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Audio and Photo Credit: Kyra Ariana
A chat about beauty, travel, and mental wellness... we LOVE it! Listen to our Founder and CEO chat with The Selfcare Plug podcast about her love for travel and how she started BlackTravelBox®.
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The Selfcare Plug
Ep 12 Travelling, Getaways and Mental Health
Kyra Ariana ( 00:21 ):
You are now officially plugged into the Selfcare Plug. The Selfcare Plug is a podcast where we talk about various topics of self-care and mental health for black women. Every two weeks, we will discuss how to navigate this world while caring for yourself, physically and mentally. I'm your host, Kyra Ariana.
Kyra Ariana ( 00:53 ):
Today. We have Orion Brown, Founder and CEO of BlackTravelBox, a premium clean beauty brand targeting women of color. She is a brand strategy professional with over 15 years of experience. Her areas of deep expertise include consumer insights, brand strategy and business management. Before becoming a full-time entrepreneur. She led brand strategies for Oracle digital marketing for Hasbro mobile games and spent the bulk of her brand career at Kraft foods there, she led marketing management and operations initiatives across several beloved global brands. She received her bachelor of arts in human development and psychology from the University of Chicago. And she holds an MBA in strategy and product marketing from Duke university's school of business. Most of all Orion is a lover of travel and food spending. Most of her free time outside of her career is pursuing the best of both. She has been to 17 countries and already has her eye on numbers 18 through 20, as soon as we're done with cold today, we're talking about how traveling can help the mind, give you a nice restart and what are some alternatives during this pandemic Orion. We'll also be sharing her story.
Kyra Ariana ( 02:12 ):
So I really appreciate you coming in today and for us to record this podcast, but I wanted to ask you before we start what made you choose this topic?
Orion Brown ( 02:24 ):
I just think, you know, for, and thank you for having me, by the way. I appreciate you having me on I think it's really important for us to talk about the many modalities of self-care that are out there. And for, for me, I've used travel as a form of self-care for the bulk of my career. So 15 years in corporate it's, it's a very stressful just in general, and to be a woman and a woman of color having a release valve that enabled me to sort of reconnecting with myself, reconnect with my spirituality, as well as frankly, restore a little faith in people that's, what's traveled, travel has done for me. And I see that happening within particularly the black community as well that others are getting, you know, sort of a similar benefit.
Kyra Ariana ( 03:14 ):
Awesome. So thank you for sharing, why you decided that I will be a good topic. What's your experience as a black woman traveling?
Orion Brown ( 03:24 ):
I really enjoyed traveling and I think that, you know, there's a little trip edition for black women in particular, just, you know, is the world safe? Are people gonna be accepting? Are we going to have to deal with, you know, racism and other BS? But I would say, you know, 80 to 90% of the travel has been really, really positive and really edifying for me, there have been one or two places where I was like, Ooh, I really didn't like that. But in comparison to what I would say a typical week would look like in the States traveling while black has been a considerably more positive experience.
Kyra Ariana ( 04:05 ):
Okay. That's great. So how does, how does traveling help you mentally based on your own personal experience?
Orion Brown ( 04:15 ):
So for me, I think, you know, I kind of mentioned it earlier. It's sort of a threefold, right? So it enables me to really connect with myself, spending time with myself exploring really, I think it's like a meditation, right? So when you meditate, you're looking at, you're looking for an opportunity to calm yourself, slow everything down. It's not about not thinking it's about noticing thoughts and like it kind of accepting them and then like pushing them along. And I think that that's very similar to the experience that I have traveling, whether it be on the plane, just kind of in my own thoughts, in my own head and watching the clouds and kind of getting that moment of relaxation and quiet, or whether that be sitting at a cafe somewhere and watching people go by giving them that opportunity for me to just get acquainted with myself and really enjoy my own company besides that though, even when I travel with other people.
Orion Brown ( 05:15 ):
And, certainly even when I travel solo and interact with other people in new places, there's something really edifying about being able to share a laugh with somebody or to share a commonality with someone who grew up or lives, you know, halfway across the globe. And so that, that ability to sort of connect with people, connect with myself and then finally, you know, connecting with God. I kind of see God in everything, whether it be an urban situation, you know, in a city somewhere, or whether it be on top of table mountain, which I think most people will have some type of spiritual experience. If you can pop up on top of table mountain, or you go to Cape of good hope and, and you see the ocean and, you know, you were looking out and it is vast and you are small and there is a beauty to it.
