Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Shon Starr Tours
I had the opportunity to meet with Shon Starr, when he came to Brazil. He has been to Brazil before and he contacted me to see the favela of Rocinha, where I live. It was the normal initial contact of a person who wanted to see the community. I met him and his girlfriend Arielle at the Copcabana Palace at 9 am and we took the favela transportation to the top of the hill.
We eventually descended to see many things being a samba show, my friends awesome 360 degrees view of the favela, and to my roof where after a few hours we were able to sit have a drink, and talk with each other about our lives and goals with our work.
I found out that Shon was a Dj and had similar tastes in music and other things. When he told me about his tour company and website, I thought this was great because Brazil. Tourism is booming and will only get better with the coming of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games . I wanted to know more about his entrepreneurship so this is why I wanted to write this story about him. I find his company to be cutting edge and thing people need to know about him.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I also spent about 5 years living in Nevada and California.
Tell me a little about your background (interests like art, sports, schooling etc)? I'm kind of a modern day renaissance man into everything from music to construction. I can make beats and rehab an entire house. I'm really into motorcycle riding though and own a couple of bikes, but my #1 passion is traveling, having visited over 13 countries and 100 cities.
Why did you decide to take my favela tour (and not another favela tour company) considering you had been here before?
Yes I had been to Rocinha before with some friends, but it was a quick visit and there was so much more that I wanted to see and learn about Rocinha. I had heard your name mentioned a few times for Favela tours and while doing some unrelated research on favelas in Rio I came across a video of you on Youtube talking about how your tours give you a much greater well rounded experience than what the other tour companies operating in Rocinha offer. So that really interested me especially since that's how I have always ran my nightclubs, done my promotions, and even deejayed my parties. I have always wanted to make what I do an experience and give people more and something different. This is also one of the main missions of Shon Starr Tours.
Were there things you saw in the favela that you could relate too?
Definitely! Even though there are many differences on the surface of how people live. When you get down to the basics we are all pretty much the same. Whether you're a trafficker, police, teacher, or even a tour guide most of us just want to live a nice life and have all of our basic needs met such as food, clothing, shelter, love, companionship, acknowledgement, etc. I saw this all over the favela and see it all over the world.
Your experience in the favela, how was it the same or different from poor neighborhoods in the United States?
One of the biggest differences was that it seemed like the residents of Rocinha have a lot more influence and control in their community than poor neighborhoods here in the US. It seemed to have very little outside influence. Poor neighborhoods here in the US are not as self sufficient as they are in Rocinha. There was one point in time when neighborhoods in the US were like this with many residents taking ownership and control of their community, but after segregation ended that drastically changed. Also in most poor neighborhoods here in the US you have a normal to heavy police presence. It still amazes me that with almost 300,000 people living on top of each other there is still law and order with absolutely no Police presence.
Tell me a little about the work (jobs) you have done in the past?
Every since I was a kid I had dreams of being in the nightclub business and owning my own club one day. I started out promoting and dj'ing my own teen parties at 14 years old and was spinning my first real nightclub gig even before I could drink at 16. I put a lot of time on the Philadelphia nightlife scene as a DJ/Promoter, eventually getting into management . After a few years I decided to take my act on the road and see what else the world had to offer and I ended up on the west coast in Nevada as a very successful General Manager running some well-known nightclubs for Caesars Palace Casino and celebrity Dennis Hof of HBO Bunny Ranch/Cat House fame. After a great run out west I came back home and took over running nightlife promotions for the Camel Tobacco Brand.
While taking a vacation in the Spring of 2009 in Costa Rica something magical happened during a hike in the Costa Rican jungle. I jumped off a 5-story bridge into a raging river and during that crazy jump I had a revelation that my purpose in life was now going to change. I knew right then and there that it would be my job to show people this adventure and thrill that I had just experienced and how beautiful the world really is. So I got back home and did a whole bunch of research, took some classes on tourism and travel, and then decided to launch Shon Starr Tours. But the world is big and I needed to focus on one place that I could learn like the back of my hand and become an expert on. So after visiting Rio de Janeiro in the Summer of 2009 I knew this was the place. I felt at home in Brazil and knew immediately that this was the place. After Rio won the 2016 Olympic bid that was the icing on the cake that sealed the deal for me. So I resigned from my comfy job with Camel Tobacco in February of 2010 and came to Rio to launch Shon Starr Tours and here I am.
Do you feel your past experiences in your other jobs will help with your new venture?
Absolutely! One of my nicknames in the nightlife world was the "Prince of Promotions" and I plan on bringing that same energy and success to my tour company. It's going to be a fun adventure not only for my clients, but also for myself. I don't care about being the biggest, but I will put my butt on the line and guarantee that I will be one of the best if not the best.
What first attracted you to come to Brazil?
I always like to say the beauty and the booty is what attracted me here. Brazil has the complete package. Hands down it has some of the most beautiful natural scenery, culture, music, people and also women on the planet.
What separates you from others in the tour industry?
I like to think of myself as the "special agent" of travel. I'm the guy you call when you want something adventurous, fun, and lot different than your usual plain jane trips. My focus is not only on being a great tour company, but being a great entertainment company as well. Meaning that along with the best tours you are also guaranteed a great memorable experience. I'm probably the one guy who could actually make a trip on a deserted island off the coast of Alaska fun and unforgettable. I mostly cater to private groups and VIP individuals and I don't just sit by the phone waiting for someone to say hey I would like to book a trip to Rio, can you help me? I create the party here too promoting at least one fun themed trip a month from the U.S. to Rio de Janeiro. On these themed trips I take between 10-12 special guests here to Rio for a week long party filled with plenty of culture, sight seeing, adventure, and partying. It's a real great opportunity to experience Rio in a group environment especially for those who would ordinarily travel alone.
What groups are you trying to attract with your tours?
I specialize in mid to high end Mancations, Girlcations, and Couplecations. I also will be promoting special Cougarcations for those energetic older women who still have it going on and are looking for some adventure.
What do you see in the future for your company Shon Starr Tours?
I'm very excited about this venture. I have a great team behind me and we plan on bringing some real exciting things to the tourism and travel industry. I'm a hustler, workaholic and perfectionist too so the future looks very bright. I actually see myself eventually being one of the most famous individual tour and travel promoters in the world and being a very instrumental player in promoting travel to Brazil.
Do you have plans to eventually move to Brazil?
Of course! Working on that now. Brazil is an amazing country and I love it. I'm a Rolling Stone though so I will never have one place that I call home, but Brazil will definitely be one of my homes.
Is there anything more you would like to say?
I was just like to say thanks to all the beautiful people of Brazil for all of their help, support and for creating such a great, fun, and exciting country. Yes Brazil has it's problems and has a way to go, like a lot of countries including the U.S. with things like poverty and a more equal distribution of wealth, but there is so much potential for great this country and I look forward to showing it off to the world.
Please tell us where we can see your website and any other websites/blogs you have?
I have my wild and crazy travel blog/website :
The Adventures of Shon Starr at http://www.shonstarr.com and my team and I also have the Brazil Geeks website at http://www.brazilgeeks.com giving you all the latest and greatest info and photos on Brazil.