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May 12, 2020 0 Comments
This week's featured crush is Zelia. This avid traveler has visited over 22 countries and 4 continents so far. Her gorgeous beach shots have us longing for a tropical escape. Discover some of Zelia's best travel tips and tricks.
May 05, 2020 0 Comments
This week we're excited to feature Chanice "Queenie" Williams. This gorgeous travel blogger has wowed us with her beautiful shots from all over the world. Her passion for travel is evident by her Instagram, blog, and other projects. Queenie Co-Founded Black Millenial Travels, a group highlighting travelers of color on Instagram and hosts "Sip n' Trip" Brunches in different cities.
April 28, 2020 0 Comments
Evani Hawkins, A.K.A EvaniwithaV, is a beauty vlogger and avid traveler from Atlanta. When she's not sharing the best tips and tutorials for growing luscious, healthy hair, Evani shares gorgeous shots from her travels abroad.
April 21, 2020 0 Comments
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December 28, 2019 0 Comments
Audio and Photo Source: Wanda Duncan and Black Women Travel Podcast
Orion Bown, our Founder & CEO, joined Wanda Duncan on the Black Women Travel Podcast. Orion shared how travel has allowed her to "put her blackness down" versus wearing it all the time in America. She also talked about the challenges she's faced through her entreprenerial journey.
Want to get to know us a little better? Pour yourself a drink and listen below.
Episode also available on:
Black Women Travel Podcast
Episode 26: Orion Brown of The Black Travel Box
Orion Brown (00:00:02):
I get what happens to people and Starbucks and Philly and I'm like, ah, it is not me. It's you. And that's, that's a helpful feeling. I think there's a need to have a space where my personhood and my black body can step in and there's a different story around it.
Wanda Duncan (00:00:34):
From somewhere around the world, welcome to the Black Women Travel Podcast. Hi, my name is Wanda Duncan and I'm so glad you're joining me as we explore the paths of black women who've made travel a large part of their lives. Welcome to the show.
Wanda Duncan (00:01:05):
Hey loves, it's Wanda, the host of the Black Women Travel Podcast. I'd like to invite you to become a patron of the black women travel podcast. There are a few budget friendly tiers you can choose from, so that as a community we can continue to heal, ask for what we deserve, get it, and inspire the next generation. Tap the link in the show notes and choose a monthly contribution that suits you. I'm so excited about the episodes you'll hear that will nudge you to love yourself deeper and take more action in your life. From that empowered place, please consider becoming a monthly subscriber through patrion.com/bwt pod. Get ready to hear another great episode. So thank you so much for joining us today. Can you please tell us your name, where you're from, your current location, and the name of your business? Sure.
Orion Brown (00:02:01):
Thanks for having me. My name's Orion Brown. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois, Chi-town. And I currently reside in Denver, Colorado. Very, very different. And my company is The Black Travel Box.
Wanda Duncan (00:02:17):
Very different but same climate, maybe?
Orion Brown (00:02:20):
Not really, no. Actually we have this mysterious thing called sun here in Denver, so it'll snow and they actually don't plow it. They just let the sun magically remove it by science and evaporation.
Wanda Duncan (00:02:36):
That don't happen in Chicago.
Orion Brown (00:02:38):
It does not. It does not. Those icebergs are going to be there straight to the liking,
Wanda Duncan (00:02:43):
Building up on each other, turning black.
Orion Brown (00:02:47):
My melanin levels are like consistent. Like it's just, it's crazy living out here.
Wanda Duncan (00:02:51):
Wow. So you got the new Melonin-level-ator where you can measure your levels.
Orion Brown (00:03:00):
It means I no longer get strikes in the wintertime or turn yellow.
Wanda Duncan (00:03:05):
No, that's amazing. So I am from Southern Illinois, Carbondale, Marion area. I don't know if you know it, not really a middle Illinois like sidetracked. So tell us about, tell us about your travels. Like did you come from a traveling family? Like how has travel played a role in your life?
Orion Brown (00:03:36):
Yeah, so the short answer is now I am from the South side of Chicago and a lot of the people that I would say are my parents' generation are not big travel folks. And so my exposure to travel really didn't happen until my adult life. I had a few trips kind of in the high school college space, but that was mostly like family stuff, right. Going down to Mississippi and back, that kind of thing. But then once I graduated and I realized that all the people I went to school with were like worldly humans that went backpacking in Europe and stuff. I was like, Oh, okay, there's a thing that people do where they get on planes and go places. So I actually didn't get my passport until I was 25 and then it was like my first trip was Jamaica and Jamaica is like not that far and not that foreign, but it was amazing to be on an Island full of beautiful Brown people and have great food and be warm and, and learn a different form of English. And I was like, this is this stuff right here. I got to keep doing that. So now I'm on country 17, which isn't that many. But yeah, I've been traveling ever since.
Wanda Duncan (00:04:54):
Jamaica was actually my first country too, and I thought it was very foreign. It was like getting in flying into Mon Montego Bay airport and seeing the shantytown as you're coming out from the airport and you see like that disparity immediately. That was like really shocking to me being my first foreign experience. Like how did you, yeah. How did you feel about, how did you feel about the culture there and moving around? Black folks like that cause like, yeah, you're from South side of Chicago, but like this is a difference I use when I'm around black folks who they're, but like this is different.
Orion Brown (00:05:43):
Yeah. So it was interesting because at the time it was my boyfriend that took me and he was from there. He had grown up in Jamaica until the age of 19. So going there for me felt really like a homecoming type of experience. Because I was, I would say because I was in less of sort of the touristy areas and while you hit the nail on the head, the poverty disparity there is something that you don't often see. And I'd probably have only seen something similar in, in, in the South in the deep South. But it was eye opening. But I say it's not that foreign because it just feels like a second home to me. It's a very cool vibe. And a lot of the people that I met, particularly in Saint Elizabeth were folks that there was an accent, but like the values and the way of life was, was fairly familiar to sort of my more country roots.
Orion Brown (00:06:48):
So yeah, it was, it was a major experience for me cause I had never been that far away from like anywhere. And that was an exciting thing. And to to drive in those cars on a road that's the half the size of a car buying at 80 miles an hour or whatever it was in kilometers. That was new and it was fun adventure. And I spent most of my time just exploring and meeting people. And I will say it changed me if, if for no other reason that every time I see a goat now I think about Curry. So it's, it was amazing. It was an amazing experience. That's hilarious. And said, Oh, I worked food. What can I say?
Wanda Duncan (00:07:43):
Like, I remember someone I met there making a joke about hitting a goal and he'd be like, well it was going to be some Curry tonight.
Orion Brown (00:07:51):
Right. You just put it in the pot. That's really good.
Wanda Duncan (00:07:57):
Beautiful. yeah, I think you do. I don't know about everybody, but I think some people can learn a lot about themselves that first trip, no matter how far, no, no matter how foreign.
Orion Brown (00:08:11):
Yes, definitely just figuring out like what your tolerances are and like what your travel is done, what bothers you, what you feel comfortable with and then how to take a risk. And I think being in a space where you're traveling with someone who's native to the, to the place really makes it easier to take risks. And, and learn that, that's actually not a bad thing. I should do this more often.
Wanda Duncan (00:08:38):
That sounds like just like part of the process and figuring out more stuff about yourself out of that comfort zone. Cause there's a, I think that we, we know our discomforts in our comfortable spaces. We know those discomforts are, and maybe they're just maybe more annoyances sometimes. Sometimes they're like systemic and much larger than that, but traveling to a different area, even within their own country. It's just like getting out of your fishbowl essentially.
Orion Brown (00:09:12):
Yeah. And getting into somebody else's, which is amazing.
Wanda Duncan (00:09:17):
How's that capability? So you got your passport and went to Jamaica and then you've just kind of not stopped traveling since what, what has kept you on the road? What about the travel experience has touched you to the point where you say, this is something I want to repeat over and over again?
Orion Brown (00:09:42):
Yeah. I think travel is incredibly cathartic. It gives an opportunity to not only sort of connect with other people and get out of sort of the societal and cultural pressures that we experienced, particularly in the U S or just whatever your home country would be, right. Like that environment that has all of these undertones, particularly as a black woman, what I should be, how I should speak, where their expectations are of me. So getting outside of that space and being in a very different culture and interacting with people there get, for me, it just gave me an incredible amount of perspective and every time I met someone in a different culture, I was like, Oh my gosh, I want to do this again and I want to see what it, how it's different in the next place.
Orion Brown (00:10:33):
And that was really important because I think my sense of self for many of us our sense of self is grounded in the prevalent culture that, that we reside in. And right now we live in a pretty tumultuous one. So having a different perspective on who I am and other spaces gives me a more holistic view. Of who I am at, at the core. And I think between that and really discovering sort of the planet in a, in somewhat of a hippy way there hasn't been a place that I've been to that I haven't looked around and thought, God, this is amazing and had sort of a spiritual moment in, in that either, I'm someplace that has ancient ruins and a thousand years ago someone touched the same stone that I'm touching versus an amazing sunset at the tip of South Africa and seeing the Indian ocean in the Atlantic touch and how amazing the clouds look.
Orion Brown (00:11:36):
And you just have those moments where it's like, wow. Again, life is a little bit bigger than, or a lot bigger than what you see every day. And you, I had a corporate job for 15 years, so it would be wake up, go to work and drive for an hour, go to work, drive for now, come back, make dinner, go to bed, do it again. And so having that space to really touch the world in a different way and experience it in a different way rather than through Netflix is I think an invaluable opportunity to really take care of oneself from a, like an emotional and a spiritual level. And then it's just a great way to get the hell away and just have fun and have fun in new ways. I have had the oddest experiences having fun in other countries. Just based off of what was available and the crowd that you're with and that's, it's just a great release in a great way to enjoy oneself.
Wanda Duncan (00:12:43):
I was going to ask about if what you've learned about yourself compares at all to your corporate experience. Cause I see that having a bachelor of arts in human development, you got your MBA in strategy and marketing and you've worked for some really big companies, JP Morgan, Nestle, Kraft and Oracle. So again, my talking about what you said, seeing yourself in a, through a particular lens, especially in as a Black woman in the corporate world, could you compare the two of them?
Speaker 4 (00:13:22):
Wanda Duncan (00:13:22):
About learning about yourself, about learning, how people see you, about seeing how other people do things.
Orion Brown (00:13:30):
Yeah, I mean I think it's, I think corporate America for, for women of color is a particularly interesting space. And there's a lot of stereotype and a lot of expectation within that space. Traveling. I think from a
Orion Brown (00:13:50):
From the perspective of communication and things like that you’re still a woman when you're going to certain places, you're still a person of color when you go to certain places. But I think that the, the contrast for me was more more free spirited sort of exploration where whereas in the corporate setting taking risks is not necessarily the most acceptable thing to do. So for me it was more my sense of adventure and my sense of exploration and risk taking was kind of free to explore a bit more and be more creative. I have to say some of my best business ideas came from taking the vacation time and going somewhere else and getting out of the gray walls and the cubicles and all of that. So I think the contrast for me is that I'm far less regimented.