Orion Brown ( 06:03 ):
That that can't be compared. And so all of those things sort of make up the travel experience for me. And I travel to seek those experiences out and to ground myself outside of sort of the grind of a regular day at home.
Kyra Ariana ( 06:25 ):
And that's important about what you said about connection, about connecting with yourself, connecting with God, connecting with people is so important and it's important for black women as well to know that you can connect with other people and not have to feel that you're alone, or you can connect with yourself, you know, sit with your feelings. So those are all wonderful things that you mentioned. I really like that. So what are some tips you'd give black women travelers?
Orion Brown ( 06:53 ):
I would say in general, you know, what, what I am about and what I believe in, and really what the impetus for BlackTravelBox my company is, is, you know, we're not going to save the world with body balm. I know that that's not the point, but we want people to be as present as possible and to soak up the most out of the experience as possible. So rather than running around, trying to find products that work for you, being upset because TSA snags your stuff and trying to hop a cab to a grocery store to go find body oil or coconut oil or whatever. You can be using that time to fully immerse in the experience that you're in and to get the most out of that, whether you're traveling somewhere or even going to the gym. I think it's amazing to me, how much particularly black women give concession to a product problem.
Orion Brown ( 07:47 ):
And if it affects, you know, our lives in a way, right? So if I want to go to the gym, now I gotta plan out how I'm going to make my edges work. And did I just get my hair done and do I really want, and these are all things it's like when we're forgoing things like hygiene, hygiene is not only a physical you know, a physical thing it's emotional as well when you don't feel right. You know, when you, when you're not clean from head to toe for a lot of us, I would say the feeling is like, you know, it kind of takes something away from you. It kind of diminishes you a bit. And so when we're doing things like going on vacations and using protective styles for, you know, two and a half weeks and not being, not feeling comfortable washing our hair or things like that, that's sort of takes away from it. And so what I want is for us to be as holistically ourselves and feel as much of ourselves as we can, wherever we go and get the most out of the experience and the most out of the journey. So for black women in particular, when you travel, I just really suggest that you do as much as you can to force being present and force being, you know, completely in that moment, enjoying that moment, observing that moment and taking it in because you'll never have that moment back again.
Kyra Ariana ( 09:07 ):
Yes, those are beautiful words being present is so important. You know, so many things you can learn on that trip without having to worry about your hygiene, like you said, because you know, just having those things in place for them, you know, and it's just, it is really important. So that's beautiful. I like that. So now that we're in the middle of the pandemic, what are some tips you would give for staycations or et cetera? And I know you talked about being at the gym, that's something that you could really focus on, but what are some, what are some alternatives?
Orion Brown ( 09:42 ):
Yeah. So I would say during this whole, like COVID and the world trying to burn itself down and all of the craziness that's happening we do have to take time for ourselves and if a vacation or extended travel isn't possible, and then, you know, taking a staycation can be a really great alternative and they don't have to be, I mean, there's plenty of things that you can do in your own backyard. You can also do things, things like road trips, but ultimately the key here is to make sure that you completely unplug, right. So if you were going on a trip to, I don't know Mozambique, you would not be paying it. We, most of us don't, we would not be paying extra to have our phone on and all that stuff. We'd be like, well, they can get out, they can leave us a message we'll be back next week or whatever it is.
Orion Brown ( 10:29 ):
Right. So I would do the same thing with a staycation. So you can do something as simple as, you know, go on Groupon or, or, you know, go directly to the hotel website, find like a fancy-schmancy hotel in your town. And give yourself a night or two there, do a spa day, and completely unplug, turning the phone off. If it's an emergency, they can call the front desk, but give yourself that space to be completely unplugged and immersed in another space that isn't like your own. That gives you the opportunity to, again, just be with yourself, be with your thoughts, enjoy yourself, do something you really like pamper yourself. If you can. If you're looking for something that's less on the relaxing side and more on the adventure side, I highly recommend taking a road trip, like take you, take your hand sanitizer and your masks and hop in the car and drive somewhere, go somewhere rural, go find a mountain, go find a valley.
