Guiding company OneSeed Expeditions makes giving back to local communities an essential component of its business plan.
Like many adventure-tour operators, OneSeed Expeditions, a Colorado-based guiding company, promises curated, off-the-beaten path experiences aimed at active travelers. What makes the company unique, however, is its commitment to responsible travel and making a lasting difference in the places it operates through investments in local entrepreneurs.
Here’s how it works: Your adventure trip to rugged, often isolated areas, is led by experienced, local guides, who help ensure your activities protect the local environment and respect local customs—no matter if you’re trekking through the Everest region, biking and hiking through southern Patagonia or kayaking down rivers in Croatia. OneSeed takes 10 percent of your payment and partners with local microfinance institutions in that country to give loans to local entrepreneurs, often women. Not only do those recipients usually pay back their loan, but they also expand their businesses and employ others in their community. That adds up to a major impact, all for a trip you were planning to take anyway.
OneSeed founder Chris Baker launched the company in 2011 after years of working in Nepal and studying the impact and realities of microfinance. He quickly realized that travelers’ desire to make a difference could provide a solution for entrepreneurs in rural communities who lacked access to capital.
“Two big motivators for travel are to explore and to leave a positive impact in a genuine way,” he said. “Initially we were planning to only work in Nepal, where we started, but we realized what an opportunity we were working with.”
Today, OneSeed operates multisport trips to Nepal, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Tanzania, Peru, Croatia and Bhutan. Its OneSeed Fund has invested over $320,000 in more than 690 small-scale businesses. While the average loan is less than $600, these investments tend to have powerful impacts.
A loan might help a Nepalese woman pay for supplies and income to expand her greenhouse business, thus doubling her income. Or, in Tanzania, a terra cotta potter might be able to grow the business into a full-scale factory, producing products that help provide clean water for surrounding villages. Others might be able to purchase an oven for their bakery, a delivery van or a new cow for their dairy operation.
Baker said he’s seen a strong response to OneSeed’s trips and business model, so much so that the company recently expanded by adding adventure trips to the Balkans and it has brought its loan program stateside, offering microfinancing to immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs in the United States. OneSeed’s innovative model even earned it gold recognition as a World Responsible Tourism Award winner.
Travelers are drawn to OneSeed’s well-planned, remote adventures and the chance to genuinely connect with new peoples and cultures, but Baker says people also want to be part of investing in these communities.
“I think people expect a lot more from their travel,” he said. “The core of what we do is at the intersection of adventure and entrepreneurship, and that resonates with people.”