Curveballs

It’s been a few months since I’ve last written, and it’s been a turbulent few months since returning home from the United States.

As many of you know, I had started building out UrbanTOX, an experiential learning business focused on doing one-week trips in Bangkok, enabling travelers to see a more authentic side of the city through the eyes of its locals.

In late September, I joined forces with the guys at Sotra, and we set out with the goal of changing the world by joining travel and philanthropy.  I spoke in a ten different cities around the US about what we were trying to do, and spoke about the dangers of unintended consequences of aid work in the developing world.  Many of you asked very relevant and poignant questions about the business model, for which I am extremely grateful.  The trip was a resounding success in my eyes, as I was looking for the exact feedback that I received from your thoughtful and intelligent questions.

When I returned home, I dug deeper into many of those questions and found that in order to offer a truly immersive and authentic experience, I was at risk of inflicting those unintended consequences that I had preached the dangers of, just weeks ago.   After much deliberation, I decided to end my association with the Sotra team, and take some time to determine a path that would “do no harm”.

I feel lucky to have met one of my best friends in Bangkok, Daniel Ross.  Daniel and I have become close in the last six months that I’ve lived in Bangkok, and we decided to join forces to launch XEALOTS Southeast Asia, a leadership development non-profit organization focused on supporting grassroots NGOs here in Bangkok with financial, knowledge, and human resources.  We are already supporting five different initiatives:

  • HelpLive – a coffee kiosk business in Bangkok whose profits go to serve at-risk children in Northern Thailand
  • In Search of Sanuk – an NGO focused on serving basic needs for urban refugee families
  • Restore Furniture – providing job skills training to Cambodian refugees by building and selling pallet-wood furniture
  • Walk with Love – an organization that restores families of women associated with the sex industry in Thailand and gives them a fresh start
  • Urban Aquaponics – creating sustainable closed-loop urban farming systems for refugee families.

One of the great things I love about how we are building XEALOTS Southeast Asia, is that we are building with sustainability in mind from the start.  We’ve already launched and are running LIT Coffee, a specialty coffee roaster where 25% of our profits of our House Blend coffee go directly to provide housing for urban refugees supported by In Search of Sanuk.  The remainder of the profits go directly into XEALOTS Southeast Asia to allow us to operate without seeking outside funding.

We’re also currently renovating our leased space in Bangkok and will be launching a new multi-purpose creative event space, which can be used for art, music, and private events in the evenings, and serve as a co-working space, open to the public, during the day.  In fact, our first soft-launch event is happening on Sunday, December 22nd, an art benefit for Typhoon Haiyan survivors.

Lastly, not all is lost with the UrbanTOX idea that I moved here to Bangkok to start.  Although I’ve put it on the back burner for now, I’m formulating ideas around how to work with graduate educational institutions in the US to provide a meaningful, educational experience, connecting students in academia with practitioners working in the field.  More details to come in the new year.

A big thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this exciting, yet highly volatile year.  I’ve learned so much throughout this process, and could not have done it without your encouragement, and love.

Daniel and I spent a bit of time making this video last night about FREE Shipping from Lit Coffee.  Check it out, and if you’d like to try a bag of our coffee, you can do so here at this link.  If you place your order before Sunday night, December 22nd, you’ll receive your coffee by Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year!


One comment
  1. Anonymous

    January 9th, 2014 3:13

    Mac, you are my hero!
    Reply

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