My Origin Story: Ronnell Perry
Generation Titans' "My Origin Story" is part of ongoing series to feature talented, innovative, and dope entrepreneurs of color (EOC). We are providing a platform where founders and creatives can tell their stories in their own voice and in their own unique way. These stories are not highlight reels, although they do highlight success. Also, these stories are not focused on only the hardships, obstacles, and racial inequality that entrepreneurs of color face, although they do squarely address these challenges. Today, Generation Titans catches up with Ronnell Perry to hear more about his origin story and his journey as an entrepreneur.
Stories like Ronnell's, are American stories that push the culture forward, spark conversation and connections in the startup ecosystem, and also inspire a younger generation of entrepreneurs. These stories and the founders are a counter narrative. Through "My Origin Story," Generation Titans is proving that the pipeline of EOCs exists--despite the media's prevailing deficit narrative about entrepreneurs of color.
WHO IS Ronnell Perry
Ronnell Perry is the founder of AfroBuenaventura Travels, he's an international traveler with an affinity for Latin America. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, an empath, and an artist at heart. These experiences and qualities have fueled his passion for creating spaces where conversations are inclusive and the players engage as equals; which is reflected in the business that he's created.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I am from the south suburbs of Chicago. I attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Dillard University in New Orleans, LA, and currently live in Washington, DC, which accounts for my southern charm. Other places that I have lived including Paraguay and Costa Rica have contributed to my multifaceted worldview and cultural competency.
WHAT IS ONE THING THAT SOCIAL MEDIA WON'T TELL US ABOUT YOU?
One thing that you won't find out about me via social media is that I have the biggest sweet tooth! I am kinda on a diet right now, but if I weren't, I'd be on the hunt for pound cake, sweet potato pie, cupcakes, gummy peach rings, or my Aunt's Milky Way cake! (IKR?!)
WHAT IS AfroBuenaventura AND HOW HAS YOUR JOURNEY AS A FOUNDER SHAPED WHAT YOU'RE DOING AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
AfroBuenaventura is a travel lifestyle consultancy that focuses on curating transformational travel experiences in black communities throughout Latin America. Informed by over ten years of international travel experience, I guide people on how to to take their travel to the next level; how to go from tourist to traveler.
In late 2016 I decided to visit the Colombian Pacific Coast port city Buenaventura despite a particular guidebook painting it as dangerous and possessing no touristic value. When I arrived, I spontaneously traveled to a remote fishing village where I witnessed the entire community come together to celebrate it's blackness in the context of Latinx identity. From that moment on I knew that I was to tell the stories of these communities (and more intently question the motives and voices behind mainstream tourist resources), and using a sustainable travel framework, illuminate the value that they posses as destinations.
My journey as a founder is constantly evolving. As I invest more of my soul into my mission, my heart opens wider. I see more of the landscape of possibility for me and my company. Each day that I keep myself motivated through this work, the Universe points me to increased opportunities to share and grow. I plan to change the conversation around what travel can look like. Social media has made it exceptionally easy to showcase the photogenic, glamorous, luxurious---often elitist side of travel. I want to show people that travel can be that and much more. It can be transformative---not only for the consumer, but also for the host community in terms of investments into their local economy. Travel is one of the greatest tools for increasing understanding and facilitating personal, and collective transformation within communities.
As I continue to grow, relationships become more focal to my work. Though AfroBuenaventura is my company, and next level travel is my philosophy, their success relies on people buying in. I rely on host-country partners to connect me to specific communities, I rely on media brands to cover what I am doing, I rely on people to engage with me in this new conversation that I am promoting within the travel industry. Relationships are key.
WHAT HAS DRIVEN YOU TO DO WHAT YOU'RE DOING NOW?
Since graduating college, I have been on a hunt to understand my calling. During one difficult semester in college, I sat down with the campus chaplain to decompress. She asked me what activity do I do to put myself together. I had no answer. Years later, I would learn that I find peace in travel and exploration. After my experience in that village in Colombia, and subsequently starting AfroBuenaventura, I have felt more peace than ever. This peace drives me to grow the company, develop my niche, and hone myself as a thought leader in the travel and tourism industry. My understanding that I am fulfilling what the Universe has in store for me (and that there is much more), drives me.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I would assure my younger self that I am not missing out on anything. When folks were spring breaking, I was studying. When folks were summer vacationing, I was interning. When folks were clubbing, I was learning Spanish. And I thought that I was missing out on something valuable. I was not. It turns out that then, and now---everything that I need is within me.
WHAT BOOK(S) ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am currently reading the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout, and A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. My favorite book of all time is The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.
WHAT ALBUMS OR SONGS DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE ON HEAVY ROTATION?
I haven't listened to many full albums since Solange dropped A Seat At The Table. Nowadays, I listen to my own playlists or stations on Pandora a la Faith Evans, Toni Braxton, or Diana Ross.