Orion Brown (00:14:47):
I'm much more of a free spirit. But I do still do a spreadsheet before I travel places no, I don't want to do so I at least know I have it planned ahead of time. So I think that's like the big contrast from a work perspective. More broadly, I would say things that I have noticed while traveling and that have made it more of a freeing experience and I've learned more about myself would be more of like sort of the cultural, societal norms. So in the States, if I go into a store, I'm very cognizant of how much money I have in my wallet. I'm very cognizant of being watched. I'm very cognizant of being followed around the store. I don't think I've ever experienced that in another country ever except for Japan. But they're being very helpful actually, not because in some Asian countries, like they just follow you around like, well in Japan in particular they have a, I mean they're, they're just off the coast, but I think they have a really unique culture and it's very much based off of courtesy and helpfulness.
Orion Brown (00:16:02):
And so you come into a store, you are greeted by someone like old school, like 1950s, Carson Pirie Scott, you're out. It's, it's that kind of feel. I wouldn't look coffee shop and Tokyo and it was like a regular, like it was basically laid out like a Starbucks. So the counter is nowhere near the door. They yelled from the counter and in greeted us, they were like, hi, come on in. And so that, level of courtesy, I love it. Get what happens to people in Starbucks and Philly and I'm like, ah, it is not me. And that's, that's a helpful feeling. I think there's a, there's a, there's a need to have a space where my personhood and my black body can, can step in and there's a different story around it.
Orion Brown (00:16:55):
Okay. So it sounds like you're saying that your corporate experience reinforced the ideas that you had about yourself, but traveling helped you to put yourself in a different perspective. Yeah, I didn't, not only corporate I would say, just sort of the broader experience as a, as a black woman in the States. But yeah, the corporate experience at bank is, it was a very nice contrast to, the office was a very nice contrast to the rest of the world and even being in business settings and the rest of the world. Particularly during business school and, and doing business related strips after. Yeah, it's just a different vibe. It's just a different vibe. That's really interesting to like reflect on it. Cause I think a lot of times when we're going through things like we have
Wanda Duncan (00:17:50):
Some idea, but being able to like put words to it. And have some space and time to really try to describe our experience is sometimes a luxury. I don't think a lot of our parents had that
Orion Brown (00:18:04):
Wanda Duncan (00:18:08):
Yeah. So with this freedom that you've experienced, Ryan you've been able to create some really dope stuff. So I S I saw that you were a business coach. Are you still?
Orion Brown (00:18:23):
Yeah, yeah. Sometimes I do it in voluntarily. It's just, it'll just come out. I'll be like, I'm so my trainer don't have the right pricing structure. Let me go talk to him right quick. But yeah, I mean it's something that I've done off and on over the years more informally. And now that I've started my own company it was a great way to sort of frankly have supplemental income and have something to fall back on. While I'm kind of building up a startup.
Wanda Duncan (00:18:54):
So let's talk about your startup. So the black travel box tell us about it. How did you come up with the idea? How did you source your products? What's your journey been like? Give us all the goods.
Orion Brown (00:19:10):
Awesome. yeah, so black travel box is a personal care products company for travelers of color. So everything that we make secure and skincare products that are meant to travel well get you through TSA and are actually made for melanated skin and textured hair. So the idea came about actually when I was on a trip to Japan. I, I got on the trip and we, we stopped in a number of cities and we went from Tokyo to Okinawa. And it didn't occur to me that the weather would be that different between those places. Cause I was like, Japan is like a, not a huge Island. Yeah, it was starkly different. So I went from mild springtime weather too hot and moist. And I just didn't bring enough hair products for that. I wasn't ready and I was rocking them natural kind of wash-and-go and I was like, “this little two and a half ounce, three ounce bottle is not going to hit it.”
Orion Brown (00:20:14):
I’ve got to wash with it and I’ve got a style with it. And the humidity just fried my hair. And so I was like, this is so frustrating. Now look crazy in my photos and I have one photo in particular that I really hate. It's, it's a really cool photo where we're learning how to like hold samurai swords. And I'm like, yeah, it looked like a bad ass. But then I got like satchel Bible in my head so that I was complaining about it and my boyfriend, Hey, why don't you do it? Isn't that like, weren't you doing consumer products before? Like why don't you make a company that makes stuff for you? I was like, Oh, you're funny. Ha ha. Okay. but I kept noodling it and I was like, this is actually not the worst idea. Let me see what I can put together. And probably about six months later was when I got the nerve to say, all right, let me go slap it LLC on this and start doing some work and see where we get. And that's how we started. So what's it been like? You are on the market, you are looking for VC funding to expand, I assume cause that's usually what people are looking for money.
Orion Brown (00:21:34):
I would say probably venture isn't the right space. For us right now. I think one and I've, I've done some pitches and things like that and the feedback is, is that, the black consumer is a niche market and black travel is a niche of an issue. And so when you're thinking about VC capital, they're really looking for those 10 X returns in just a few years. They're looking at whether or not it can be a billion dollar business. And I don't think that that really meshes well with the mission that I have, which is to help people like me feel as comfortable and as flipping awesome as they can while they're traveling the world so they're not running around in grocery stores and putting grape seed oil in their elbows. So oil that is a very nice oil though.
Orion Brown (00:22:28):
It is a nice oil when you're in Japan and nothing has like pictures on it. It's like, Oh, words, you don't know. Even where to find that. And I have to say, when I started the company, I started interviewing people. And that was a, that was like a kind of trending habit that I was hearing from a lot of people that they would go to the grocery store and find like coconut oil or grape seed oil. And I just, I just want you to not have to go to the grocery store to put, to, to feel comfortable and have enough to kind of do what you need to do. If you're spending you spending that much on a hotel or a resort and you can't get it there, that's a problem. So that's what I'm endeavoring to do and I am looking at funding opportunities, probably more angel side, but but yeah, I mean we're still fledgling and I'm still working on the product offerings right now.
Orion Brown (00:23:21):
We have just a few, we have an awesome body ball. It's our body ball hair bombs. And you'll notice there's a theme here. All of those products are anhydrous. There's no water in it. So when you get on the plane, a, you didn't pay for a bottle that's 70% water anyway, but B, you can go through TSA with these and then you know, are shampoo and conditioner all in bar forms. So they're solid. So again, you could take those on a plane and the amount that you're getting out of it cause they're essentially concentrated products lets you do more than just two days worth of personal care and grooming. So that's something that as we continue to innovate and kind of figure out the bundle and work with our customers to learn more about what they want to see we'll continue to build on it and then that investment is going to be necessary cause creating, creating brands and certainly creating consumable brands. It is very cash intensive.
Wanda Duncan (00:24:26):
Absolutely. You have to have so much stock on hand.
Orion Brown (00:24:30):
Wanda Duncan (00:24:32):
Packaging, you have to ship all of it. So, yeah, it does take a lot upfront. I have you, have you modeled yourself at all after my Leeka TEALS curl box?
Orion Brown (00:24:46):
Not necessarily. So we're not, we're not a traditional subscription box. I really did start out with the notion that I'm not gonna make anything that I can't stand and no slight to the curl box or any of the boxes. My challenge has always been, if you're sending me stuff every month and I'm getting different things, not everything's gonna work well for me. And then I'm going to have this stockpile of stuff that I keep telling myself, one of my Oh, I have a friend over in and out, like have them use it when they stay over and that never happens and I have a stockpile of stuff. And so I was, I was looking more for an opportunity to start building out a product selection that allows people to find the things that they really want and need and like, and then we'll move on to enabling subscription and things like that. But I don't want to be like surprised. It's more stuff that, that was sort of what I wanted to shy away from
Speaker 5 (00:25:44):
Wanda Duncan (00:25:46):
And then I wanted to ask you about like angel funding. So you, you you have a photo with the OJI Arland Hamilton.
Orion Brown (00:25:57):
Yeah. That poor lady, I stopped her. It was really on accident though. Accidentally stopped. So when you're in sort of the black startup circuit, like it's one of those things, you started going to these events. It was just, and then she's transcendent, right? So she's showing up. Everybody's got like her calendar. I think most people can run into her at least twice because she's always somewhere. But yeah, I actually, I took that photo at, I think it's Project North Star in Philadelphia and yeah, I just got to fangirl out. I was like, “you know what, I'm about to say hi.” That's how we ended up doing that.
Wanda Duncan (00:26:44):
what we met to be best friends. Did she do that to say, you know what, we about to be best friends that you didn't get to say or not? Who have you found aside from her, but, well, okay, so wait, you do go to quite a few events, like you're an event monster that because you are looking to connect with people. Like what are you getting out of the events you go to?
Orion Brown (00:27:21):
Yeah, I mean, so it's been a little bit since I've been to a conference. I think I took a, I think I took the summer off cause I was like, I can't y'all, there's too many conferences in June at the same time. But in general I think it's really valuable to get in spaces where people are innovating and even if it's not necessarily your same industry, there's a lot to be learned there. And it's everything from the practicalities of running a business to the challenges. I went to an amazing inc event I think it was last fall and listening to the founder of Uggs talk about how he went door to door selling drugs and listening to the founder of Pandora, talking about how he was like basically bankrupt and had all of his stuff like floating off five credit cards.
Orion Brown (00:28:14):
It's like, Oh, okay. It's supposed to be hard. Got it. Okay. Which is helpful. You don't always hear that. And I think a lot of people like to present the prettiest picture. And especially when you're talking about sort of more quick networking events, it's like, yes, I love this business. It's so great. But to hear people talk about, yeah, no, it sucked and I got sued and whatever it may be. I think that's really valuable cause entrepreneurship can be very lonely. It can be very isolating. And you're passionate about this thing that you're creating and building and feeling like you need to be three steps ahead of where you are. So I think that's the biggest thing. And I think the other piece is, is networking is really important too, Mmm.
Orion Brown (00:29:03):
To moving forward what your dream is. Right. The more people know what it is that you're working on, the more opportunities you have to connect with. Not only them, but their network. Mmm. Oftentimes I'll find that people that I've met at some place, while it's, while there wasn't necessarily an opportunity directly with them, I may hear from them once later, Hey, I remember meeting you at such and such and you were telling me you were doing this and I just met this other person. Can I connect you? That's invaluable. Cause now you have essentially an army of people out there advocating for you and finding resources and sort of hunting and which is,
Wanda Duncan (00:29:42):
Which is awesome and free. You post semi often about the difficulties of being a black entrepreneur. I'm a woman entrepreneur, I'm an entrepreneur. So even with those difficulties, you do find that there are people out there. I guess it's like the a dating type of thing. You gotta kiss a lot of frogs. You got to get through the nose to get to the S. I think that's the, I think that's a great adage and I think it's really true. Being comfortable with duds. Because there's just a lot of people and not everybody's going to be the right fit. Not everybody that wants to give you money is going to be the right fit. Not everybody that you want to give you money is going to be the right fit. And so, or not even the people that you're looking forward to help you.
