Smart entrepreneurs explain how to make travel a part of your success story

Seasoned tech and style pros share details about their start-up journeys and the travel tips they've learned along the way.

We asked a group of savvy entrepreneurs to share personal lessons from managing a business and tips on how they’ve expertly navigated the world of business travel.

Smart entrepreneurs travel in style. (Courtesy of Fotolio)

What do entrepreneurs who specialize in tech or style have in common? Innovation and drive, for starters. They collaborate, build influential relationships and develop creative solutions and products. Their biggest commonality, however, may be the energy and tenacity it takes to remain on the sometimes long journey toward success.

If part of that journey includes meeting with clients, business partners or investors, these innovators know how to quickly pack a bag and travel around the country at the drop of a hat.

We asked a group of savvy entrepreneurs to share personal lessons on how they’ve expertly navigated the worlds of business and business travel.


Clarence Wooten, STEAM Role, Palo Alto, CA

Clarence Wooten

Clarence Wooten is the founder and CEO of STEAM Role. (Courtesy of Clarence Wooten)

theGrio: Why did you create STEAM Role?
Clarence Wooten: I’ve been in tech for many years as a serial entrepreneur and I’ve had quite a bit of success, but I realized that I wanted to give back, particularly to students and young professionals. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) careers are driving wealth creation and the global economy. STEAM Role is a mobile app that showcases the personal stories and career roadmaps of successful role models. The app showcases the job titles, salary ranges, skills and story clips from a diverse range of STEAM professionals and illustrates the future of career discovery, inspiration and self-directed learning.

theGrio: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your start-up journey?
Clarence Wooten: Most entrepreneurs overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, but underestimate what they can accomplish in five to 10 years. It’s important to stay focused. Your passion will attract people to your vision. Whether you’re talking with a potential investor or a potential employee, you need to be genuine and authentic about your passion. Otherwise, it’s not worth the effort.

theGrio: What are some traveling tips you’ve learned while building your business?
Clarence Wooten: I try to stick to a workout routine when I’m traveling because that’s the one thing I can control. If I’m traveling a lot in one month, I try to keep my travel to a minimum the next month. It’s so I can take care of my other responsibilities and be around for the people in my life who matter. It’s all about balance.


Marie “DeneeLeggette, The Curvy Fashionista, Atlanta, GA

Marie Denee Leggette

Marie Denee Leggette is a fashion blogger and owner of The Curvy Fashionista. (Courtesy of Marie Leggette)

theGrio: Why did you create The Curvy Fashionista?
Marie “Denee” Leggette: The Curvy Fashionista began as a blog to share information about plus-size fashion. I dove headfirst into making The Curvy Fashionista a plus-size resource destination for women who wanted to learn about the newest plus-size designers, collaborations, news, and events. Over the past nine years, the brand has grown into a digital platform. We have writers, editors, and a production team for our annual style expo in Atlanta and in October we are hosting our first Curvy Fashionista cruise.

theGrio: What lessons can you share from your start-up journey?
Marie “Denee” Leggette: I learned that it’s important to celebrate small wins. I became so focused on the big tasks that I failed to celebrate the small victories. It took time for me to find my purpose and to understand what my walk and my brand was about. I always encourage entrepreneurs to trust themselves and their teams. It’s also important for us to take time out for ourselves because you can totally burn out. I give myself the space to actually relax and enjoy what I have been working so hard for.

theGrio: What are some traveling tips you’ve learned while building your business?
Marie “Denee” Leggette: I always pack a portable charger for my mobile phone and I travel with a bag that blocks RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification). It’s designed to help insulate me from a particular brand of electronic pickpocketing called “RFID skimming,” which is when people bump into you, swipe your credit card information, and compromise your accounts.

