Safe Travels Are Her Mission — and Passion
Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press. Recently we connected with presenter Sheryl Hill. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on October 21, 2017.
Having access to reliable knowledge about travel safety is important for anyone planning an overseas trip. However, a 2015 survey by CMO Council and GeoBranding Center noted that 38 percent of those surveyed relied primarily on friends and family for information about travel safety and security.
Word of mouth information isn’t necessarily the most reliable. After the death of a son who was studying abroad, Sheryl Hill decided to do something about this lack of reliable knowledge, and created Depart Smart to teach travelers about travel safety and help them create action plans to deal with emergencies.
Name: Sheryl Hill
City you live in: Minnetrista
City of birth: San Antonio, Texas
High school attended: Erie High School, Erie, Colo.
College attended: Saint Mary’s University, Minneapolis
Name of company: Depart Smart
Websites: http://departsmart.org and http://travelheroes.org
Business Start Date: April, 2016 (Rebranded from ClearCause Foundation, founded in October 2010)
Number of Employees: 5
Number of Customers: 6
Q. What led to this point?
A. I am founder and executive director of Depart Smart, a world speaker, author of Walking on Sunshine, NRG a Divine Transformation-a spiritual memoir and USA Book News Award finalist. I have been featured in People You Need to Know 2012, ABC, CBS, NBC, Washington and Huffington Post, Newsweek, USA Today, and others. My husband Allen and I have been a host family to eight international youth. Our 16-year-old son, Tyler, died a preventable death on a People to People student trip to Japan in 2007. The reality of poor consumer travel safety and awareness is the passion behind our purpose. We have one surviving son, Alec, who is a biomedical engineering senior at University of Wisconsin.
Q. What is your business?
A. The only consumer-driven travel safety course to help you and the ones you love Depart Smart with an action plan to avoid risks, get help and get home safely. Most people don’t know how.
Did you know that that 911 is not the international number for emergencies? Or that Americans can be arrested in some countries for having premarital sex? Of the thousands of people who have taken a 10-point eye-opener travel safety quiz, most can’t correctly answer more than 3 questions. One travel reporter missed 9 out of 10. This lack of safety knowledge routinely puts international travelers at risk, and tragically even results in avoidable deaths. Now we’re launching a solution with our Travel Heroes Safety Certification course.
The course covers six essential international travel chapters and helps you create your custom Safety Action Plan — what you need to do to avoid risks, get help, and get home from your destinations if tragedy strikes. It takes about one hour and should be a prerequisite to travel. It can save your life.
Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I am fortunate to have a league of advisers I rely upon. We have been leaning heavily on Media Relations Inc. for publicity, Maslon for legal services, OffiCenters for networking and administration, Paul Taylor – MN Cup Advisor, AIG Travel, and Travel Leaders for counsel and partnerships.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Our son, Tyler, died a preventable death while participating in a student program in Japan in 2007. We published TylerHill.org to warn and inform others so it wouldn’t happen again….READ FULL ARTICLE
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.