Wanda Duncan (00:30:39):
I, I've had amazingly interesting challenges with finding the right talent and the right partners to help me execute what I'm doing. And it's, that's the process. And then every time you go, you go, “okay, I should have asked this question.” “Oh, you know what, these are the two questions. Need to go on the list.” “Oh, this is how I need to follow up or I need to talk to them in person or whatever it might be.” So you learn from the process whether it be networking, whether it be bringing on people you learn from the process as you go. If you were running for a political office, it sounds like your platform would be jail reform, expunging of records, ongoing deep mental health care, business training, and land home ownership for black people. So just like kind of following that vein of going through the nose to get to the yeses and how important it is to continue to ask for what it is that you want.
Wanda Duncan (00:31:41):
So you are, are in the throws of experiencing what it's like to be a black person, a black woman in America and in coming and bringing this business, not just the corporate world as well, but like this is a different beast. Right. So infrastructure it seems like it's something that's really important to you in terms of having that good foundation. Like what you were saying, like making the adjustments that you need in order to get the result that you want. Is that, is that how you feel about America at large? Like are you hopeful that things will change for the better in terms of like the politics there?
Speaker 6 (00:32:32):
Wanda Duncan (00:32:32):
Regarding that. Oh, go ahead. I'm sorry. Yes. Yes. That's it. Pretty much. Well, I think that
Orion Brown (00:32:40):
I am hopeful that the America that we're experiencing today is not going to be the America we experienced tomorrow and it will progressively get better. I love that people are interpreting sort of the constitution in more modern terms and really latching on to the spirit of it. Even though it was wrapped in a little bit of ignorance at the time. The spirit of continually trying to create a more perfect union and, and having a freedom from tyranny and that quality is something that we strive for. That those, if those stay at the forefront of how we think about our country we will improve. We will continue to improve and we'll also make mistakes. But those are things that we have to learn from. I think you look at president Obama, the whole country was like, ah, we're post racial.
Orion Brown (00:33:49):
That was a great wake up call to say, look, every time we make a stride and something awesome happens, we should celebrate it. But we can't sit on our laurels because that doesn't mean we've made it. That means we've made a step. And so I think we learned that with the contrast of our current president. And I think even from that regard, when we're starting my question, our electoral process and continually having and maybe rehashing conversations around electoral college and how voter registration works, et cetera, et cetera. So that's where change comes from. Having enough conversations and then mobilizing against the ideas that come from them. So I am hopeful, but I'm still keeping my passport so I can get up outta here. I mean that, how has it been traveling as a black woman in your skin? So you're coming from your experiences here and you said you felt more free.
Wanda Duncan (00:34:49):
Overall how would you say that you've experienced travel as a black woman?
Orion Brown (00:35:00):
Yeah, I mean, I would say that travel has always been a release for me. I remember going to Ireland and it's like the widest place on the earth. It's like white people in grass. Beautiful grass though. And the cows and the cows, Oh my gosh, they're so pretty though. They're like country cows that have all their angles. Right? So like every picture I took of a cow, it had like the sun and the jawline was looking good. And I was like, really, I wish I could pose like that. Like I would love to drink actually.
Orion Brown (00:35:38):
But walking around there, it wasn't until I think the second or third day in I was in Limerick and I saw black people and I remembered I was black and that, I know it sounds weird, but I'm always thinking about my blackness when I'm at home, right? Like when I'm out in the world exploring, if somebody's like, yeah, let's go to a farm, I'm like, Ooh, but I'm black. But in Ireland, exactly, we all climb mountains. But being in Ireland, people were so warm and welcoming and friendly. And I mean maybe it's cause everybody's drinking, but they were just amazing. And, and I realized, I saw these black books and then the other thing is I realized they were not us black folks cause I tried to give them the nod and they just looked at me. So I was like, Oh, that's different.
Orion Brown (00:36:31):
It was cool. It was a cool experience to go, “you know what, my skin is not the focal point of my being here.” You know, some places do fetishize us, which is like a whole other thing. Some places people are rude. I still have trouble with like Barcelona. I'm like, “Oh no, we love this.” But for the most part, those experiences have been really, again, freeing where I can just experience where I'm at as opposed to, well, let me make sure that I'm holding my bag right and my hands look like they're empty when I'm walking out of the store or walking out of this museum. So yeah, it's, it's, it's a different thing. You hit on two very key things. So yes, I think black Americans acknowledging each other in as strangers is more of a thing than others from the rest of the black diaspora.
Orion Brown (00:37:31):
I don't think they care. I don't know why that's something that I need to pull up. I don't know that that's, I don't know if it's that they don't care. I think it's the example that I would give is never call a Korean person Chinese, right? For, for a lot of people who haven't been around a ton of Asian people, I haven't been around a ton of like a variety of Asian people. They can't really tell the difference. And it's, it's ignorance. All human beings have this kind of skimo where we look at folks and we go, Oh, it's vaguely the same. Okay, you must be in that group. That's how our brains work. But they know very quickly and very easily either by the look of the person or what they're wearing or how they're carrying themselves exactly where they're from to some extent.
Orion Brown (00:38:16):
And so I think for us, we have that same thing. We can kind of tell when I'm interacting with or seeing a person from Africa somewhere from the continent or even where in Africa because obviously it's a huge place or the Caribbean. Right? And so I think that cultural tie of being like a black American, a us born and raised black American, we kind of know each other and they kind of know we're not one of them and we kind of know they're not one of us in that way. Which I think is kind of nice. I mean we, we kind of poopoo on black culture as it, you know. Oh, well we lost our history, but it's like, yeah, but we created a new one. We created our own rich culture. And we pulled from a lot of places and we will have something together that works for us.
Orion Brown (00:39:08):
I will say though, it blew my mind. I was in an airport in Munich and I went to the counter to get breakfast and the chip was black and she was like, I wish I could show you. But when you go to McDonald's and they're tapping the weave to keep it from itching. She was that chick. She was totally, that. She, she had the rhinestone earrings. The ponytail was like a little weird. She was, but everything she said was in German and German sounds like people are yelling at you. And I was just like, she was asking me what I wanted for breakfast and I was just staring at her and then all I could think was, I just want to go to your house. How do you live in Germany? What does it look like? What are y'all talk about? So there are those moments and we do have to acknowledge that the diaspora is broad and it's not just from the continent and it's not just from the Caribbean or the U S people have been ingrained in these other countries, some of them for several generations. And it's, it's cool. It's a different thing. We're not all the same. She said, well no to not, that's cool. But I don't think that I see it.
Wanda Duncan (00:40:18):
I don't think that the nod is a acknowledgement of where the same. I think the, not as an acknowledgement of we exist in this place. Yes. Maybe that we're not from or that we're not connected to. Like, I'm not sure, but it's just we, it's an acknowledgement of existence I think. So I think there's a nuance there. Yes. A lot of times you can tell where someone is from though. It's harder to tell because like you said, there have been generations of people growing up in other countries and so a lot of times they'll culturally bridging a couple of cultures there. But yeah, I, when I said that some people are not interested, like a lot of the black people that I see traveling are with white people and they're absolutely not interested. They don't look at you like they don't try to make eye contact. Like
Orion Brown (00:41:08):
They're looking around everywhere else but not at you. You know what I mean? And I've traveled with white people quite a bit and I'm always the first one to like, Oh look, it's more black people. Excuse me. So there's the nuance. Like it's not to say everyone, but I do believe that. No, no, I got don't look
Wanda Duncan (00:41:28):
Are possibly not looking on purpose. Even they're by themselves.
Orion Brown (00:41:35):
They just don't want it. Yeah. Well, and I think, and I find that odd, but everybody's got their thing. The other thing is, is that not everybody's comfortable or community, you know? Yeah. Well, or even just looking to interact with folks. Like I think I went on a trip recently where there were more travel newbies than I was kind of aware of. And I was astounded by the things that they were astounded by and like their lack of a weapon. And I was like, Oh, y'all so green, you don't know anything. But then it dawned on me, I mean there's an entire, I mean there are tons of us that haven't gone out into the world and don't get the opportunity to do so frequently. I think it's changing rapidly. The black travel movement is growing leaps and bounds. But yeah, so people are getting new experiences and it's like, did I talk to people?
Orion Brown (00:42:30):
My first trip? No, I left. I led my travel partner. I've talked to people and introduced me. I was like, I was just running up on somebody on the street. Like, Oh no, they could all be killers. I don't know. So I give people the benefit of the doubt. You never quite know what's going through their minds, you know, ultimately. But the offense is like nothing. But I've also seen people in the ocean, two black dudes in the ocean, like yards from each other and they gave each other the nod. And I was like, that's what's up. I see.
Orion Brown (00:43:05):
The other thing that you were talking about was how people are in Ireland. The Irish folks, when I tell you that is where you learn the art of conversation, those people will talk to you for hours about anything under the sun. They are the most open conversational people I've ever met in my entire life. Oh yeah. And, and just kind and friendly, kind. I have never like hospitality. There is like, I think they really do think everyone's their friend. Like you're my mate now. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's, I have to say it's, it's such a fantastic place. And the people are so interesting. And I have to also say that I think the way in which we see, particularly if we are not in predominantly white areas, well even actually it doesn't really matter where we live, but the way that we tend to kind of assess whether or not a person not of color is sort of a safe person to interact with.
Orion Brown (00:44:22):
It's like there, you can even do that. Cause people were like, Oh he looks like a redneck. No, he's just drunk. His face is red or that guy looks like a skinhead. No, he just shaved his hair cause it's cooler that way. Like it's just, I think it really broke some chains for me around my discomfort. And I grew up in, you know, it was like Chicago, but then I was also in other places where I went to whites, you know, predominantly white schools and go to college was predominantly white. And I thought I had exposure, but I had never felt so at ease in a place where no one else looked like me. As I did in Ireland. I feel that I co-sign that wholeheartedly. So feed you good too. I'm not going to go on that part because they kind of get, I don't know. I felt okay. Well, I don't eat meat, so,
Orion Brown (00:45:22):
Wow. Gotcha. Yeah. There's no vegetables. They got French fries and I got you. Yeah. But it seemed very like I don't know, like the UK, like British. Yeah. I mean that's not much faced. And I kind of stepped to like, I really love lamb stew and because they have so much, I mean, sorry, it's really meaty, but because they have so much farm land out there, it's really good meat and it's really hearty, like kind of homemade kind of food. The other thing is, is I don't know that I ate out a ton because we stayed at B and B's. I mean, I guess I had to, I had to go eat dinner, but just like the food that I remember is food that a person that I knew made. So whether it be the owner making us breakfast or random guys, we met at a bar making us food.
