When Jessica Blotter took her family on a trip to Belize, she said they witnessed heartbreaking poverty and environmental despair. She wished there was a way their travel dollars could positively impact the local community and environment. From there, her vision came to fruition through her website Kind Traveler.
Kind Traveler empowers travelers to become a force for good when they travel. After only four years, Blotter has won industry awards and is a recognized expert in sustainable travel.
WhereverFamily: To date, what are your biggest accomplishments?
Jessica Blotter: My biggest accomplishment to date is the launch of Kind Traveler, the world’s first socially conscious Give + Get hotel booking and sustainable travel media platform that empowers travelers to positively impact the destinations they visit. Travelers access exclusive hotel rates and perks to book directly with curated Kind Hotels when they give a $10 nightly donation to a local charity that positively impacts the visiting destination, or to any charity on the platform with 100 percent of donations going to charity.
After launching in late 2016, we now represent 110 hotels and 65 charities in 15 countries aimed to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals designed to advance environmental sustainability, prevent poverty and reduce inequality. The last few months have been particularly exciting as we were invited to present Kind Traveler in Germany as part of the Lufthansa Innovation Hub Changemaker Challenge and in Chile as part of the UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure Summit.
WF: Did you feel any fear your passion to succeed wouldn’t be accepted by your family and/or friends?
JB: I’ve always loved the phrase ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ as fear is a part of any entrepreneurial journey that involves great risk and sacrifice. I think it’s more important to take the time to tune in and get clear on your deepest passions and purpose in life. When we first come from a place in deeply understanding what our life’s purpose is (which can take time, education and life experiences to sometimes uncover), it’s a million times easier and authentic to move forward on your vision, without the worry or fear someone may disapprove.
WF: What do you feel were your biggest obstacles?
JB: There have been so many obstacles! It took four years to build Kind Traveler after the idea came full circle from that vacation in Belize. Our first major obstacle was signing our first hotel; Virgin Hotels Chicago was our very first partner. Working closely with a web development team to build the technology was also a grueling process.
Another challenge was to actually launch the website to the public! Once we had 22 hotel partners and 20 charity partners in 12 destinations, we worked with an excellent publicist to launch the website. Within the first week we landed dedicated stories in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and more. This made all of the challenges and hard work extremely worthwhile.
WF: Can you share a funny moment that happened as you proceeded to succeed?
JB: We shared a pitch for a big partnership we wanted and the CEO told us we were asking for way too little! She told us to add a couple of zeros to our ask. We went back to our office, made the changes and they signed. The experience taught us to recognize our value and set the bar high.
WF: Can you share any inspiring moments that kept you going even when it got tough?
JB: The journey has been consistently tough but it is so rewarding to wake up and know you are living your true life’s purpose — even though it may come with a great deal of uncertainty and risk. The challenges any startup faces can be overwhelming — from building a team, understanding what works with your marketing funnel, customer acquisition, satisfying partner agreements, acquiring an investor/funding and much more. But when you’re on the right path, there are often signs and acknowledgements that come your way to let you know you are on the path you should be!
For me, some of the most inspiring moments have come out of the invitations to be a speaker at events around the world. Other greatly inspiring moments included the times when I’ve been able to visit our Kind Hotels and Kind Charities in telling the story of what it looks like to travel kindly within various destinations. More recently, I was able to experience Sonoma County, California, a Kind Destination on Kind Traveler, and felt so connected to the destination and its love for sustainability and wine.
WF: What words can you share with other women who want to achieve your success?
JB: Take the time to daydream on the visions, ideas and purposes that light your soul. Whatever topic you feel the most emotionally invested in, this is usually a good place to look in uncovering your passion and purpose. Invest in education, experiences and travel that will open your mind to new challenges and perspectives. Consider becoming a volunteer in helping other people, animals or the environment. When you are able to connect your passions, skills, gifts and talents with a higher purpose in helping others, it’s possible to create a deeply fulfilling foundation for success.
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