They don’t joke about necessity being the mother of invention. The necessity for travel products that would satisfy skin and hair care needs during her travels motivated Orion Brown, founder and CEO of the Denver-based business The Black Travel Box (BTB), to not only find a solution for herself but also make it available to others with similar issues. Of course, there is no dearth of travel products in the market, even among name brands.
But among brands that cater to clients of color, BTB is looking particularly at the use and occasion of travel. “That focus on the traveler is our north star,” says Brown, who is an avid traveler and learned from her own experience that there is a need for such a product and service in the market. “That’s what differentiates us. You can look at as many travel sizes of your favorite products as you can find on the retail shelf but we are really building a brand and a business on a platform that is serving a specific consumer.”
She adds, “Our products are all meant to make life easier. For instance, the BTB body balm contains more beeswax. If stored in your bags during travel, that ensures zero spills. The same goes for the BTB shampoo, conditioner and lotion bars. No more awkward conversations with TSA or your dry cleaner.”
The Moment to Create
The Chicago native’s “aha moment” struck during a trip to Japan when she realized there was no venturing into a store for hair pomade. “It occurred to me that I can't be the only one out in these streets longing for a little shea butter goodness.” She established the business last August when it dawned on her pretty quickly that this wasn’t simply another side hustle but a rather serious passion project.
The BTB product line currently features a conditioner bar, hair balm, body balm and lip balm in TSA friendly packaging for travelers of color. Upcoming products to be added to the offerings include a shave bar, beard oil, lotion bar, and elbow and foot salve. All products are available through the website and shipped directly to your door, whether it is a single order or a subscription basis.
The ingredients used in the products are listed on the BTB website and include everything from cocoa seed butter to peppermint essential oils, and then some. Working on product formulation with natural ingredients was easy for Brown. There are plenty of resources, companies and forums that provide a lot of information. However, learning what works or doesn't in this case, and how to integrate that in the formulation is an ongoing process.
“My corporate background in consumer goods marketing and brand management, for the better part of a decade, helped understand all of the layers of being a business manager and brand owner. I had that mapped out pretty easy. The hard part was how do you start from zero? That’s a very different space,” shares Brown, who still works at her day job as a Brand Strategist for Oracle.
Meeting the Need
With branding and products in place, the BTB website launched this year in June and Brown is intent on scaling and building out a full-fledged business soon. She already has clients from as far as Qatar ordering products online. If all goes as planned, BTB will be in full production by fall.
“Right now we are in beta, which is allowing us to have an incubator phase where we are tweaking the products in small batches,” says Brown. “I have studio space to produce product, few dozen cases at a time. However, I am talking to manufacturers, negotiating what items would be produced where and the minimums required to ramp up operations.”
She adds, “I feel entrepreneurship is a great fit for me as I am super passionate about travel. Being able to be location agnostic when I need to be is beautiful.” The travel bug bit Brown well into her 20s. She turned the proud owner of her first passport at the age of 25. Since then, she has visited several countries including Jamaica, Bali, Dubai, Japan, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Kenya and more.
Brown's travels will bring her to Redondo Beach next where BTB is doing a pop-up shop on August 18. She will be sampling products and spreading the word on her creations ensuring, as she states on her website, no foreign lands, desert sands, beachy waves or mountain summits deprive you of your beauty – inside and out.