Orion Brown (00:46:26):
People were like, “Oh, you should come to our house, we'll make you a proper Irish breakfast.” And then you're eating black pudding and white pudding. I didn't like the white pudding. The black pudding was not so bad and AIDS and things like that. So you know, and then the Stu like we went to the Aran Islands and it's just gorgeous and breathtaking and it's so cool to be out there. We go to this pub and the pub is like, Oh yeah, my mom made this or whatever. It's like a big beautiful full of stew and soda bread that they baked there. And you know the kid behind the counters like 12 foreignness beers and putting shamrocks and, and for us. So it was just, that's the food that stuck with me, that that was a food experience. It was more of a communal food experience. That's really powerful. I love that. But I will say their fast food life is not anything to write home about. Like fish and chips. I can ring this fish out and have a whole new bottle oil. It's like we've got one fish, everyone has a oil. So yeah, one of my favorites
Wanda Duncan (00:47:39):
Things to say about the British. You mean y'all went and colonized the whole world for spices? Brought them back, didn't know what to do with them. And then vinegar, a seasoning.
Orion Brown (00:47:53):
The only thing I like vinegar on is malt vinegar on French fries. It's actually very, very good. But come through like you better what is wrong? All this that you didn't bring once, once major salt bag,
Wanda Duncan (00:48:09):
That box everybody used for fifth season. It's a pair. Remember it right now.
Orion Brown (00:48:15):
I know what you're talking about. It was like, yes, I'm imagining the box too. And I'm like, they're yellow box. I didn't really have it sitting right next to the fish because we like tastes
Wanda Duncan (00:48:37):
Goodness. So you were a total foodie and you don't mind a nice beverage every now and then. I'm sorry, what was that? I said, and you don't mind a nice beverage every now and then.
Orion Brown (00:48:50):
Oh yeah, definitely. Although I'm probably, I'm on a little bit of a dry kick right now, but in general, like one of the things I love to do is every country I like to, to grab whatever their local beer is. I know fully that the local beer is going to be their equivalent of bud or bud light. But it's kinda nice to just have that kind of local experience. And, and enjoy that. And I always try to do two things when I travel to countries, get as much I guess quote unquote indigenous food as possible. Like at least making sure that I have a few meals that are native to that space. Like when you go to places like Dubai, it's kind of actually hard to find truly local food. Cause everybody's from somewhere else. So I do try to find like truly local food. And then the other pieces is I do hit my fast food joints, not because I love fast food, but I do love to see the differences regionally with fast food places. Cause it's, it's really fascinating.
Wanda Duncan (00:49:56):
So much so similar to the McDonald's fries and Malaysia tastes just the same.
Orion Brown (00:50:01):
Yeah. Well there isn't too much. You could do the fries
Wanda Duncan (00:50:07):
Somewhere else here. They don't taste like that. So like you have your system, so down Pat that you have these products and the cooking methods and whatever, whatever that it tastes literally the same. Like that's, that's really dope. I mean,
Orion Brown (00:50:25):
Yeah. It's, and you know, you look at
Wanda Duncan (00:50:28):
Orion Brown (00:50:30):
You look at places like KFC, right? So they use the same spices cause it's like the Colonel's secret recipe of spices. So the spice is the same. So the chicken, most of the time it tastes the same and usually has like whatever's in the same relative level of crispiness and stuff, but then the sides will be vastly different. So like in Cape town, instead of getting a biscuit, they give you like little loaves of bread that looked like almost like King Hawaiian rolls, but they're like long. I don't know why it was really good, but it was really random. I was like, Oh, is that a whole note?
Orion Brown (00:51:05):
You know? And conversely in the Philippines, like in Manila you go and they have, they have rice number one. I'm like okay, I can kind of get where y'all came with that. But then it's like, Oh do you want gravy? Sure. They give you a mashed potato container full of gravy, not gravy on the mashed potatoes and entire container of gravy because in their heart of hearts they want you to die and it's rude. That is rude. It's true. I sat there and I had mashed potatoes and rice and gravy and chicken and I think they did have biscuits there so it was like, but there's always these little subtle nuances that make it really a fun kind of adventure.
Wanda Duncan (00:51:50):
Here they serve at McDonald's, a cup of corn, like corn on the cob but it's on the top. It's off the Cubs. So it's just a cup of corn cause that's how they get down here. Here is a bowl of corn. Enjoy it with your cheeseburger. Yes, absolutely. What I love about it, cause I love tea. They have green tea and just, I have a green tea mouthwash right now. Like I know best green tea product life.
Orion Brown (00:52:22):
I mean, you know what is natural and it's good for you. So they don't come over here at some point. I mean, we got charcoal to face right now and that took what, like 10 15 years.
Wanda Duncan (00:52:32):
I'm over from Korea. So as they love, you would've thought that would have been faster. Whatever, you know,
Orion Brown (00:52:42):
We're getting there, we're getting there. We gotta let the hippies take the lead is all the folks that are like, I'm wearing bamboo underwear, I'm about to sleep on my bamboo sheets.
Wanda Duncan (00:52:50):
They're the ones, they'll take us into the future. I wanted to talk to you about your attitude towards trials. You have a statement that tough times are a precursor to the biggest blessings. So do you think that the tough times are a given? I would say that, well, test for everyone's a little bit different and what's tough
Orion Brown (00:53:26):
for one person is easy for another. But what I would say is, is that we come into this world fighting to get into this world. Like, it's a fight to get here. I remember taking genetics in college and going through sort of that process of reproduction, what has to actually happen on the genetic level at the cellular level. And it's like, it's a freak crazy ass accident, excuse my fridge that any person has ever made it into the world. Like the amount of things that have to go right to make you is is, is just insane. And so I think the very, the very fabric of existence is a challenge. And that's how we grow. Like your bones don't grow unless you are, they don't grow strong and they don't grow long unless you're challenging them unless you're straining your body as a kid.
Orion Brown (00:54:25):
So kids are climbing all over everything. That's it. That's actually eliciting their bones to grow, that's actually making those bones denser and stronger. When you don't do that, you get lighter bone density because there's been no strain on them. So there's always that challenge of if you live in this world, there are things that you're gonna have to strive for. And, and challenges that you're going to have to overcome at varying levels. There's the, I don't think there's any getting away with getting away from that. That's a very interesting analogy. The whole bone density.
Orion Brown (00:55:04):
It like just a big old bone girl. You just got to make that thing dance baby. You gotta make it a dance baby. You don't want no brittle bones y'all and break your hip. But yeah, that quote, I mean, there's always seasons and there's always challenges and once you get past the challenge, it's like you can't, you can't sleep cause the next one is going to come. And I think when we're not challenged, that's when we get bored. That's when we get complacent. That's when we start to feel like in a rut. It really is the challenge that kind of brings the excitement. And it can be simple challenges like talk about travel, getting over fears of flying, getting over fears of talking to people or trying new foods. Like there doesn't have to be life or death challenges and trials, but you grow from all, all of those things because you're training yourself to one, have faith in whatever it is that you're doing right, or whatever it is that you're, whatever outcome you're hoping for. And then acting on it. It's hard.
Orion Brown (00:56:14):
It's intangible. Okay, there's a cricket in front of me and they want me to eat it. I want to come on the outside of that, not sick other side. That's a challenge to go, okay, but these people aren't going to be something crazy and that this will be an experience that will enrich me and I can tell people about it later. For a lot of people that's like an insurmountable challenge. I mean, they're straight at McDonald's. He French fries. I taste just like the ones that help. But then you don't grow. So the big stuff comes too. But I think that the big stuff, again, if you, if you really tap and you walked through it and you overcome it, you're going to grow, you're going to grow and you're going to be bigger and better. On the other side, you are an advocate for essentially like creating your own table.
Speaker 4 (00:57:04):
Orion Brown (00:57:05):
I saw you post something about not waiting for an opportunity, creating the opportunity by becoming proficient at whatever skills you need to become proficient at in order to produce the thing you want to produce. Do you want to talk about that a little bit? I'm sure. I mean, I think there's two things that are top of mind for me around opportunity. One is there are opportunities that present themselves to you and you have to make sure that you were doing the right things to be prepared to step into them. I think when I look at regrets in my life, they really are about missed opportunities, opportunities I wasn't ready for whether I stepped into them or not being ready for it. That's just, that'll kill it right there. I think the second piece is creating opportunities. If we don't kind of hop out of our fishbowl, we can miss all that's out there. We talked a little bit about going to conferences and networking with people. You can't get to, you can't step into an opportunity if you don't go where opportunities live. And so whether it's taking the step of creating the opportunity for yourself by going out and seeking it or whether it's saying, “you know what, I don't know where it's going to come from. So I am you know, made in the likeness of a creator. So let me try to create something.”
Orion Brown (00:58:41):
Okay. I was just thinking, wow, that's really beautiful.
Orion Brown (00:58:48):
I don't know about the missed opportunities cause it's like you don't know what you don't know sometimes. So it makes, yeah, that's, yeah, that's fair. If you're not aware of it, it's more about the ones that you are right. Where it's like, I was going to go to this thing, someone texted me, Hey, we're about to go to this, whatever event you want to cut out. And you go, Oh, but I just took my shoes off and I'll catch y'all next time. And then you see the pictures and you're like, you take a bitch away, Anthony Anderson. Oh well I think it's more like those types of situations or even the situations where you're, you call yourself. I'm like, “yeah, sure I can do that.” And you haven't prepared yourself and now you looked at me. That's, that's just not a good place to be. So it's like prepare, you know, prepare to be, you know, if you, if you want to meet somebody, like you want to meet a mate that you cannot plan to be home and be comfortable every night. Where are you talking about delivery? Boyfriend service.
Orion Brown (00:59:52):
Yeah. Don't be picking up boyfriends on Instacart cause they only make a little bit hour. So that's terrible. I'm just kidding. But you do have to go, you know, like, “okay, what are things that give me confidence?” Like, you know, you might get your confidence earrings on or whatever it might be, and walk around with those on, you know, be ready to be confident in situations that you might need to be confident in. And even places that you're not even thinking about it. Right. It's like we run out and we'll be in our sweats. I mean I will have eyebrow, like it'll just run in there real quick. You never know who you're gonna run into with the coffee shop. You never know what's gonna happen where you, you might even run into a friend that knows you. You don't mind that they only see half eyebrow, but they're on their way to something that if you had just been dressed, you could have gone,
Wanda Duncan (01:00:42):
You know my friends like that.