Orion Brown ( 11:26 ):
A good friend of mine recently went to Sedona and it was absolutely gorgeous and it was a wonderfully edifying trip and she didn't have to interact with a ton of other people. It wasn't like, you know, tourist trap going to Disneyland kind of thing. It was, you know an opportunity for her to relax, to get some sun, to, to see God's creation and to really enjoy herself. So you can do it a number of different ways. It doesn't have to be long but spend some time with yourself and get away from the space that you've been stuck in.
Kyra Ariana ( 11:58 ):
Those are all great things. Our audience can definitely take away from that. So, yeah, I think you touched on it a little bit about the BlackTravelBox, but can you expound upon what made you start BlackTravelBox?
Orion Brown ( 12:12 ):
Yeah, so I started BlackTravelBox. So women of color could have a brand that they could go to that really acknowledges them within, you know, their interests of travel and acknowledges them as black women. Oftentimes we see in the marketplace, there's a, there's a beauty, double standard. We're not included. The fact that we have our own sort of, I hate to say segregationist aisle, but we have our own aisle, this ethnic aisle, which isn't an ethnic aisle because you don't see the Indian products. You don't see Korean products. You just see, you know, black products. The fact that there's still normal on the bottle of shampoo, that you can look at a bottle of shampoo and says, it's for normal hair.
Orion Brown ( 12:59 ):
And you can know that that shampoo doesn't do anything for your health, your hair or your scalp is on so many different levels. And so that's why I created, I mean, it started out as a passion project. I was traveling to Japan and hadn't really planned for the trip beyond just kind of saying, look, I got my clothes, it's going to be flat. We're going to be in Tokyo. It's going to be dope. And then I got there and we decided to pop over to Okinawa. And I didn't realize that like Tokyo is basically, you know, Washington, DC kind of, you know, the DMV area, mid-Atlantic, you know, it's pretty mild. It can get hot in the summer, but this was in may breezy, reasonable temperatures, all of that. And then we land in Okinawa and it is a whole hotpot.
Orion Brown ( 13:42 ):
Like it was 90 degrees, 80% humidity. And my hair said, Nope, I'm done. I forget about it. You can have a, have a nice day. And so I was jacked from like the whole trip on from there. And I had my little bottles of conditioner and I was like, they're not going to get this. Like, this is not this isn't cool. And I was, I was mad about it. And my partner at the time, he was like, well, you know, why don't you do something about it? Why don't you create it? And so that was, that was the inception of the idea. I kind of sat on it for six months or so. And then I was like, Nope, you either, you know, pick it off the pot, you got to do something. And so I incorporated my LLC in August of 2017 and really started to work on the business and build out the brand idea, you know, just as a patch and project nights and weekends in about a year, year and a half later, I was really had my fill of corporate.
Orion Brown ( 14:39 ):
I was like, there's no trip is gonna fix this. Right? Like, no, I need to be done with this. And so when I walked out of corporate, I said, you know, God, what's next? I can go get a job, but maybe BlackTravelBox could be something really interesting. And so I gave it three months and said, show me either, let me just, you know, fail miserably or show me that there's something here. And I had some of the most astounding three months of my life in that time period as it pertains to the business. And so I stayed on and I've been doing it ever since and, and building and creating
Kyra Ariana ( 15: 30):
Yes, we stan, we stan a black woman and her business. Yes. I love it. So what makes your brand stand out though? I think the biggest thing is that we, we are very, very much focused on the out of home use, right?
Orion Brown ( 15:39 ):
I think the biggest thing is that we, we are very, very much focused on the out of home use, right? So we're seeing a boom in products and product companies that are actually addressing us. Cause it's, it's black women that are creating them, right? Like, it's not like the mainstream. If I see one more, I was gonna use the brand name, but I'm not going to do it. If I see one more gold bottle on the shelf, like to tell us that it's for black people is empty. That's what the big companies do. Right? Like they just, they add some Shea butter, they put a shae butter Shana picture on the front of the package. And they're like, this is for you. And it's once you, right. And then the ads only run on a bet. They don't run anywhere else. And haven't been on the other side of this in the brand and, and, and seeing how those choices are made. It just infuriates me, but we have some amazing businesses that are coming up and they're all focused on, you know, all the regimens and all of these different things, but they're still not practical for taking somewhere, you know, for going out somewhere.
