Growth: Zim Ugochukwu

Growth:

Exploring the growth of ideas, aspirations, and the mentality toward success.

ZIM UGOCHUKWU

I AM...

a Christian, a lover of love & life. I am inspired by all things that exist simply.

Passion / Profession

My passion pays the bills. I am the founder & CEO of Travel Noire.

Q: Travel Noire is…

A: Travel Noire is a digital publishing brand that creates compelling tools, resources & experiences to help travelers discover new destinations. 

With travelnoire.com writers living and traveling all over the world, we are the most comprehensive end-to-end resource for unconventional travelers. We have been featured in Yahoo, the Daily Beast, the Atlantic, Essence and Huffington Post among others.

Q: When did you get the idea to create Travel Noire and how did you get started?

A: I was living in India at the time, and thought it would be a great idea to build a community of like-minded travelers of the African Diaspora who loved to travel as much as I did. Travel Noire was born out of frequent encounters with people of color who were skeptical about the reality of traveling abroad. I was hopping on flights to different countries for around $50 and I wanted to share those tips & hacks. Instead of focusing on me, I thought it would be much more powerful if I could empower ordinary people to share their love of global culture and exploration and inspire the next generation of unconventional travelers.

One of Zim's early video hangout sessions providing tips and perspectives on traveling abroad.  

One of Zim's early video hangout sessions providing tips and perspectives on traveling abroad.  

Q: Did you have any doubts/fears starting out? – What were they and how did you overcome those fears?

A: I had nothing to lose. I started Travel Noire with $50. Putting something out in the world that you’ve handcrafted can often be daunting, but what is the risk if you don’t? The world is a much better place because of your natural gifts & talents. Let them shine. 

Q: When did you know you were onto something?

A: I launched Travel Noire while I was still working a full-time job. A few months in, I realized that the brand was getting a lot of traction. When I kept hearing over and over about the potential from both large brands and advisors, I knew that I had something good. People gravitated to Travel Noire because travel changes lives. And folks wanted a part of that.

Q: You’ve amassed a pretty large Instagram following in a very short time. - Tell us about your 1st Travel Noire post and what that was like? 

A: My first Instagram post was a travel tip that got two likes. It was challenging to find other travelers of the African diaspora because I didn’t know where to start. Over time, I found that people liked to be featured and soon after, people started tagging their pictures w/ #travelnoire on their latest adventures. Instagram has been a large part of our brand strategy. When you see someone doing something you never thought was possible, it plants a psychological seed. “Maybe I can do that too,” is the thought that often follows. 

Thousands of people from all over the world follow Travel Noire. Over 100K followers in a little over a year. Being featured on their Instagram has become a social badge of honor to many travelers far and wide. 

Q: Best failure, and best success thus far? What did you learn from both? 

A: Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. You never fail. My success is that I get to wake up everyday and put my all into something that I really believe in. Entrepreneurship isn’t really all that glamorous. It’s extremely hard work. Most days I’m in sweats, on calls and in spreadsheets. If you aren’t willing to drastically (and I mean drastically) reduce your social life for something you’re trying to build, entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you. 

Q: Do you have a “creative circle” or “board of advisors” that you look to for feedback and advice? 

A: The Travel Noire team is really robust, actually. I have a phenomenal executive team and a great cadre of brand strategists and content editors as well as 11 amazing Travel Noire Fellows. I do have a trusted circle of advisors who cover different facets of the company.

My advisors are all strong in areas that I’m not. We have an overall business strategy advisor, a partnerships advisor, an HR advisor and an advertising/marketing advisor. They are all bosses in their respective fields; they’ve brokered millions of dollars in deals, worked with governments and are all very engaged when it comes to building the Travel Noire brand. Our advisors found us while we were working. I didn’t look for advisors before the brand launched, we did the work and got connected through introductions.

Always have a circle of advisors who have been through what you’re trying to do. They’ve been there and done that, why not keep them as close counsel? Whenever I’m stuck on something, I can call any one of them and they’ll talk me through it. It makes a huge difference!

Q: What is your superpower? 

A: I love connection. I love connecting with people and building & creating community. I started as an organizer for President Obama’s first campaign in 2008, then as the VP of a national anti-tobacco organization, then as a founder of my own civic engagement organization before working as an organizer in San Francisco (all of this while I was in college). It’s helped me better relate to people. It’s a superpower that always reminds me to meet people where they are. 

I also have endless amounts of passion & enthusiasm. I think that all of these superpowers combine to make me the baddest Super Saiyan in the West!

Q: I assume you had an original vision, but did you envision that Travel Noire would be what it is today? Where do you see things going from here?

A: I envisioned Travel Noire to be big, but not to grow this fast. In a little under a year and a half, we’ve built something incredibly special and are proving to the world that this segment, my beautiful black sisters and brothers all over the world, travel. And we travel unconventionally. From here, we’ve got really, really exciting things on the horizon and I want to tell you, I really do. But I believe the build up will be just as exciting. 

An on-the-go travel community. Connect with travelers, access travel deals, and discover new destinations. 

An on-the-go travel community. Connect with travelers, access travel deals, and discover new destinations. 

BET coverage of Travel Noire's #TNdistrict launch. 900 subscriptions in one weekend. 

BET coverage of Travel Noire's #TNdistrict launch. 900 subscriptions in one weekend. 

Q: Any tips for someone out there thinking about getting started with an idea?

A: Do your research. Look to see who your potential competitors will be. Look to see if there is a gap in the market. Figure out if people will actually buy your product. Talk to potential customers, create an MVP (minimum viable product) and do beta testing. If you have a full time job, start your idea while you have a steady stream of income. It’s the safest way to validate your idea.

To learn more about Zim and Travel Noire make sure you check out the links below!