Orion Brown (01:00:48):
Well, I mean, but it's just one of those things. There's like, Oh yeah, I'm about to go to such and such. I also am nosy though. I'll be, if I run into people like, Hey, what are you doing today with Jasmine Sullivan song,
Wanda Duncan (01:01:06):
A mascara. She goes on grocery shopping and she keeps her mascara on cause you never know
Orion Brown (01:01:15):
Is a little bit different. You know, she looking for a sugar daddy, but I mean still, well it's whatever you're looking for, you should look like you want it or you should look like you're going to get that right. You know, whatever it is.
Wanda Duncan (01:01:27):
I think that's a little bit more or a lot, a bit more challenging. As a full time traveler. It is more difficult to put yourself in those kinds of spaces cause you like a lot of times literally have to leave the country and in order to like meet and convene and like be in those kinds of spaces, like digital is great for a lot of things. Right. But sometimes it's the more impactful conversations happen in the actual conversation.
Orion Brown (01:02:00):
Yeah. Not in an email, definitely, definitely. But even with the travel, I mean, I'm not a full time traveler. I, you know, I am based in Denver and I do have a home life here. But I find with travel, like again, like if you, if you land in a country and you got your sweats on you, like I just want to be comfortable and look around. That's fine. That's totally cool. But if you would like to meet new and interesting people, if you would like to be able to be invited to dinner on a win, cause you met somebody really nice at the park, you should probably be cleaned up a little bit. I, and this isn't all about like personal grooming or whatever, that those are examples. I mean, if you want to try all the fresh fruit and vegetables that they have on the street markets and Croatia, you should probably bring a bag.
Orion Brown (01:02:55):
Just be ready to receive the thing you're looking for. So it really doesn't matter. Like, it's not really about looks and things like that, but it's just being ready for it. Don't wear cute shoes if you want to learn as much as you can about the Sistine chapel, you can be walking around for a minute. Be ready to receive what you're looking for. If you want to get that knowledge, you gotta walk, you gotta walk you up to something uncomfortable. It's, that's the preparedness that I'm thinking of. Okay. But like I didn't invite you on a podcast for you to become the mother of an analogies. Like it's just how I think. I can't help it. No joking. I like what you said, there's this video of a member of the audience jumping into
Speaker 7 (01:03:44):
Orion Brown (01:03:44):
Closing catwalk of a Chanel show. Yeah. But that is what entrepreneurship feels like for you. Yeah. A lay person walking into a professional setting, professional event, whatever procession and carrying, carrying it off like you belong there. Cause when like in the video, like she doesn't look like she wasn't ready. Like she looked ready, like practice or walk. So is that, is that like a fair mother of analogies? Is that fair? Yeah. As soon as I saw that I was like, Ooh, I feel like every day. I'm not so much the professional aspect, but she hopped up on stage and then she got into formation like legit second. She got on there, she paced herself. The model behind her gave her room, because those models that I ever stopped for anything. So she gave her a little room and they kept walking.
Orion Brown (01:04:48):
And if you were five more feet away as just proceed, you wouldn't have noticed except for the fact that she was way shorter than these other chicks. But, and that's sort of the process, right? It's you need to step in to the level of quality and the little level of professionalism and the level that you would expect from it. In my case, established brands, you have to come in with, this isn't like, you can't come up on stage and looking like a hobo. You can't come up on stage and not knowing how to walk. You can't come up on stage without having your shoulders back and your head held high. And so I thought that that was a really cool visual for, yeah, you just got to hop in there and that's the other thing.
Orion Brown (01:05:34):
They were moving quickly and she found her space. It looked like she was just about to jump double Dutch. She just like hopped in and started going. And that's also what it is. Cause there's a market out there for whatever it is that you're doing, whether it's content creation, selling a product, selling a service, et cetera. There's a market and that market is constantly moving. It's constantly fluid and you have to just get in where you fit in and be ready and on point and keep it moving until eventually a very tall supermodel pulls you off stage. Is that what happened? Because I didn't do that. Yeah, I think it was one of the I'm not just, I can't remember who it was, but yeah, one of the girls pulled her off at the other end. Yes. No, that's beautiful. That is beautiful.
Orion Brown (01:06:26):
I would love to ask you did you have support and trying to figure out how to incorporate more travel into your life? I know I don't necessarily think so. Well in a way. So particularly when I went to business school, I structured a lot of as much travel as I could because that was the more far flung travel and I still had my water wings on. I was like, I don't want to be a four feet. Let's just stay over here. I'm in the shallow end. And so when I took trips like, you know, to Turkey and by in South Africa, it was I guess supported in the sense that it was a structured trip. Right. So I like the kind of insurance that this school has. I ain't going down this trip.
Orion Brown (01:07:24):
I'm good. I'll just enjoy it. I'll be able to have fun and experience these places in an in depth way knowing that I'm in a safe environment with a group that is kind of providing that installation. After business school, when I started to travel insurance, I mean I always travel with other people. I'm not really much of an individual traveler except for domestically. Although I need to change that pretty soon. But the support in terms of like making it happen or having people cover for me, like a lot of my travel was during my corporate days. And honey hunty 15 years of corporate. Yeah. My phone doesn't work in whatever country I'm in, so y'all can call me. You just gonna have to figure this out. It's only 10 days.
Orion Brown (01:08:15):
Not only, I didn't just leave people out there, but you leave your little game plan, here's what needs to be done, go do it. Now as an entrepreneur it is actually harder because that's physical products. And I don't have you know, we don't have scaled manufacturing yet, so it's something that I have to be a little bit closer to. So I do sort of structure my trips around being able to continue to service the business in a meaningful way. So it's different when you're building it. But it still works. It still works. You just, you just kind of figure your way around it. What does your family think about your travel? Are they, do they a lot of times go with you since you say that? Like you don't do a whole lot of solo except Oh no, I've never traveled with family.
Orion Brown (01:09:04):
I don't know if I would. Well, okay, so I take that back. Our family reunion is now in its 56th annual year, I think it is annual. And it's in a different city every year. So domestic travel, there's travel with family in that regard. International travel. Now, I don't know how many of them actually have like their passports. I could probably think of a few people, but not, not a ton. And so I, you know, it's, my dad freaks out every time I leave the country. I've gotten to the point that I start telling him while I'm at the airport, I'm like, so what you up to? Yeah, I'm about to be on his flight to Bali, so I'm calling you seven days.
Orion Brown (01:09:47):
You know, I went to Ireland. My dad was like, aren't they at war? And I was like, that was 1991, bro. Like so, so yeah, I think that from a family perspective, I would love to get one of our family reunions off shore somewhere. But I don't think that's ever going to happen, but we'll have to get lucky to get a family travel together or something. Cause I want to see them travel. I want, I want these folks all over the world. So, so when you've been doing all your traveling, are they just basically like, what's happening? Why are you going and you're like, yeah. Yeah. Well, and it's funny, my, my great aunt she had, like, your Grammys and your great aunts have like those plates and stuff on the wall and you don't really look at them really close. But I was looking at one and I was like, wait a minute, this ain't in English and that looks like Argentina. She was like, Oh, you haven't been there.
Orion Brown (01:10:44):
I was like, and come to find out, she spent a lot of years traveling when people were not traveling like that. And that was kind of fascinating and fun thing to learn about. Every now and again, people break away and her life had been between like Chicago and, and Michigan as by it, you know. But when she traveled, she went like, Oh yeah, I've been to South America twice. And I'm like, okay, I haven't even made it to that continent yet. And it seems like you kind of stay boot up. Not true.
Orion Brown (01:11:26):
The travel, the travel discussion made it seem like it was a continuous thing, but now there's gaps. Travel when your relationships. Okay, awesome. No, it was like those girls trips be in between and things like that. But when I'm in relationships, I look for partners that are, are amenable to travel. Like it's a big part of my life. It's something that is integral to my emotional health to be able to go places and it doesn't necessarily have to be far-flung. It's like you don't have to be rich and travel all around the world. Although I love to do that. I like to do it on the cheap and the country is like, all right, let's hop in the car, put some bags in here, a less lattice van or let's go wherever and like just experience something different.
Orion Brown (01:12:17):
So that's definitely a, a requisite you are a bonus mom speaking. How has that added a layer into your life? It's a wonderful creamy layer of boys that are sticky and smelly and sweet and wonderful. Their, their love and their attention is, is an amazing thing. It's an interesting balance because to me, when you're not a birth parent, you're kind of constantly walking the tight rope of not overstepping but being as present and as integral as you can. And so that means sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough and then sometimes I feel like I'm doing too much. And in balancing a company starting out, it's interesting when I was still, I was working full time when I started the company and I was just doing it in my free time and I think I had more time when I was working full time job and then coming home and working on it then when I went full time on the business because at that point it's like I'm full time.
Orion Brown (01:13:28):
I got to make this work like yesterday. And so there was a probably a good three or five month period where I was just like up til three every night. And so it was one of those things that the kids will come home when I pick them up or whatever and there's that family time that you carve out. Right. And I was very dedicated to making sure that that was there, but then it was like the time before and the time after it was just all work. Which isn't the best balance. I don't recommend that. Get some sleep. You nobody, nobody needs you looking crazy. Or you don't need to be making like dumb mistakes, not resting yourself. Rest actually enables you to come back and do your best, not your, you know it does, but like fitting that in, like actually fitting that in,
Orion Brown (01:14:17):
But it's not a fitting in thing. Like you need to just not do things. You need to just not do things. Like if you hadn't done the things that you did, which would be where you are today. I mean, I think actually I'd probably be a little bit further along because when you don't get enough rest and you don't take care of yourself, you start messing with your personal life, you're irritable, all of those things. And those are things that you have to go back and take time to repair and work on. You may or may not be at your best because you're just tired. Right. And you're not, you don't, your body's not meant to just be up all the time. I mean, some people are like that. Like I had a really perky college roommate that just only needed four hours of sleep.
Orion Brown (01:15:02):
And I still kind of hate her for that. But for me, I'm like I need seven and a half. If I don't get seven and a half, I don't make sense for like half the morning and I'm awake. Then I get hungry, then I get sleepy and now I'm up until three being like I still didn't get those things done, then I want it to get done. So, you know, I do think that, you know, like this idea of well the more hours you work, the more you get done is a fallacy. It's just like saying calories in, calories out is like, yeah, if I eat, if I eat McDonald's fries, 500 calories of McDonald's buys versus 500 calories of steak and vegetables, that's the same thing. No it's not. I am going to be full and happy on that steak, those French fries.
