Tired of the lack of representation of travelers of color by companies and travel brands, entrepreneur Zim Ugochukwu started Travel Noire in late 2013 to create a more diverse representation of globetrotters.
Ugochukwu has quickly grown engagement for Travel Noire. She started with 10 contributors on the site and now has about 115. Travel Noire’s social media accounts have already reached the tens of thousands during the short time it’s been around. Followers on the Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages total approximately 56,000 combined. Ugochukwu said her social media engagement grows about 20% each month. With numbers like that Travel Noire isn’t going anywhere soon. And she may very well get to her grandiose goal of shaping a more inclusive face of travel. We go on a journey with the vibrant entrepreneur to know where she gets ideas from, how she builds engagement and what keeps her sharp.
1) It Doesn’t Take Much
Zim got the idea for Travel Noire after packing her bags and moving to India. She was frustrated she didn’t see anybody like her when she was traveling. After consulting with a friend she decided she was just going to do it.
“I had one conversation with a friend and I said I’m thinking of this idea, I think it would be really interesting. What do you think? And she was like ‘yeah you have nothing to lose.’ So with $50 I got the domain name, I set up the site, I did everything and I really didn’t have anything to lose. And thats the important part that people need to realize; you can either do something or you can not do it. But by you not doing it you run the risk of not living out your full purpose or who you are supposed to be.”
2) Keep it Simple
Zim describes Travel Noire as fun, relevant and clean. And one can’t help but notice the clean and simple name.
‘Travel Noire is very practical. So ‘noire’ means black in French and travel is travel. So its sort of like this black travel experience I wanted people to relate to. I didn’t think ridiculously hard about it. It just sort of hit me in my head ‘oh Travel Noire … hmm… interesting… I like that.’ And that was it.
3) Build a Team
She has four advisors on the Travel Noire team.
“I was very adamant about building a really awesome team of advisors.”
“And I wanted to be very deliberate about having people or bringing people on within their familiar roles. Because that is what they’re good at so let them be good at what they do. And if I’m feeling areas of my weakness I wanted to be able to rely on someone who is better than me in more than one area.
4) Read … A lot
For the entrepreneur, reading is essential.
I spent a lot of time reading blogs that founders have started, so like Mike Karnjanaprakorn of Skillshare and Tristan Walker of Walker and Company. I also read things like Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. I’m just a big reader in general. You sort of challenge and sharpen yourself when you open yourself to new things. I don’t know of any successful person that isn’t an avid reader. So I think that some of those books were pivotal in thinking how to start Travel Noir. Also Tim Ferris, Chris Guillebeau all those kind of authors; just trying to figure out how I can create a lifestyle where all I have to have is a laptop and Internet.
5) Design First Strategy
‘Clean’ also describes the design of the Travel Noire site.
“I think that the design of the site was very much influenced by my time in San Francisco.”
“I started seeing flat design more and a white space and you know simplicity and I really liked that because it forced you to focus on important elements versus begin thrown a million bits of information at one time.”
“I knew that when I was going to do something and whenever I was going to start something that design would be at the forefront and creating a cohesive and enjoyable experience for the readers and users.”
6) A Lesson on Social
When Travel Noire first arrived on Instagram, Ugochukwu didn’t have a strategy for engagement. But that changed after she took notes from a friend and fellow entrepreneur who reposted user’s photos.
“And I said that would be a really interesting thing to do if we took travelers and worked off of that same concept. So we started featuring people. And people like seeing themselves and it started growing and growing. And we started incorporating things like quotes and destination images and hotel images and videos and people just were really engaged. And they still are every engaged.”
7) Meet People Where They Are
Some of the best lessons Ugochukwu learned about building engagement was during her college days of organizing at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
“I took away that you really need to meet people where they are. Everybody has different experiences and everybody’s informed by different things. And if you are meeting people where they’re most familiar, you’re able to bring them into a new kind of space rather than you talking to something that they don’t relate to.”
The theme for Social Media Week Lagos 2015 is Upwardly Mobile: The Rise of a Connected Africa. If you have any questions about traveling to the conference, please contact yours truly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you in Lagos.