“No other time do I feel like I’m truly living in the moment than when I’m on the road,” says Darryl McIvor, who built Traveller Collective as a way of helping to address the poverty he witnessed.
The business sells clothing and accessories, including a key chain clip and country rings designed to provide a handy reminder of people’s travels and an inspiration to experience new places. Twenty per cent of profit is then redirected to charity through an organization called Charity:Water based in New York. Through this project Traveller Collective has helped Ethiopian villages with access to clean water and education.
Darryl grew up in Prince George, in northern BC, and came down to Victoria to go to university where he studied an international business program and also a graduate program that involved studying in Taiwan and Austria as well as Victoria. “I was able to do a bit of travelling through school,” said Darryl, “and outside of that I had done a lot of travelling myself and that’s got me really passionate about it.
“Following university I created a couple of businesses, trying to figure out what works, and I eventually landed on Traveller Collective about two and a half years ago.”
Darryl wound down one business but the other, Amoda Tea, which he started with a university friend, is still operating. Darryl retains an ownership stake but is not involved operationally.
Putting Faces To Statistics: The Experiences That Defined Traveller Collective
Giving back to those less fortunate, passionate about travel and knowledgable about e-commerce are the foundations upon which Darryl built Traveller Collective. In the video above he mentions how hard “inequality can be to comprehend especially when you have seen it first hand.”
It’s apparent from talking with Darryl that inequality in the world is something he has long been aware but he says that throughout Asia, specifically India, was where this became tangible. It’s also where the business and products idea crystalized.
He said: “That’s why I felt this [Traveller Collective] would do well with travellers. A lot of times you hear about or see videos online about how many hundreds of thousands of people are in drought, how may hundreds of thousands of people have no access to food right now.
“A lot of times this gets broken down into just numbers and it’s very easy to not really feel it or understand. It just feels so far away, but when you really see that stuff firsthand it absolutely makes it harder to ignore. That’s what a lot of people who buy our products understand because they’ve seen it firsthand too.”
Darryl states that not everyone wants to volunteer or can volunteer, especially for extended periods of time. This awareness became another reason for him to create what he did—buy buying a simple product travellers could be reminded of their experiences while being able to give back in a way that worked for them. “That’s the reality: people want to help but not everybody has the time and money to spend six months volunteering,” he says.
Water: The Gift Of Life’s Most Basic Need
The reason Ethiopia and not India was chosen for the aid projects is needs based and defined by the organization Charity:Water. Darryl said: “So I started with clean water and did a project with Charity:Water out of New York. The goal was to raise 10 grand and they asked ‘when is that going to happen?’ I had no idea, I had never even launched anything yet, so they couldn’t give me a location at that point because they reassess every six months who is in the most need at this point. So when I knew when I would be able to donate the money that’s when they told me ‘right now, Ethiopia is the community in most need.'”
Access to clean water was chosen based on the dichotomy between how fortunate we are in the western, developed world and conversely how there are people who do not have access to clean water—something that we take for granted: we wake up and clean our teeth, take a shower, make a pot of coffee; often we’re still half asleep and going through motions of our everyday morning routine.
“I mean it was based around the fact that we could, if we saved enough money, jump on a plane and go travel,” explained Darryl. “Where if you look at the other end of the spectrum, clean water, which is really the basic necessity, isn’t even available to lots of people.”
According to Charity:Water 663 million people, almost one-tenth of the world’s population, do not have access to clean water.
It was in Ethiopia that a second opportunity presented itself to Darryl. “We wanted to do something with a local [to Ethiopia] non-profit and that’s when we met up with Imagine1Day, and that was based on education, so we’ve worked with them ever since. It’s kind of serendipitous how it happened but.”
A Bold Plan To Gift Travel
Since the beginning of Traveller Collective, Darryl has had a vision of giving someone the opportunity to travel. It is logistically far more difficult than partnering with a charity, but the plan is to give a person who works in hospitality in a poorer country the opportunity to experience what the people they encounter every day of their working life are enjoying.
He said: “The idea came from the different types of people I met through travel. Typically it’s a hotel worker or restaurant worker; people who come across people from all over the world all the time, but they’ve been to their own village and maybe the one next door. This isn’t about a lack of desire to travel, but in their lifetimes it’s just not an option to save that kind of money. They don’t have passports and visas are very difficult to get.”
In the intervening time from interview to publication, this plan has become a reality. When I spoke to Darryl he mentioned he had encountered someone in Morocco to whom he was planning on making this offer. You can view the timeline of progress for Fatima and her son Ayat, as Traveller Collective helps make Fatima’s dream of visiting Barcelona a reality.
The plan is for Darryl and one of his customers to meet Fatima and Ayat in Barcelona and experience this together. This is similar to past projects where competitions have been run to help the launch of schools in Ethiopia. Tara and Nico are one couple that got this opportunity and here you can read their story.
Building A Charitable Business
Based just off Clark and Francis in East Vancouver, the business initially started at his home, where his wife also works. He noted that an anvil punching metal wasn’t conducive to his wife’s home-working.
But he started this bootstrapped from day 1 with $500 to see if it would work. From his home he grew into a windowless hallway, and it’s grown from there into their current space, pictured above.
He said: “We’re just kind of growing day by day. I mean that’s exciting to me to do it that way. Everyone has their specialities, be it social media, or content generation, customer success, but one of the things we do, and I don’t know if this is unique, we basically stop what we are doing in the afternoon and then we all go and make these things [the company’s products]. We make everything in house in Vancouver by hand. We hand write all the envelopes. There’s a real personal touch to it all.”
Business is going well for them And the better the business does means more money can be committed to charity. “Business is growing. We’ve been doubling every year and that’s been great. It allows us to obviously have more money for our projects and get our brand out there. That’s a big thing for us to get our name out there.”
And let’s hope this helps because, without doubt, what Darryl is doing is a great thing. He’s building a business to help those less fortunate while following his passion of travel.