Sometimes the best ideas are born from trying to solve your own problems. Black Travel Box founder Orion Brown can attest to that. She ran out of product at the start of a trip to Japan and grew frustrated at the lack of options for Black women. 

“As I was talking to other Black travelers, I found that there were just all kinds of crazy workarounds that we do and all kinds of things to travel. It’s like, well of course I’m just going to pay extra and check a bag, so I can have the things that I need, or I’m going to run to the grocery store in Nairobi or wherever it is to find coconut oil or grapeseed oil to fill in.” 

Brown continued, “To be a human being that makes up a decent amount of the global populace and certainly a decent amount of the American populace and not be able to walk into any store and just find things that have an acknowledgment that you exist, that you have textured hair that you have melanated skin; I think is ridiculous.”

Courtesy of Black Travel Box

Her solution was a service that provides Black travelers with personal care essentials tailored to their needs. With everything from body butters to balms, the box is filled with TSA-friendly items to help glow on the go. Better yet, Brown is a proponent of clean products made from natural ingredients. Since her own mother and aunt have battled with fibroids and cancer, she knows how important it is to deliver safe products to her clientele. 

“I don’t want to contribute to the medical issues that we have, particularly in the Black female community that can be very clearly traced back to super toxic products. That said, clean beauty has a different definition for everybody. If you have sensitive skin, then what’s clean for you may not be clean for the next person.”

The Chicago native, who now resides in Boulder, Colorado, is particularly consumer centric thanks to a background in consumer goods for well-known brands like Kraft and Nestle.

“When you’re at a company like Kraft, your food is being purchased by people who are taking them home and giving them to their kids. And so to me, when I came into brand management, one of the first things that I sort of established with myself as a boundary was to never get behind a business or promote a brand that was not safe for people to give to their kids. And my litmus test for that was, would I give this product to my niece, who at the time was about six years old. So, every brand that I’ve worked on, I stand behind.”

“Just understanding what people actually need and want and serving them in that way, I think is the most beneficial,” she added about her philosophy. 

Brown graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Duke University. She believes that both have also contributed to her success in terms of understanding consumers and having a strong professional network to tap into for resources. 

“Whether you have a fancy degree or not, I think it’s all about creating experiences and connections that can help teach you, not only the practical skills, but give you the resources by connection to get the things done that you need to get done, even if you don’t know how to do them.” 

Last year the brand received an unexpected boost when it was featured on Beyoncé’s curated list of Black-owned beauty brands to purchase. Brown admits that learning about her shoutout from none other than Queen Bey wasn’t surreal because at first, she didn’t even believe it was true despite receiving messages from a couple of Instagram followers.

“I just really didn’t think there was anything of it,” she recalls. “And it wasn’t until probably later that morning or afternoon when I got a text to my personal phone number and somebody was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so awesome congrats.” And I was like, “Oh, that really happened.” That was my response. I didn’t have any contact with anybody on Beyoncé’s team. So it literally was just word of mouth when she dropped the page. And the exposure did definitely increase our numbers. We hit our 10,000 followers during that timeframe. And that was really cool.”

Courtesy of Black Travel Box

Like many other businesses, The Black Travel Box has been weathering the Covid-19 pandemic. And despite several restrictions on travel, customers have continued to engage with the brand. Brown hints that there are “some really good things” coming down the pipeline, some of which she can’t disclose just yet.  

“I’m very excited for the back end of this year. There are some amazing retail opportunities that are happening. So I think you guys will see a lot more of us. In terms of product, once travel does pick back up, there’s a lot of really great things. We’ve really lived in this space of travel essentials right now. And I can’t wait to get into more efficacious products. So things that are meant to help you restore, renew, or even prep yourself for travel.”

As her company continues to grow, Brown is heartened by the feedback she receives from satisfied customers. She is constantly thinking about their experience and actively creating with them in mind. Her message to other aspiring entrepreneurs is simple and straight to the point.

“Girl, go get yours. Wherever it is and whether you’re a nerd and you’re coming up with something techie or scientific or mathematical, or whether you’re really bomb at making blinged-out cups and Black Girls Create and all those groups on Facebook, I hail to y’all. You have a place in the world.” 

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