Orion Brown (01:15:46):
I'm going to immediately need a cheeseburger and something to wash it down with. Like it's, it's not the same. And I think spending a hundred hours awake all at once versus over the course of a couple of weeks is is detrimental. It's not as healthy for you. And you don't function as well as you could. So I mean, that's a big, was a big learning for me. Coming out of losing sleep, cause I got to the point that I was like, I remember one day just crying. I was so tired. I was like, this has to change. I can't do this. I'm taking a nap. And I think I took that whole weekend off. I was like, I'm not doing anything. I'm not looking at a screen minute, think about it. I'm going to sleep. As long as I can have a couple of meals and kind of recharge myself.
Orion Brown (01:16:34):
So it's important. It's definitely important. I don't think I would have gotten more done by continuing to go hard like that. So then what are specific please? Some of your self care practices? Allowing myself to sleep in. I just, you know, I feel guilty. It's like, Oh, I don't, you know, when you have to go to the office, it's like when people go notice, but if you're working for yourself, you know, it's, I have a mixture of guilt that I should be up. Like I would get up at like six 30 or seven and start working in my PJ's and I'm like, no, you need to have a morning. If you were going to a corporate space, you would at least have hour commute to think about nothing or listen to a podcast or be mad at other drivers, whatever it is that you like to do to her and that commute or whatever, you know.
Orion Brown (01:17:29):
So, but if you start your Workday the second year up, I mean, I was like, wait, I haven't brushed my teeth yet and it's like two 30 this is a problem. So sleep was something sleep and giving myself a real morning was a big piece. Even if that real morning was sitting on the couch and like catching a TV show or whatever it is, like having breakfast, just making a full breakfast and sitting down and eating it. Those were important. I think the other pieces are Oh my God, I'm addicted to baths. Like I lived in a place that had not had a shower. It was very nice shower, but I was like, there's no tub and this is killing me. So my thing now is like bath salts and a soak. If I'm not a, I'm not getting out.
Orion Brown (01:18:16):
And that's really relaxing and helpful. And then when I get the chance, I do like to exercise, whether it be yoga, whether it be walking. I used to like to lift, but I'm a mess. My backup long story. But exercise I think is a great way to relieve stress and half the time, even things like yoga, it just releases tension that you don't even recognize is there. That can be very distracting from the work that you're trying to do and being as present as you'd like to be. So I think that's important as well. I don't think that there are enough warning about how your back and knees leave you.
Orion Brown (01:18:58):
I'm really upset about the millions of people, the billions, trillions of people that came before us that did not let us know. That was a, yeah, it's, it's funny, it's like it's age, but then it's also working with people that know what they're doing. So like if you're working with a trainer or you're at a gym, like making sure you know how to use the equipment properly and have the right form and if you don't know that's what the internet is for. Cause that's, that's really a thing, right? Like never. I, I often talk about like tip of the iceberg thinking where you see somebody doing something, you're like, that doesn't look hard. You just saw the tip of the iceberg. You don't know what they're doing to set themselves up to do that successfully. You don't know what work or what conditioning had to happen in order for them to do that. And you're like, let me just see if I can lift this weight. And then you don't pull everything from your ankle to unit cause you don't know. Then I just look at my ear, ear bone. Yeah. So he gotta educate yourself and be ready for the opportunity. Right. A hundred pound weight is sitting there. Are you ready to pick it up or not? If you're not already, don't touch it.
Wanda Duncan (01:20:18):
Is there, are there, are any of those practices particularly grounding for you or do you have something else that's grounding for you?
Speaker 8 (01:20:26):
Orion Brown (01:20:27):
I would say yoga is the closest to prayer that I've ever come. Because it's as quiet as I get. Like I just have one of those minds that it's constantly going, not necessarily racing, but constantly going. And I think yoga and an active release is that calms my mind really well. And it's so funny, they talk about how like hip openers are where you keep all of, like your relationships or your hurts or whatever it is. And I remember going like, doing like a, I forget, I think it was maybe like a pigeon pose or something. And I was like, yeah, I'm just going to have a little cry while I'm here. No, no, I'm not in pain. I'm all right. I'm just gonna have a little cry. It's, I think it's, it's really cathartic in that way. I wish I did it more. I need to get my practice up because it is, it's like, Oh, I don't really feel like going to a yoga studio. I could just go tomorrow a lot, just stretch a little bit at home, but when I actually do go, I'm like, Oh my God, I need to be doing this every day. So yeah, I think that's probably the, the best out of all of them.
Wanda Duncan (01:21:39):
Yoga absolutely did that for me. I experienced some things in my life. I was, I was going to classes, I didn't even know it was yoga. I was going to dance classes and somebody said something about yoga and I was like, Hmm, no, I've never done yoga. And the instructor was like, Richard, do yoga every time you to my class. And I was like, well, you never called it that. So stretching. Yeah. But after I went through the experiences I went through I would absolutely be crying and I do feel like it was exactly what I needed at that time. It was that release and pigeon pose we'll take
Orion Brown (01:22:26):
It will snatch your life. Okay.
Wanda Duncan (01:22:29):
Where y'all at that don't know. It's probably not even really called pigeon pigeon pose. I don't know what the actual name of it is and it's been spread around. But a pigeon pose is opposed where you put your, one of your legs as squarely as possible in front of you and then the other leg is directly behind you straight. So the first leg is bent in a literal like 90 degree angle in front of you. As much as you could get. Your heel may have to like come in towards your thigh, but you are opening up the hip where your leg is straight and you just like bend as far forward as you can with that thing and it'll take your breath away.
Orion Brown (01:23:13):
I remember the first time I tried that and I was like, are you supposed to sweat? This ain't hot yoga right. I mean, but it's great cause it's that, you know, you get that pain at the beginning, right? It's not, you shouldn't have sharp pain, never do something that you have to start pain, stop it immediately. But you know, you get that discomfort of the stretch, right, where you feel the tenseness of the muscle and you feel yourself trying to force it away and then you sit and you're like, okay, y'all. Yeah. So can we get a countdown or something like w why these tickets alone?
Orion Brown (01:23:49):
Exactly. But it's funny though because once you've been in the pose, and usually it's about two minutes in a pose that you get full release of a muscle, but even after a minute, you will just start to be like, Oh, Oh, I can go deeper into it. I can stretch. And when you come out of it, the relief like the equal and opposite reaction of that relief is like, whew, I know my left hip was that loose. It's, it's really cool. I'm actually kind of stiff right now as I'm thinking about it being like, I need to go to yoga tomorrow.
Wanda Duncan (01:24:26):
Yes, please do. Let us know. You said that there are a few ways you'd like to explore a new place when traveling you'd like to try the indigenous food, a local beer. And I thought there was a third thing you said, but does that say it again?
Orion Brown (01:24:49):
The fast food, like the American chains, all of them are food based.
Wanda Duncan (01:24:56):
That's fine. Is there a specific song lyric or a poem that speaks to you these days?
Orion Brown (01:25:15):
I think it's not a lyric, but I have a quote that I put it's in the footer of my personal email and it's a Fredrick Douglas quote. It says, I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring, they're rooted, if you will, of others rather than to be false and to incur my own abhorrence, which is basically saying, I'd rather you hate me at the end of the day than me, hate me at the end of the day. Sticking to what my values are, particularly in trying times but also in good times too, right? Like sometimes you can kind of let stuff go to your head. So it's really being true to my, and what I believe is right is is a North star for me. And I've found myself having conversations lately, particular to that right. Where maybe there's difficult situations that people would typically say, well, I'm just going to walk away, just bite. And, and my thought is that I have values around sticking through hard things. And like I said, you know, you do come out stronger from challenges. So it's something that I practice every day. I try to practice that every day.
Orion Brown (01:26:49):
Do you feel like there was a time when you would forget your values?
Speaker 9 (01:26:56):
Orion Brown (01:26:58):
I think we all have those times. It's not like, it's not perfect because I personally feel like everybody has a price and I don't necessarily mean money. But I think people go, I would never murder somebody, but depending on the situation, you’re either Kane or you’re Abel you know? It depends on what the circumstances are. And so what I look for is just striving to try to keep it top of mind and keep myself self-aware. Cause that's the other thing. If you're, if you're running at a million miles an hour and you're making split second decisions and you're going through life too fast to really think about the thing, the choices that you're making, it's very easy to get off track. And so it's, I try to make those assessments along the way and steer myself in the right direction, but it's never perfect, you know, it's never perfect. Have there been any challenges that are specific to you? Just from the lens you grew up with? In terms of business or travel or both?
Speaker 9 (01:28:17):
Orion Brown (01:28:22):
I think particularly in corporate America, one of my challenges was having a very strategic vision. You know, even, I mean, in corporate America, well, not coming in, but like certainly in my more like middle management days. And I, I found that I, I worked best with more senior people, more senior executives. And it was, it was off putting to people to be Frank. I had a woman tell me that she was like, ah, I've never been spoken to, spoken like that spoken to that way by, in your level. And I'm like, if you didn't put the caveat on it, I would have apologized. But the caveat of my level does it allow me two to tell you very directly that the quality that we want and we really need to go revisit that. And it, and it's also, again, being in my skin my, my tight and Taji melanated skin, sometimes people think I'm a child.
Orion Brown (01:29:29):
I think I'm young. And I'm like, no, I just have good genes. So, and not only that, I am a firm believer, you shouldn't disrespect young folks. I mean, if you're 22 and you have a good idea and you have the right to speak up, don't get mad, just cause they're younger than you and they came up with something, you know. So, you know, those instances of being a female in the corporate space, being a black female in the corporate space, people mistaking kindness for weakness. People mistaking my, my wrinkle-free skin as a newness. There were definitely challenges in that regard of getting my voice heard and listened to. And I'm a pretty boisterous person. I'm a pretty loud person. And I'm not necessarily afraid to speak up. And I think that's something that's very different.
Orion Brown (01:30:20):
I think people I once got advice from a boss that told me I should try whispering so people wouldn't be intimidated when I speak and yeah. And I was in my head I was whispering back to him, like, that's stupid. But it's people, it's very interesting out there. It's very, very interesting place. And I think when you asked me about like travel, my travel self versus sort of my core corporate or my business self, it is that freedom. Like I don't, I don't wait for permission to speak. When I travel, I don't wait for permission to direct what's happening. I'll do it as much on the business side either. But but it certainly, you know, that I don't have to think about it, you know. So yeah, there's, there's definitely challenges of just, being me and having, being essentially a 45 year old white executive on the inside when I was like 25.
Wanda Duncan (01:31:31):
How would you say that your, your values have helped you to navigate them? Or is there anything in particular that you would say helped you to manage these challenges?
