Beyonder illuminates the authentic life of tourist cities
Brittney Walker utilized her passion for travel and talent for connecting people to build a business that will support minority business owners across the globe. Beyonder empowers discerning travelers who wish to explore beyond the typical tourist attractions, and truly experience the culture and richness of the local population. Select restaurants, events, and shops are curated by Walker, providing minority-owned businesses with opportunities to increase revenue and awareness. In an exclusive interview with FM Hip Hop, this #FMFeline discussed how traveling opened her mind, and how she plans to inspire other adventurers.
FM HIP HOP: What inspired you to create Beyonder?
BRITTNEY WALKER: I had another platform, [travel and lifestyle magazine] GypsyJaunt.com, and I had it for like three years, and the site wasn’t moving the way I wanted it to. So I started a fellowship program in January to help me get the skills I needed to be a better businessperson, be a better entrepreneur, and use my skills in startups and journalism to create something new. I knew that I wanted to do something with travel, and inspire people to do dope s***. At this program, I started curating this idea that I had, and came up with this itinerary curation, or experience curation service, which is Beyonder.
When I was talking to people about my idea, and talking to my community that I want to serve– which are black travelers– I found that they are doing an off-the-beaten-path experience, but I also found out that a lot of my people are being discriminated against. In retrospect, I hadn’t really thought about it for myself… but a lot of [us] have similar experiences. People would try to touch my hair, or Airbnb hosts were rejecting my request because they saw my picture, or whatever the case is. I want to make it easier for us to move about the world, find people like us around the world, have a local experience, stay safe, and have great memories. Essentially, I wanted to merge my passions, thoughts, and ideas to serve my community better.
FM: How do you choose which locales and itineraries to feature?
BW: The first itinerary is in Bed-Stuy, and I started there because firstly, that’s where I live. Secondly, black folks like myself and my family members were coming to the city and doing all this touristy stuff. There’s so much more richness in New York than going to Times Square. [They] ended up going to Applebee’s or something like that. There’s some great restaurants around here you should check out, but [they] didn’t know where to go. Also, Bed-Stuy is being heavily gentrified, so a lot of the black-owned spots are kind of falling by the wayside. People aren’t aware of them. I wanted to keep that richness alive as well. For the other locations, it’s going to be based on crowdsourcing and wherever I travel. I’m thinking of going to Colombia, to Haiti– I went to Cuba earlier this year. I’m going to be spending time in different places and researching and finding black-owned spots and the places of quality that people like myself and others would really enjoy.
FM: Is the focus on minority female businesses or black-owned businesses in general?
BW: It was black female-owned businesses only, but [now] I’m including black men and women. I changed that because although I’m all about black women and empowering us, we still gotta support our men. We’re a minority in business ownership as it is in the U.S., so when I’m thinking about black women-owned places around the world, that might be a hard thing to do.
I think it’s really important for black women to support each other, especially when they’re trying to make something happen. It’s something that I experienced, unfortunately, when I was building GypsyJaunt. I didn’t get a lot of support from other women, and I’m not sure why. I think that we can build faster and more effectively if we support each other and not look at each other as competition, but as partners and people who can build together.
FM: What are some of the benefits that you’ve gleaned from traveling abroad?
BW: My exposure to different ideas has expanded tremendously. I grew up primarily in the suburbs in California, just outside of Los Angeles, and my family has a certain idea about the world and about people. I was curious, and wanted to explore different things and different cultures. What traveling has done for me, is it has opened my mind. I’ve become extremely more tolerant… the way I have conversations with people, or even the way I feel safer around the world when I travel. I feel like I’ve learned so much. I’m not a religious person, but I believe that what I’ve been able to view is the beauty of people. The way that God manifests in other people and other cultures around the world. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening here and my experience here in my little bubble, but I think the world has so much more to offer than what’s in my little bubble. Plus, you don’t get to see black people everywhere, so interacting with black folks around the world is truly amazing. I had a limited perspective of what black people were like. I’m a black person, but my world is what it is. Black people are different everywhere, and that’s dope. Generally, I just feel like I’m a more well-rounded person, and I have more to offer when I interact with folks.
FM: What advice do you have for those working a 9-5 and trying to build their own business?
BW: I primarily freelance and have other things that I do to pay my bills and finance my projects. What I’ve learned is that I just have to schedule. Each day is designated for something. For example, with this new project, Mondays are “Marketing and Money Mondays.” That’s when I work on my marketing plan, and acquiring any type of monies toward the project– whether that’s in sales or support. Having a schedule like that is important for me. Designating a certain amount of hours toward the project is important for me as well. No matter how tired I am, I still need to know that I need to dedicate some time towards this project. I make sure that I have my task list for the beginning of the week, and make sure all of those things get checked off. Further, because I came out of this fellowship program, I have this group of people that are also working on startups, and we hold each other accountable. We make calls and we meet up, or whatever we need to do– we make that happen. Finally, having milestones has been really effective. Every month or every three months, having a certain set of goals ready. “This is what I’m working towards, or this is what I’m trying to do by this time.” That’s really important as well.
FM: What is the future of Beyonder?
BW: For this year, I’m really interested in partnering with other platforms like Innclusive (the clap back to Airbnb), Elite Dating (a black dating site)… basically I’m looking to partner with other like-minded brands so that we can expand and offer our experience on different platforms. The whole point is to get people out into the world and have these great experiences, and if people are interested in them, I have to reach them where they’re at. So that’s the main thing for the future. Also, by the end of the year, I’m hoping to have Beyonder in three domestic cities and two international ones.
FM: Do you have an idea for the next location you’re going to feature?
BW: I’m going to do L.A.; that’s what I’ll be working in the next couple of weeks. And possibly Miami by the end of the summer. I’m not sure about the next international city!
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