New Venture Launch in Black Travel

Lessons hopefully learned

Servicing young Black travelers / photo by Brittney M.Walker

GypsyJaunt.com was my first attempt at creating a travel platform for Black women. It didn’t fail, but it didn’t succeed. So what do we call that? Stalemate?

At any rate, the site started off as a blog to share my travel adventures with others. It evolved into a more serious pursuit to inspire Black women to travel and see the world beyond our comfort zones. I love travel and I believe everyone should experience the world in this capacity.

The site was launched a few years ago, just as other more popular sites like TravelNoire.com and Nomadness Travel Tribe launched. They quickly became superstars and are still thriving. What I noticed over the years is that platforms like these were doing the thing I wanted, but way better.

I still love travel and want others to experience it in ways I do. But I also don’t want to — dirty word — compete with those already dominating the space. After some frustrating conversations with myself, sharing my story with my cohorts in the Entrepreneurial Journalism program at CUNY and finally, sort of settling on a solution, I’m testing out something new.

Tentatively called Bese Travel, it’s a travel platform for Black creative professionals to connect over transformative events and trips.

While I’d rather target singles, I don’t think my marketing will reflect that in words, so as not to make it awkward. There are a few dating sites and groups out there bringing singles together over travel and adventure, but I haven’t discovered any that are tailored for Black singles.

One of my cohorts kept it all the way real with me and said, “You know what Black women need? They need men.” Out of context, that statement could read like an uncomfortable statement. But the goal of our program is to address a need. She said to me that in her conversations with other women like us, especially in New York, Black women are having a hard time finding decent men to date. Online dating has become something of a cesspool of slimy hookups and awkward coffee meetings. She suggested I do what I’m good at, which is creating dope travel experiences, and service Black women by delivering an entrée of eligible bachelors.

I liked the idea and shared it with others. And so we’re off.

One of the things GypsyJaunt started to do last year was trip curation with small groups of people. One of the trips I’m especially proud of was a ski trip. We partnered with the tourism department of New York State (I Love New York), Hunter Mountain, SimplyRides.com and Kia to bring a group of women on a ski trip upstate. It was glorious and quite memorable. Check it out here.

We also did an immersive upstate New York road trip in partnership with SimplyRides.com, Kia, Harlem Brewery, BlindBuck Farms, Simplee Beautiful and Lickle Dumplings. We took a group of bloggers, journalists and influencers on a three-day weekend experience that included a hair health and care demo, a private gourmet art and food lunch, a farm-stay and beer brewing class with Celeste Beatty of Harlem Brewery. Each stop and experience was off the beaten path. Each experience was engaging and transformative in some aspect.

Those are the type of experiences I want to create for Black singles. I don’t think I’ll simply market the platform as a dating experience. Instead I’m interested in connecting Black singles and creating a comfortable, fun and depressurized environment for them to meet and connect.

Currently, the revenue model is primarily based on booking trips with consumers. I am debating about whether or not to charge for membership, which would include a vetting process to enforce, hopefully, transparency among members and ensure we can offer a quality pool of candidates for our customers.

A secondary business model I’m still developing is to build out content for our travel partners and vendors. A problem that is being discussed in the Black travel world is that companies in the tourism industry rarely market to people of color. As a journalist, I think I can make this part happen, especially with the platform’s soon to be built in following and members.

Where I am in the process:

I’ve launched a landing page to capture my audience. With this, I’m discovering whether or not there is any real interest out there for this service. I’m also developing a vetting process and a membership sign up form.

As far as market research is concerned, I’ve conducted a few group interviews and will be having an in-person meetup with both single Black men and women at the end of the month.

Finally, I’ve set a date for our first in-city event for my target community. The date is April 7. The itinerary will likely be a brewing class and some meet and greet activity. I hope to understand my community better with this first event and whet the appetite of potential customers for our first trip in June, fingers crossed.