November 2, 2021

Our Vintage Earth is one of the finalists in the HI Hub Incubator Program. Yasmin Yusuff, founder, tells us more about the business

Our Vintage Earth: A startup promoting community and eco-based tourism

What product or service does Our Vintage Earth offer?
Our Vintage Earth creates and curates experiences for the environmentally nostalgic, with a goal of reviving cultures and the natural environment. Our clients will be able to book ethical ecotourism, gastro-tourism, agro-tourism, and arts and cultural excursions through our website. A portion of the revenue earned from each sale will help implement technology and processes to benefit the ecosystem and communities involved in the project. Through education, regenerative practices, and community-based activities, we are creating a tourism space that will benefit our planet.

How did you come up with the idea for this business?
You could say that this business is a culmination of my travel personality, my studies at NYU, and the goals of my environmental heroes. Being a first-generation American, my parents taught me to travel by experiencing culture authentically and with an open mind. Even if we stayed in a resort, we would leave the tourist area nearly every day to support local businesses. This mindset evolved when I began to make travel planning decisions on my own. In addition to participating in community-based tourism, I began to prioritize environmentally conscious accommodations and activities. From a young age, I was conscious of the effects humans have on our planet’s natural spaces and was hyper-empathetic towards species other than our own. This awareness shaped how I interacted with the world on all levels. Within my first semester at NYU, I was introduced to a new buzzword in the industry, regenerative tourism. Regenerative tourism is an advanced form of sustainable tourism; you are not just “leaving no trace” but leaving the places you visit better than you found it.

In the case of Our Vintage Earth, this does not always mean using your hands to plant trees, but also buying into experiences that give back to partners. This helps shoulder the costs of regenerative implementations like solar power and furthering research to help conserve our natural environment. After doing some research, I realized that this tourism method was how I aimed to experience traveling my whole life. I decided I wanted to create experiences that embodied this principle. The entire vision came to fruition when I watched David Attenborough’s latest documentary, A Life on Our Planet. He spoke about how much the world has changed since his childhood and how he could see the planet literally becoming less green and people becoming less connected. I related this to my parents speaking about their childhood in 1960s Guyana, where they learned skills and cultural aspects from their family and community. There were very few unnecessary extractive activities at this time, which helped preserve the environment. Overall, this way of life brought people closer together and created an appreciation for natural spaces. I believe the idea of connection is the core fiber of why people travel. Overall, these thought processes helped me form the idea for Our Vintage Earth.

Why did you decide to participate in the HI Hub Incubator program?
I decided to participate in the HI Hub Incubator Program for several reasons. To start, I had previously launched a company, Sleepy Flyers Club, a personalized itinerary company, last year. I dove into this project without much outside advice, and I realized that starting a company does take a village. I look forward to utilizing the expertise of my incubator mentors to set Our Vintage Earth up for success!

What do you enjoy most about creating your own startup business?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. The most rewarding part of creating my own business is making my vision come to life little by little. In the case of Our Vintage Earth, every small step is paving the way forward for tourism that is not only fun and unique but also educational and planet-friendly.

What advice would you give to someone contemplating founding a startup?
Founding a startup is no walk in the park. You have to put in an immense amount of time and effort, which may mean missing out on some things socially and many late nights. You can’t be in it for the money, or else there won’t be heart in your offerings. Success won’t happen overnight, and some people won’t understand what you are trying to create. However, if you think your product or service has a place in the world, and you have what it takes, keep going. It is worth it when you are working on something that you love.

What is something you learned through this process that you wish you’d known before you created your startup?
I wish I had known before I created my startup that a lot of people who aren’t mentors might have opinions and criticism on your product or service before you even launch. I have learned to take this with a grain of salt but also not lose sight of the company’s vision.

What does the future of your startup look like in an ideal world?
In an ideal world, Our Vintage Earth will set a new standard for regenerative, community-based tourism. I would love for this to be a certified B-Corp, as we will function like one until we gain the credentials. While I’m proud to be founding one of the first companies to view tourism this way, I would love if travel focused on bettering the planet, educating others, and putting host communities first was the direction the industry went in from now on. My hope is that once I establish Our Vintage Earth in the New York Tri-State area, I can expand to other cities nationwide and then globally, with an internal team that shares the same environmental values I do.

Have you worked with any alumni or mentors on this project? If so, who and what was that experience like?
Though the program has just begun, my mentors within the HI Hub Incubator Program, who include Berrin Avcilar, Scott Patterson, Douglas Rice, George Roukas, Ronn Torossian, and Dan Wacksman, have been helping me set guidelines for success to improve the business model of Our Vintage Earth. I have also been lucky to gain an immense support team from my family and my professors, namely Dr. Recep Karaburun, Professor Ed Salvato, and Professor Adrienne Garland. They have all seen various stages of this company and have provided the motivation I needed to keep moving forward with this project.

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