would like to listen. You know, whatever it is, share. That's how we grow. That's how we get more amazing people like Orion here as a guest. So I will see you guys next week and peace out of your buddy. Thanks again, Orion.
Orion Brown (55:33):
Thanks so much for having me.
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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