Working with a major airline is every travel creatives’ dream. Especially as a 24-year-old, black, first-generation influencer, endorsements from companies with established social capital can help me gain traction.
I interviewed Gabby Beckford: She covers youth travel, adventure, and is a positivity blogger.
What's the last brand you worked for?
The last brand I worked for was Delta Airlines, where I provided them a photo and caption for an Instagram post for their Black History Month campaign.
How did you get started with Delta?
I was reached out to via an influencer management agency, Collectively, on behalf of Delta Airlines.
What prompted you to work with Delta?
Working with a major airline is every travel creatives’ dream.
They are an internationally recognized company and a partnership with them holds a lot of weight. It’s one of those names that just pops out.
Especially as a 24-year-old, black, first-generation influencer, endorsements from companies with established social capital can help me gain traction in the future with companies that might tend to skip over me.
None of that means much if I don’t feel that the mission and ethics of the company align with my brand, so I always do my research.
I’ve been a big fan of Delta for a long time because of their dedication to sustainability, aggressive measures to combat human trafficking and commitment to supplier diversity. My dad runs a small business too, so this means a lot to me.
And it being a Black History Month campaign sealed the deal for me, as I value any opportunity to represent and empower minority communities in the travel space where we are severely underrepresented.
Through Delta posting my photo and story on their account, my story was amplified to tens of thousands of people. I received messages from young travelers of colors who told them I inspired them by traveling and pursuing my passions so young.
What motivated you to get started?
I come from a military family that not only loved to travel for leisure, but moved around every few years. Without social media, I spent most of my time reading books and learning about each destination we traveled to was my norm.
In high school, I was applying to scholarships and going on weekend trips instead of hanging at the mall.
I’d always been a STEM kid, in AP Bio and IB Chemistry, and graduating with my B.S. in Mathematics.
Also, I was always a strong writer. So I started my blog not only to flex that muscle but because I intuitively knew that being in a niche travel community would help me meet other travelers and open new doors for me.
How have you grown your social media presence?
In the beginning, Facebook groups. Because that was the platform I was on most often.
I would post my stories, and photos. People would respond well to them, and ask if I had a blog or Instagram to see more.
I knew that wasn’t sustainable. I wanted to provide enough value in my content that people would find me. I decided to take a chance and combine one of my unrelated travel passions—opportunities.
All my life I’d find joy in applying to scholarships, grants, travel contests, poetry contests, exclusive internships, etc.
Not only did I become very good at seeking out these opportunities, but I also became an expert at strategically applying to them.
I’ve won a total of $75,000 in funds and funded travel through these opportunities.
I shared these opportunities with my young audience so that they could get the life-changing experiences and chances to network that I’d discovered through grants.
Now, it’s a huge part of my brand.
I have a newsletter of 2000+ and a Facebook group of 600+ young people where I share them weekly.
It’s incredibly rewarding to help send young people around the world who wouldn’t have financial access to go otherwise.
- Italy for Airbnb’s Italian Sabbatical
- Egypt for the World Youth Forum Egypt
- Russia as a Fulbright awardee.
What's worked best, for you?
Being featured in publications like Lonely Planet, HuffPost, and Business Insider has helped.
Ultimately I think the largest factor has been word of mouth. Being authentic, transparent, funny, educating, providing value, and just being there, working for years have brought people into my space and made them want to stay.
One of my best skills is being able to learn from other people’s experiences. I’m never afraid to ask smarter people than I for advice, and I have the work ethic to actually implement it and take the risks i.e. the TEDx talk I did with only one week to prepare.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced?
I’d say 3 things: My age/appearance, my niche, and time.
I think my age and appearance do make people underestimate me somewhat often.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve worked for “exposure” and product before, and there are times and places in which I will if I see long-term strategic value in the partnership. But there are times where they clearly want to see if they pay much less for much more work, and that is frustrating.
Secondly, my niche.
I find most businesses are still stuck on millennial marketing as a whole when I believe that advertising to teens and 20-somethings helps build brand recognition. Their trust can last for years into their higher-income years.
Gen Z not only has $143B in buying power each year but the financial support of older generations too, especially in travel.
For example, so far more than 63% of those surveyed in my Gen Z Travel market research study (on-going) have their travels supported in some capacity by their family, only adding to their ultimate buying power.
We are consumers you need to market to! And I can help with that.
In terms of the business, being a solo entrepreneur is extremely demanding.
It means being a social media manager, graphic designer, photographer, videographer, creative director, and more.
Talk about overtime!
I quit my job to commit full-time to my business only 3 weeks ago. (Editor's Note: as of doing this interview in early 2020)
I’ve been teaching myself email marketing, Facebook Ads, and eCommerce.
It can be so difficult keeping it all organized but thanks to a few of my mentors I’ve adopted tools like Asana, HubSpot, Boomerang, Zapier, and Tailwind; To automate and organize all the tasks I do every day.
What projects will you work on this year?
My goal for this year is to establish longer-term partnerships with brands that want to diversify their content with a young, POC face *hair flip* and attract a young demographic.
I’d love to spearhead youth-centered campaigns or—even better—help companies develop student/youth discount programs and have them as commonplace in the U.S. as they are in Europe for airlines, tours, accommodations, etc. Attending or speaking at CONUS or OCONUS youth summits or the like.
Of course, travel is a top priority as well. I’d like to work with DMOs and brands across the country (and the world!) that want a younger perspective for content in their destination or to attract a younger demographic.
What are your dream brands to work with?
A few more of my dream brand collabs include Airbnb, Shea Moisture, Timberland, Spotify, Travel Channel, and Essence.
What does the future hold for you?
My most unique dream would be to host a travel TV show or vlog series where I travel with people who have won unique travel contests and show what they’re like to a large audience.
Because I feel like everyone thinks “No one actually wins these” and I could give them a peek!
You can reach Gabby via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on all social media at @Packslight
Read Her Blog: packslight.com
She also has her monthly 365Membership where she coaches young people, parents, and educators alike in how to win funded travel opportunities.