Orion Brown, Founder & CEO, founded BlackTravelBox® to give women of color a brand they could trust for their travel personal care needs. She is currently running an iFundWomen campaign to raise $100,000 of growth capital to expand the business into hotels and additional retail outlets. Fund Orion’s campaign here. Investments of any size are welcome.
Black Travel Box Founder & CEO Orion Brown checks all of the entrepreneurial boxes. MBA from Duke, deep experience in brand management at large CPG companies and tech startups. Even Queen-Bey herself has endorsed the products.
Originally from Chicago, Brown moved to Denver to start something new and found that her own lived experience was the spark for an innovative idea.
As a frequent adventurer, Brown had rarely been able to quickly access the kind of hair and skincare they could trust would work with their personal care needs. Diving into the research, she discovered that the travel market for Black African American communities was growing exponentially and there was a window of opportunity to tap into the growing $63 billion industry.
Brown had a successful start with dozens of high-profile media hits, successful crowdfunding campaigns and acceptance into several high-value CPG accelerators. However the journey to bringing Black Travel Box to the masses has been long and arduous.
She has been denied funding at multiple turns and has struggled to find big check writers who believe in the product enough to invest significant dollars. This despite the fact that Brown has multiple hotel chains interested in carrying her products and other partnerships in the works.
This difficult journey to landing growth funding is not uncommon for women and BIPOC founders, which is why we are thrilled that Brown has joined the Entrepreneur Cohort for TARRA’s new research project to Map the Funding Ecosystem in Colorado.
As part of the cohort, she will participate with 10 other entrepreneurs in Phase 1 of our research study. The group will attend and participate in a series of roundtables alongside experts from the funding ecosystem in banking, angel investment, social impact and venture capital, to better understand the gaps that exist for underinvested business owners. The goal is to create more effective programming, tools and resources to address the deepest needs of entrepreneurs like Brown so we can help make the journey to growth and scale a little less complex.
TARRA sat down with Brown for our May 5 Minutes With… to learn more about her experience, who she turns to for advice and what she will never ever compromise.
What was your last a-ha moment?
My last business related a-ha was a few days ago in dealing with a vendor. Not everyone is going to think like you. And that includes some of the things you might assume are given, like values. In this particular case, I was totally taken aback by how they do business and what they value (or in this case, don’t value). It took me a while to wrap my head around what they were saying and doing. Business relationships can be so much like personal ones particularly if you think you know the other person—but you don’t. It’s important to understand and not take for granted that people will in fact show you who they are and what they’re about if you’re willing to see it for what it is, not what you hope it to be.
What’s the title of your autobiography?
Under Pressure: Creating Beauty From Life’s Coal Lumps
Who do you always turn to for advice?
I’m a fan of having a personal board of directors. Rather than going to one person for everything, I align my trust and their particular area of expertise. I have a wonderful founder friend who’s built several companies and is an investor. She gets all my AITA questions when it comes to entrepreneurship. I have another friend that I tap for family things, because she’s like family and has both wonderful and not-so-wonderful familial connections that she navigates with grace. I also crowdsource advice quite often in Facebook groups and Slack teams. I really do tap a pretty deep well of people when I need that second opinion.
How do you disconnect?
I’m an unabashed Star Trek fan. When I’m not able to travel, I let my mind just marinate in fantastic stories and far flung places. It’s so nerdy, and so good.
What do you compromise and what do you never compromise?
This is a great question. I think the ‘perfect’ answer is something like I never compromise on what I believe in. But I don’t think that’s completely true. There are definitely times that have required me to soften my stance or my language to get to a mutually beneficial outcome. Some days I simply don’t feel like compromising and I’m tired of watering down who I am, what I believe, and what is my lived experience. Other days, I have enough in my mental and emotional tank to do that. I really think it ebbs and flows. When I’m at my best I’m able to find a balance, compromising in places that need my flexibility and remaining immovable in others. What makes that OK for me is knowing that I am making the best decisions based on the information that I have at the time… and I can always change my mind. I can always learn better or do better the next time.