Orion Brown (01:32:12):
Yeah, I think the values is one big piece. You know, things that I value, I really value honesty. And I would say, colloquially speaking, I'm probably honest to a fault. But I think valuable to always be a source of truth. So if people are like, eh, she just saying that to be nice, you don't, you don't have to worry about that.
But that was something that from a professional maturity perspective was very, very helpful, particularly having difficult conversations. I think a lot of people in particularly women and have trouble having difficult conversations. And the, the value of being willing to tell somebody that they got spinach in their teeth and they look crazy. I would rather tell you as your manager, as your friend, as your peer, than to have everybody else in the room see it because you didn't know that it was there. I think, and I would rather someone tell me don't let me go with my skirt tucked up in my underwear. Like, you need to help me out. And that, and that goes for behavior and quality of work and all of those things. So that was a big navigation tool for me. It also was helpful in that like when you do get pressured, when you do get challenged.
Orion Brown (01:33:07):
Mmm. It's, yeah, it's helpful to have a North star. So that you don't have to make decisions on the fly and kind of be blowing here and there. It's like, Nope, I know what the value, what the core value is. So then what's the, what's the action that needs to be taken to support that? Because otherwise incentives going to your, if you don't have that intrinsic motivation, whatever you're being incentivized outwardly will be your, your motivation and your guide and your value. And those change daily at big companies based off of who's your boss or who's your boss's boss or how the market's working. So it's very important to know what you value and what you're willing to do and what you're not.
Wanda Duncan (01:33:58):
Well, thank you very much for that. I always like to make space for my guests to be supported by the listeners. So can you please tell us how listeners can support your work?
Orion Brown (01:34:12):
Oh, definitely. If you want to find The Black Travel Box, our website is www.theblacktravelbox.com. We're on Instagram as @blacktravelbox. So definitely hit us up there. If you'd like to reach me. I'm on Twitter and on Instagram@Orion_Helena And I love to hear from people. So reach out.
Wanda Duncan (01:34:44):
I really, really appreciate you taking the time cause I know you're ultra busy with your startup to speak with us and to share your passions and your ideas around travel and business. So thank so, so very much for being a guest on the podcast today.
Orion Brown (01:35:03):
Yes. Thank you so much for having me. This is fun. This is a good conversation. I try to make it interesting. I see you girl.
Wanda Duncan (01:35:17):
So we will end the show there. Y'all have a gorgeous day and we'll see you on the next chapter of Black Women Travel Podcast.
September 19, 2019 0 Comments
September 18, 2019 0 Comments
Audio and Photo Source: Gimlet and The Pitch Podcast
The Pitch Podcast is hosted by Josh Muccio. Produced by Heather Rogers and Kareem Maddox. Edited by Sara Sarasohn and Blythe Terrell.
Theme music by The Muse Maker. Original compositions from Breakmaster Cylinder, Bobby Lord, Peter Leonard, Billy Libby, The Muse Maker and Names Are Hard. Mixed by Enoch Kim.
Our Founder, Orion Brown, was a guest The Pitch Podcast. In the episode, Orion shared The Black Travel Box to venture capitalists Jenny Fielding, Elizabeth Yin, David Goldberg, Sheel Mohnot and Charles Hudson in the hopes of earning some $$$ for her business.
Was Orion able to persuade these investors? Listen below to find out
Episode Also Available on:
#72 How Niche Is Too Niche? Black Travel Box
September 18, 2019
Today on the show, we’ve got a different kind of pitch. This is an entrepreneur who’s just starting out. In fact, this is her very first pitch to venture capitalists.
At this stage, the VCs are looking for something specific. There’s less of a formula. More of a gut feeling. They’re not so concerned about valuation or even revenue. They just want to figure out, could there be a big enough market for this new business to flourish?
From Gimlet, this is The Pitch. I’m Josh Muccio.
We’ve got some new investors on the show today:
I’m Jenny Fielding
Jenny is the director of Techstars NYC and a prolific angel investor. She’s backed over 130 startups so far.
I’m Elizabeth Yin
Elizabeth is a managing partner at Hustle Fund. And so far she’s has invested $30M in over 250 startups. One example, a company called Nerdwallet.
I’m David Goldberg
David is a general partner at Corigin Ventures, where they’ve invested $38M in over 50 companies so far.
I’m Sheel Mohnot
Sheel has sold 3 startups for over $50 million dollars. Now he’s an angel investor and he’s invested in several companies worth billions today.
I’m Charles Hudson
Charles started Precursor Ventures, where he’s invested $45 million in over 100 startups to date.
Okay. On with the pitch:
Sheel: Hey, I'm Sheel.
Orion: Orion. Nice to meet you.
Charles: Hi, I'm Charles, nice to meet you.
Orion: Nice to meet you, Charles.
Jenny: Hey, I’m Jenny.
Orion: Jenny, nice to meet you.
Orion: Well, my name is Orion Brown. I am the founder and CEO of The Black Travel Box. We’re a personal care products company for travelers of color. A few years ago, I’m a certified diver, and I went on my you know open water dive test in Mexico. And I was so excited. It was so relaxing, it was beautiful. I conquered the ocean. I go back to my hotel room and I’m wearing my hair natural, and I realize I need to shampoo. I have not actually packed the shampoo that I normally take and pour in the little bottle. Now, I’m at a nice resort, so I decide, I’ll just use what they have here. Fast forward five minutes, I am no longer relaxed and happy. My hair is so matted it, no joke, needed to be cut. It was a really horrifying moment for me. And for millions of travelers like me, black travelers and travelers of color, this is a challenge. Because the products that are out there that are mainstream travel-ready products, are not inclusive in how they’re actually formulated. So that’s where the idea and the impetus for The Black Travel Box has come from -- from my experiences as a traveler.
This is a textbook example of what you’re supposed to do. Orion has identified a specific customer with a specific need that’s not being met. Women of color who need hair care products for travel. And she thinks, if she can meet that need, she can build a big business.
Orion: There's really a big opportunity here. Looking at a $48 billion beauty and personal care category. Women of color make up about 40% of that. So we're very disproportionately active within the category. So what we do. All of our products are in forms and formats that are meant to travel well, get you through TSA without a hassle, so no fuss, and are actually formulated for a variety of um hair textures. We launched with five products to kind of just test and see, am I the only person that’s crazy? Or are there other people in need? And so far it’s been going really well. And so I’m here today to ask for $350,000 to scale up, get out of soft launch, build a kickass team, I don't know if I can kickass, sorry.
Sheel: You can.
Orion: Build a kickass team. Um and uh you know really focus on both scaling up the operations side so that we can meet demand.
Jenny: Can we see the box?
Orion: Yes. Yes!
Charles: It's a nice size black box we got here.
Orion: Yeah. So I'm going to show you guys an example of the bars. These bars are solid. So they're anhydrous. You go into the shower, you wet them, you rub them through your hair. We have a shampoo, we have a conditioner and a co-wash.
Orion is showing the investors what looks like a bar of soap -- it’s a solid instead of a liquid or to use Orion’s term it’s “anhydrous.” Which is what makes it great for travel especially for her target market.
Orion: One of the biggest things that women do they'll take the top off and put a piece of plastic on top, like Saran Wrap, and close it back up, because they leak. Or you've got three zip lock bags around it to make sure it doesn't leak. So when you're talking about anhydrous products, you don't have that product issue. For women of color who typically use three to four times the amount of product, this is perfect. Because using a 3 and a half ounce bottle is just impossible to get enough for a trip that's more than a weekend.
David: Are you innovating on product or on form factor and size?
Orion: I would say that the true innovation is on form. The thing that’s really, that, that makes us stand out is that we're not putting existing products into small containers. It's like, well, what is the travel experience? What are the travel pain points? And how do you design a product around that?
David: So pardon my naïveté here. What’s the, what are the issues and pain points with smaller containers of the same product?
Orion: Yeah. So you know the first, the first issue just from the smaller container standpoint is you're just not going to have enough. So for women who are using 3 to 4 products on wash day, and you're like, but I can use Pert Plus 2-in-1. We can't do that! So it's a very different animal for us.
David: Neither can I.
Orion: Okay. There you go. You have lovely hair, too. I mean, you've got this swirl. I like it.
Orion: Yeah. So it was interesting. When I actually modeled this out I said, look, realistically speaking, looking at the subscription box model and the behavior there, even though we're not a subscription box, most folks fall off at about 2.6 turns, like in terms of getting new product. And so I said, okay, you know what, three times. We'll just say three.
Elizabeth: What are the, the COGS and the price point for this?
Orion: Yeah. Basically we sell a starter, our starter kit that has a smaller version of each of the bars so you can kind of sample and try them out. That is at a $38 price point. The actual cost for that is right around 6 bucks. So there’s a ton of room there and a ton of space.
The investors are trying to figure out, if Orion can sell enough boxes to enough people, to make enough money to make this business work.
David: I'm doing some back of the envelope math. If this lasts three to four turns, let's say. I don't know how many trips the average person goes on, I can't imagine it's many more than that, is someone just buying this once a year?
Orion: No. So, so if we're talking about how frequently they're traveling, the numbers are somewhere around 11 million, in terms of our target market, of folks that are actually traveling uh three to four times a year. At least two of those being international. And those are like big trips. But what I can tell you is, is on average, we have about 18% return customer rate. People that are buying, they're buying 2, 3 and 4 times. And so.
David: Over what period of time is that?
Orion: So right now, it's like a 60-day period. Because we haven't had them that long. So we haven't even seen a year. But that 18% that's returning, they're returning more than two and a half times.
So 82% of Orion’s customers are trying the product once, and not coming back. Maybe they didn’t use it, or didn’t like it. Maybe they just don’t know what to do with shampoo when it comes in a bar instead of a bottle.
Jenny: Just a clarifying question about the bar, is that something, is that a product that your um demographic is already used to using? Or is that a change that they’re used to using a liquid?
Orion: It’s a good question. So it actually is a change. And so one of the things I’ve learned is that at first people were like, I see that it says conditioner, but I don’t know what that means. And then you talk to them about it and you educate them and they’re like, This is the best thing ever. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this before.
Sheel: I'm thinking about my ex-girlfriend of color, she wanted to use her products with her, like, the same product when she traveled. And I feel like this is a big leap of, like, I'm going to try a new product just for travel and then go back to using my other product.
Sheel: That's, that’s the hang up I have.
David: I almost feel like you need to own the whole customer.
David: Right. Because the risk of switching products back and forth is, is higher.
Orion: Well, they're already switching products back and forth, to some extent. Right. So here's what’s actually happening. And I actually didn't know this until I started the company, I'm talking to women and they're telling me, Oh no, no, no! I don’t even try to bring my stuff. So you know what I do? I go to the grocery store when I get there and I get grapeseed oil. And I put that in my hair, and I hope that, you know, that's enough to hold me down. Um. And this is, this isn't just like five people. This is prevalent. The idea of, Hey, you don't have to do this anymore, is really, really compelling to them.