Orion Brown ( 16:35 ):
So if you're gonna spend more than a few hours outside of the home and you have a personal care regimen need there really isn't anything out there. And so I think for us, we have a unique opportunity because the business is built around that use case. All of our products right now are anhydrous, which means there's no water in them, our body balm, no water. So when you go and get a body butter from like the big name brands, the first ingredient is water. And then you start getting into these different waxes and all this of stuff. And this is why you're ashy and dry 20 minutes later. So it's all about being really efficient with what we're giving you, making sure it lasts long, making sure it doesn't spill, making sure that it just, if you are not sitting at home on your counter or in your, or in your product graveyard, that most of us have usually have one under the cabinet. And then one like in a backup load, right. If it's not there, how do we create something that is inherently convenient and works for you and anticipate your needs? And so I think that that's what really makes us unique in the marketplace. And it'll be really hard for other brands to follow, especially the big ones, because it's going to take them really thinking differently about the products.
Kyra Ariana ( 17:51 ):
Yep. So you hear that sis? She's here for you. She's here for us
Orion Brown ( 17:57 ):
All the way, all the way.
Kyra Ariana ( 18:01 ):
What message would you like to leave with our audience today? Like if they had to walk away with one thing, what would that be?
Orion Brown ( 18:10 ):
Take care of yourself. As, as women, we are societally program to take care of other people. As black women, we are called to be superheroes, take care of yourself. Superheros like even Superman had a fortress of solitude. Like that was the built-in. They sent him, this is me getting nerdy. They sent him to earth with instructions on how to make a place to go rest. Cause they're like, you got a lot of work to do. You got a lot to go out there and handle up one and you need to make sure that you remember to recharge your batteries and take care of yourself and to rest. And to pour back into yourself, your mental and emotional health are huge to that. Your body won't function, right? If your mind isn't right, your, your life, your relationships, your children, those things can't function, right. If you can't, if you're not taking care of you. And so that has to be a priority. And I know the first thought is, well, I don't have time. Well, I don't have this. Well, I have that. Girl make it, lock people out, shut them down. If they are hungry, they can wake and wait another 45 minutes. They'll be all right. They will not die.
Orion Brown ( 19:25 ):
So that's what I would say is just, you know, really take care of yourself and pour into yourself. And you will, you will receive dividends on that.
Kyra Ariana ( 19:33 ):
Yeah. And that's important because as black women, we wear so many hats that it could become a stressful and strenuous on us, especially our mental health. So that's a good point. So if you have 30 seconds and you have 30 seconds, what would you tell your younger self?
Orion Brown ( 19:55 ):
30 seconds and talk to my younger self. So I would say the path in front of you, I can't give you all the details, but the best thing that you can do is just sort of stand in your truth, stand in faith, and be ready to endure. Everything will come and go. It will be the joys. It will be the pains that is truly just life. And if you know that your end isn't any particular situation, then you will endure it and, and you'll be good. And you'll make it far enough to go tell your younger self something.
Kyra Ariana ( 20:36 ):
All right. So thank you so much for this is really informative. And it just really felt like a good, like a good hug from somebody that's like, "Sis, I got your back." And I really appreciated that. So thank you so much for coming on. Where can our listeners find you?
Orion Brown ( 20:48 ):
So you can find me personally, Orion underscore Helena on all social platforms. So hit me up and my company, BlackTravelBox. You can find us on all social platforms as well as at BlackTravelBox. And you can find us on our website www.theblacktravelbox.com. Thanks so much for having me.
Kyra Ariana ( 21:24 ):
Thanks for plugging into The Selfcare Plug this week. Make sure to visit our website, www.kyraariana.com or Kyra Ariana dot com and sign up for our newsletter where we will bring you all the new, new follow us on Instagram at K Y R a H a R I a N a underscore Kyra Ariana underscore. Well, we will continue to be your source of education, encouragement and fun. If you love the show and or this episode, please leave us feedback at our email at hello at Kira Ariana's dot com. Shoot us a DM on the gram. Thanks for listening. See you in two weeks and stay plugged in my queens.
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