How these entrepreneurs turned travel from a hobby to a business
A Creative Society AMA with Eric Martin and Kent Johnson
For many, traveling around the world is something to dream of doing. Eric Martin and Kent Johnson just so happen to do this for a living. Eric and Kent, founders of the lifestyle and media company Black & Abroad, have created a cultural collective that is dedicated to redefining world experiences for the modern black traveler. Their mission is to explore, embrace and to empower. They both took time out of their busy schedules to chat with Blavity’s Creative Society for a one-hour AMA in which they shared with us their experiences traveling and running a business.
Meet the founders
They aren't working full-time with Black & Abroad — Eric works in real estate while Kent works as an attorney with a small practice dedicated to small businesses and trademarks. Of course starting a new business has its challenges and both Eric and Kent have their fair share. When asked what was their biggest challenge, Kent said that it,
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“comes from actually believing your idea is great enough to last. We all have great ideas and we let them go — part of that comes from not believing it has a future. It’s a hard spot to move past, knowing that your idea has the ability to be bigger than you initially thought. There’s often a fear in success that doesn’t get spoken about, but it’s definitely there.”'
They are most recognized by their apparel, but they also provide content and destination guides for other fellow travelers looking to go somewhere they’ve never been before. One of their tag lines is:
“putting familiar faces in unfamiliar spaces”'
and in doing so, they provide a black traveling experience to show more diversity in exotic places. There is a lack of representation, and as they continue to grow, these experiences become the norm or a commonplace. When they first started, they were only selling apparel in order to fund the rest of their company operations. They found a sense of community within their brand. People began liking their t-shirts that they were wearing on their Instagram and things took off from there.
Illusion of cost
At Black & Abroad, they want to inspire others to travel as well, but people sometimes still can’t wrap their heads around the fact that ordinary people can travel. The first issue people associate with travel is cost.
“If we spent half as much as people thought we did on travel, we’d be broke. When I tell my friends I just bought a ticket to Australia, they’d quote the price as $1,250 vs. the $125 I actually paid for it (true story, lol). The most expensive ticket I purchased this year was to fly to Phoenix for Thanksgiving, and I’ve been out of the country 5 times this year.”'
Traveling is not as expensive as some people may think.
Fear of safety
The second is fear. Usually when you go traveling, friends, family and people on Facebook will say, “be careful” or “be safe.”
“In today’s climate, I’m often safer away from my home than around the corner from it. AND I’m a firm believer of the black community having a different perception of safety than other communities, and the other communities are often the ones who create/stimulate the myth of danger in certain countries. Case in point: Cuba. Everyone’s first impression is that it’s dangerous and it is one of the safest countries in the world.”'
With Black & Abroad being such a new company, they have so much room for growth. From their initial launch date in April of 2015, they have been progressing since day 1.
“We have lots in store! One of our most important initiatives is to help bridge the gaps among the diaspora. We see ourselves expanding to accommodate this need by continuing to grow our following, and continuing to create a space for our followers to have a platform to share and celebrate their point of views. We’ve opened our site to those travelers who wish to tell their travel stories. In 5 years, we will have enough stories/content for our audience to completely immerse themselves into our movement.”'
When was the last time you traveled? Let us know in the comments below!
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