Marlin Williams, Sisters Code, Detroit, MI

Marlin Williams

Marlin Williams is the founder of Sisters Code. (Courtesy of Marlin Williams)

theGrio: What inspired you to create Sisters Code?
Marlin Williams: I learned to code at the age of 25 and it changed the trajectory of my life. Unfortunately, there weren’t many women or people of color at the tech table and I have always been passionate about bridging that gap. Sisters Code empowers women ages 25-95 to explore the world of coding and technology. While the tech sector has become fixated on building a pipeline for young people; women and older individuals are often overlooked. Sisters Code was formed to bridge the gender, racial and age gaps in the technology space.

theGrio: What’s are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from starting your business?
Marlin Williams: I encourage people who think they may have an interest in tech to believe in themselves. If you don’t believe in your ability it will be very easy to walk away and make excuses while missing the awesomeness of your potential. Be prepared to be the “only.” Many times, I was the only woman and person of color in the technology space.

Also, consider reaching out to other people in the tech space or those who are already doing what you want to do. Once you are very clear about your weaknesses, don’t hesitate to engage with experts who can propel you to an unbelievable level of success. Finally, no matter what you do, always think about ways you can be of service to others.

theGrio: What are some of your go-to traveling tips?
Marlin Williams: As entrepreneurs, our lives are extremely busy, so I take this opportunity to shut out the noise and feed my soul by traveling with books or listening to podcasts. Although I travel mostly for business, I schedule a few hours to explore the town. It can be something as simple as dinner, a walk, or a visit to a museum. I’ve met some interesting people and enhanced my travel experience.


Kevin Matthews, Kevin Matthews Brand, Osaka, Japan

Kevin Matthews

Kevin Matthews of Kevin Matthews Brand (Courtesy of Kevin Matthews)

theGrio: What inspired you to create the Kevin Matthews brand?
Kevin Matthews: It all started when I met Diane von Fürstenberg in New York. I started working for her and then began to network and build a book of amazing clients. After discovering that I could make a living and create a formidable business doing something I have such a deep passion for, I was sold. Kevin Matthews became a brand focused on fashion, styling, and personal shopping.

theGrio: What lessons can you share from your start-up journey?
Kevin Matthews: I have learned three very important lessons throughout my journey as a style entrepreneur. First, stay true to who you are and your craft. Second, it is ok to be afraid, and third, always surround yourself with individuals who know more than you and can help you on your journey. Knowledge should be something that is welcomed at any stage of the game

theGrio: What are some of your favorite traveling tips?
Kevin Matthews: I always do my research on hotels, restaurants, nightlife, shopping and the weather. I have learned not to pack too much and to keep it basic with a few special pieces because I often end up not wearing half of the options I’ve packed. Remember traveling is about an experience so it’s important to remain open to the possibilities.


Ofunne Amaka, Cocoa Swatches, San Diego, CA

Ofunne Amaka

Ofunne Amaka is the founder of Cocoa Swatches. (Courtesy of Ofunne Amaka)

theGrio: What inspired you to create Cocoa Swatches?
Ofunne Amaka: My mother created and sold Nigerian fashion full-time and that was my first introduction to fashion and style. Her work ethic and creativity really inspired me and I was always looking for ways to put a different spin on my looks or make current trends my own.

theGrio: What does Cocoa Swatches do?
Ofunne Amaka: I created a mobile app that showcases the latest makeup swatches on underrepresented complexions. It provides beauty inspiration and informative tutorials as an attempt to fill a gap I noticed and experienced in the beauty space. When I first started, many brands weren’t making an effort to market their products to people with darker complexions. Cocoa Swatches was my solution to this problem.

theGrio: What lessons can you share from your start-up journey?
Ofunne Amaka: Failure is inevitable as an entrepreneur, especially if you are working all by yourself. It doesn’t feel great, but it’s important not to wallow in those feelings and learn from your mistakes so you can continue to grow. I have definitely had massive failures in my entrepreneurial career; the kind that might make someone give up on everything altogether. I have learned to put my pride aside, think outside the box, and find another way to accomplish the goals I set out for myself and my brand.

theGrio: What one traveling tip has saved you in a pinch?
Ofunne Amaka: I always pack an extra outfit. As an entrepreneur, you never know when new opportunities might come your way while traveling. You may get an impromptu meeting with someone you have been dying to talk to. Also, if you see the travel size of a product you use frequently, buy it.


Leslie Gordon is a writer, communications and marketing strategist, and the creator of Get Your Sol. Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieWritesNow and Facebook: @LeslieWrites