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Amy Merrill is connecting the dots for what her generation needs.
As the Chief Everything Officer of Journey, Amy helps foster travel experiences that combine purpose, adventure, and community. Upon realizing that our generation wants to be a part of the story when it comes to social good, Amy knew she had found something good. From that realization, Journey was born.
We interviewed Amy to learn more about the trials and tribulations of starting a company, what the future holds for Journey, and her advice for any future founders out there. Don’t forget to check out Amy’s page to learn more about Journey.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a problem-solver, a social entrepreneur, a musician, a meditator, and I love to laugh. I grew up in the California Bay Area surrounded by activism, music, and tech; then spent my early career in New York working in communications and fundraising for women’s rights and social justice nonprofits, and singing and playing in indie rock bands on the side. I now live in North Hollywood, Los Angeles with my musician-husband, and my company’s headquarters (the Journey Home) is in Venice.
What inspired you to found Journey?
After 10 years of working on causes, I saw a massive need to connect the dots from online to offline: for our generation, clicking-to-donate isn’t enough. We want to show up, immerse ourselves, and be a part of the story.
I started Journey with my cofounder Taylor to solve for that need, creating travel experiences that have a tangible positive impact on local communities, incorporate the magic and fun of summer camp, and are designed to connect and transform people at a deep level.
What’s your vision for Journey?
The Transcendental Meditation community says that if 1% of the world meditated, it would have a ‘significant and measurable effect’ on the population, with a ripple effect curbing violence, boosting the economy, and ultimately leading to world peace.
Our big vision for Journey is for 1% of our generation to experience what we call moments of Oneness. This would have a profound impact on how we treat other human beings and function as a global community, uniting in our approach to our world’s biggest social and environmental challenges.
What was the most challenging thing about starting Journey?
Choosing the Instagram handle! I’m kidding—but it’s a real challenge when you pick a name like Journey in the year 2016.
How do you see the market for Journey growing in the future?
In previous decades, vacations involved all-inclusive resorts with buffets, programmed entertainment, and a guaranteed sunburn and hangover. Our generation has no interest in traveling this way: we want immersive, unique experiences, to feel good and reconnect with our Selves, meet locals and make connections, and make a positive impact on the destination. We’re pioneering a new kind of hybrid travel: but we’re part of a much larger movement toward conscious consumption, wellness, and tech that connects and engages for social good.
Right now a Journey means building homes and hitting the beach (the “integration”), and our market is early-adopter individuals, influencers, corporations and brands. In the future, a Journey will mean choosing your type of impact, destination country, and dates. We see opportunities across all sectors: wellness and adventure travel, universities and MBA programs, young professional networks, family trips, and much more.
What do you think is the most valued experience your customers gain after their trip?
The community. We’ve already seen the formations of a beautiful organic support system that’s planning reunion trips to Latin America and dinners in LA, New York and Vancouver. Our Journeyers start the trip as a group of strangers, and leave as a family.
What’s the biggest misconception about venturing into social entrepreneurship?
There’s still a tendency to confuse social entrepreneurship with nonprofit. As a Public Benefit Corporation, we factor in the betterment of humanity alongside of profit. But we don’t have to rely on a donation-based model: we are able to leverage market forces to grow and scale quickly, use revenues to build the business and its reach, and partner with leading organizations who implement projects on the ground.
What is your favorite thing about the work you do?
Every day is different, and I love it. My self-given title is Chief Everything Officer, and playing to my strengths means keeping many, many balls in the air, planning and strategizing for future Journeys, developing relationships with smart, passionate people and companies, and carving out time for creative solo work and writing.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to anyone who wishes to be a founder?
Resilience. This is not new advice, but it’s the common thread when I think about raising capital, problem-solving and logistics-hacking to build the business, managing teams, and traveling constantly.
My friends Miki and Radha Agrawal talk about evaluating company ideas along these three parameters:
The first question I always ask myself is “What sucks in my world?” and then “Does it suck for a lot of people?” Then I ask, “Can I be passionate about this issue, cause, or community for a very long time?”
They’re 100% right. It’s a journey—but so worth the ride.