Charles: So I should just be honest. I have a waterless shampoo company in my portfolio, I have a black travel company in my portfolio, and I also have a natural hair care salon grade product company in my portfolio. So I am probably like triply conflicted out of this. Based on those conflicts, I'm going to have to pass.
Orion: I love that you're an advocate though.
Charles is out early because he already invested in a few startups that could be competition for The Black Travel Box.
But when we come back, the other investors try to figure out, if Orion’s idea can really take off. But that can a bit tricky. With a company so new.
Orion only has 150 customers to date. That means there’s not a lot of evidence yet, that The Black Travel Box could become a huge business. So David’s going to try to figure it out another way.
He wants to know, if there are successful companies that are similar.
David: Are there comps of other brands who have done really well in the travel market? Just my initial concerns are people aren't going to buy enough because they don't travel enough.
Orion: I mean, there's 771 million people travelled through TSA last year. And then also, linking to travel is a great entry point. You want to get them on the travel, on the trip. But then you want them to come back afterwards because they love the product.
David: So I fully, I already am sold on the opportunity for this high spending large demographic that is underserved. I think the part that I'm not fully understanding is this sub-niche of traveler. I don't know if it's necessary.
Orion: Yeah, I mean, I don't think that there's a brand that's really done travel specifically um in a meaningful way within the marketplace. But when you look at the growth of travel within sort of the travelers of color community, it’s a movement. Ten years ago, most people who were my age at that point did not actually have their passports. They were not going outside of the country, they weren't doing, we didn't backpack in Europe, we didn't do those types of things. And so now there's a growing market that people haven't seen yet. And 75% of black millennial travelers in particular say that they want brands that talk to them and they're not seeing it. 53% say they're willing to pay more for it. So the travel piece is something where we're not being reflected, we're not really seeing it. And we have a hankering to be seen there.
Orion’s got stats and they show that her growing market isn’t yet being served. But she can't point to another company that's done something similar to what she’s trying to do. And it’s not a given that people will even find her product, because in beauty, marketing and branding are everything. And that raises a big question for Jenny.
Jenny: Can you talk us through um your customer acquisition strategy? You know, after the launch, and really how marketing is going to play out.
Orion: There's three different areas that we really want to focus on. One, because this customer is very social and they're very socially based, all of the aspirational stuff that they're looking at, are happening in the social space. So we really want to focus on content there. Then there's also the influencer piece, particularly in the beauty space it's actually very helpful to see a person that looks like you do, using the products that you want to use. Because it's a test case. And then finally looking at the advertising side. I want to err on the side of content and then influencers should be next important. And then really the ad spend should be last because we should be acquiring customers at a much lower rate, rather than you know just shoving a bunch of cash out there to get them.
Elizabeth: And have you done any advertising testing?
Orion: Yes. We did some testing. The best CAC that we got to on paid was about 44 bucks. thinking about a five, item product line, that’s actually pretty decent.
David: What do you underwrite your average customer in terms of what are you hoping the CAC looks like, what do they purchase? How often do they purchase it? What kind of LTV does that look like?
Orion: Yeah. So in terms of um the CAC I would like to get it down to probably about $35. So right around the price of that starter box. They would come in with the box, try different things, go, Ooh, I love this, this and this. And then they would come back and individually purchase those items. Umm. And so in terms of a lifetime value, right now I have it ticked at about $180.
David: Over what period of time?
Orion: Over a period of about a year.
Sheel: I, I understand that there’s a need in this space. Um. Like no doubt. For me the sort of travel piece within multicultural CPG I think is, is too hard for me to wrap my head around. People don’t travel that often, and for them to buy a specific product that is different than the product they’ve been buying just for travel doesn’t make sense to me. And it’s probably because I don’t understand the market well enough. But because of that I’m going to pass.
Elizabeth: I’ve looked at a lot of black hair products. And I know that it can be incredibly competitive. But I love actually how unique your form factor is. I have not seen that. I think the tricky thing then is, well, to Sheel’s point, how do you then target the travel market? It happens so infrequently and people really only think about their trips when they’re about ready to go on their trips and they don’t really plan, you know, months in advance. And for that reason, it feels kind of tight to me, and so I’m a pass.
Jenny: I would build on that and just say, I I think there's probably more room for you to come into this category and own the category and have travel be you know a great wedge into it. But I think you know the vision, I would like to see a little bit bigger. So for that reason, I'm also passing.
David: I’m trying to put, I have a lot of different thoughts together. There’s a lot about this I like.
Orion: I want them.
David: And I have some concerns also.
David: I think you’re on to something here. I think you have a very unique insight into a specific demographic and their user patterns that is truly underserved today. I think the story needs to be cleaned up a little bit.
David: I think you're hedging your bets a little bit. Right. I think you need to go all in on brand, at least to start, with one specific story.
David: When I think about consumer products, I’m typically looking for one of two behaviors; either one, a high enough purchase where you will be significantly profitable on first purchase. Think mattresses.
David: Right. Or something more like a subscription box like razors where you can point to a six to 12 times a year. And I think here, we can have arguments about travel. Maybe it’s twice a year, maybe it’s four times a year. But even that $180 number, I don’t know if that’s exciting enough over a 12-month period of time.
David: So I’d love to track this and start to understand how do you either do really, really well with keeping CAC low, or what can you do to maybe increase frequency and LTV with different products.
David: Um. But for today, I’m going to pass.
Sheel: Thank you so much.
Orion: I appreciate your guys’ time. I appreciate it. Thank you. Give me my box back!
Orion leaves the room with no more cash then she came in with. The investors agreed, that she hadn’t figured out how to turn this very real problem into a very big business.
Sheel: I think it’s just, the travel makes it tough.
Jenny: The targeting on that.
David: I still don't fully understand the travel. And I think, right, if she were to come out here and say, Listen, like, there's also this really good travel company that doesn't fit my demographic, here's how well they're doing. Clear white space. Like, okay, I can put two and two together. But this was a couple iterations out.
Sheel: I think you need to have.
Jenny: Forget the travel. Just build the, just have those bars. Like, that’s awesome.
Elizabeth: I get why she’s doing it.
Sheel: What is there, is there a leading black shampoo company?
Elizabeth: It’s so competitive. There are a lot of black shampoos.
Sheel: What’s the leading one?
Jenny: Yeah there are a few.
Elizabeth: That’s why she’s doing this, to try to weave that niche, right. Like and that makes it hard on the marketing side to target like travelers.
Sheel: I feel like you want to use the same brand that you’re using anyway. I don’t see people like switching just for travel.
Elizabeth: But if they don’t have a choice right now, then they would.
Sheel: Yeah, sure.
Elizabeth: And I could buy that.
Sheel: But then like...
Jenny: But I would just have them create a brand where they're switching, but this is their on-the-go.
David: Right. There's something there.
Jenny: You can use it when you go to the gym. You can use it when you go to the, you know, on your weekends.
David: For the active woman. There's something much bigger.
Jenny: So it could be travel, but it’s just like on-the-go. And it’s a bar. And it comes in a really cool case. Just a case that doesn't leak with that thing, amazing.
After the break, we’ll find out if Orion is ready to make the changes that will make the venture capitalists happy.
Back in a minute.
Since The Black Travel Box is such a young startup, Orion doesn’t have a lot of experience making her pitch. I mean, this was her very first pitch to venture capitalists.
Producer Heather Rogers asked her about how she prepared for that.
Orion: I had a conversation with someone who, who basically said, You know you're very niche. And you really need to demonstrate that you can address the mass market. And your best bet is to make your product be less about the travel experience and more about out-of-home usage. And could you own the entire out-of-home beauty market. That's really the pie that you want to look at.
Heather: And when she said that what were you thinking?
Orion: You know the thing that went through my mind when she said it was Oh crap now how do I figure out a good way to articulate this umm, and quickly, that I believe.
Heather: Especially because it wasn't something that you'd done before, positioning it that way?
Orion: Correct, yeah. So then it's like don't say what you've been saying for the last six months because you're going to accidentally say it so don't say it don't say it. It's like you have a word in your head it's like don't say Cookie. Don't say Cookie. Oh I said Cookie. Cookie. So that's, that's, that's how I felt the whole time was like, Don't say it. Don't say it. Yeah.
Hmm, Orion was getting the exact same advice from her advisors that she got from the investors on our show it seems like all signs are pointing to her widening her market.
But she didn’t really do that.
Heather: So it’s still travel.
Orion: I think travel still is the road. I've hit something on the head because I found a very specific customer. And, and that's something that enduring brands really do well, is finding a customer and speaking to them well. But um, you know, I get it. How are you going to make a billion dollars off of a minority that people aren't necessarily convinced travel that much?
Heather: Mm hmm.
Orion: Niche is the first thing you're going to hear when you're focusing on particularly minority customers. And it's sort of one of those things that it would have been helpful for me to be able to walk in that room and say, Well you know we've been selling these products for the last three years and this is what our run rate looks like. Um.
Heather: You need more data?
Orion: You need more data because the idea won’t sell itself.
So Orion put her fundraising plans on hold. She wants to come back armed with enough evidence to prove she has a business that's big enough for venture capitalists.
She’s spending her days now talking to customers about what they like and don’t like. And she’s reading up online about how to make her company more venture back-able. But one thing she isn’t doing is giving up on her original vision for The Black Travel Box.
Orion: I may end up being the headline of like the most stubborn founder. But I haven't seen it, like. Uh. My thing is, I'm a hypothesis-driven person, right. But a hypothesis by definition needs to be tested. Now I'm like OK, I need to create some clear benchmarks that say this will signal that that is either true or false. If we don't hit the benchmark you guys were totally right, it's too niche.
Heather: Mm hmm.
Orion: But if we do. You know. Read ‘em and weep. Right. Um. So I'm, I'm not stubborn in the sense that I am somehow delusionally just pushing forward. No this is gonna be the biggest business we're gonna make 30 billion dollars! I, I’m hungry for a test. I'm hungry for a test. And it may be when we dig into these customers they go you know what. There's just no way I would buy this more than twice a year. Got it. Cool. I really did come into to to, to challenge a specific issue. So if that's not something that can be figured out then that, that's fine and I'm willing to accept that. But I want to see. I want to see the test and I want to see the data.
Heather: OK. You have a plan!
Orion: I do. I do.
Orion does have a plan. And you know, if she figures it out 150 customers could grow into 15,000 customers pretty quickly. And something tells me that's precisely when the investors would come knocking on her door.
Because that’s often just how the cookie crumbles. Dang it, I said cookie. AHHH!
July 19, 2019 0 Comments
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