Fueled by Inspiration: Brian Fontenot of Driftr Travels and the BLF Foundation

madison 06/10/2019

Every now and then, you get a spark of inspiration that pushes you to accomplish certain things in life. For Brian Fontenot, this spark inspired him to start a nonprofit and then eventually branch out into the world of short-term rentals (or STRs, for short). More importantly, this spark came at the unlikeliest of times in the unlikeliest of places.

Sparks of Inspiration

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“I remember I was coming up to my 26th birthday and I went out to lunch with one of my mentees. They asked me, ‘what do you want for your birthday?’ I told them I didn’t want anything; the only thing I really want to do is just raise money for a scholarship for college students”, says Fontenot. As someone who views himself as very fortunate to have abundance in his life, Brian’s first instinct was to help others. However, he felt as if he was not in a position to do it. “Why not? You shouldn't let that stop you. You have a lot to offer right now.”, Brian’s mentee said. That was the spark. Three weeks from that day, Brian started his first 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the BLF Foundation.

Fontenot received another spark of motivation from a personal friend. “I ended up having a friend who came from a first-generation home and his first semester in college was tough. He ended up having a child, dropping out of school, but re-enrolled and completed college at the University of Texas in Austin. I then saw this amazing person with great leadership skills struggle to find a job for the next 2½ years and it baffled me. What was the issue?”, remarked Fontenot. He found out that employers were looking for people who had great interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills - but the schools weren’t making those people. Fontenot now knows what he needed to do. He would help students not only finish college, but also help them develop these “soft skills”, so they could make a hard impact in work and in life.

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“My program specifically focused on working with first-generation college students. I would give them a scholarship specifically focused on a computer, an iPad, and $1,000 towards their school; so that kind of constituted the scholarship portion. There are only a handful of scholarship winners, but for all of the students in the program, we work with them year long on a mentorship program.”, says Fontenot. The mentorship program heavily focuses on skills that help create a holistic human being who is effective in work and in life.

Fontenot’s biggest inspiration in his nonprofit came from a young woman who was #13 of 14 children and the first to graduate college in her family. One day, she was feeling pain in her legs and visited a doctor. The diagnosis was multiple sclerosis, a debilitating autoimmune disease. When it seemed like all hope of graduating was lost, she decided to push through and finish 3 months of school, in one month, from a hospital bed. “I was like, ‘That’s amazing. There’s no way in the world you should have been able to do that to be honest with you.’ She said ‘if I didn’t feel supported -- I always felt like I could do it because everybody around me kind of helped me and supported me, and that’s why, without y’all, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.’ So it blew my mind. She’s been in a wheelchair for the last two years, and two weeks or three weeks ago, she became one of the first African Americans in student government history as a vice president, for the whole school.” “That’s why we do what we do.”

Venturing into Short Term Rentals

Not only has Brian founded a nonprofit, but he is also an avid traveler and has recently stepped into the world of short term rentals. “I went to Cuba with one of my podcast mates and I was like ‘wow, this was an amazing experience’. Then I thought: ‘I’d love to be able to provide an experience like this for other people, especially business travelers.’ I can’t count the number of times I’m traveling on business, I can’t get fast WiFi, or getting into a place is hard”, Brian laments.

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So he provided exactly what he would want to see in a short-term rental geared towards people like him. When asked how he started, he just...well...started. “...I ended up talking to a few people that basically I found on YouTube. I watched a lot of different videos and I started listening to people. I also had a college best friend who had an STR as well, so I got to ask her about her experience. In general, I spent July to October researching, learning, figuring out, what makes a great experience for travelers. I stayed in different places to figure it out. Then finally I embarked on it in late December of 2018.”

Brian has used these experiences of traveling and setting up short term rentals as good talking points on DriftrTravels, a prime destination for travelers to get connected with one another and learn travel hacks and techniques.

Brian Fontenot’s willingness for exploration and desire to help his fellow human beings is what created Driftr Travels, the BLF Foundation, and started his expansion into STRs. It’s this mindset that will help anyone, no matter who they are or where they come - succeed in life.

About Brian Fontenot:

Brian is the Executive Director of the BLF Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit offering annual scholarships and a year-long mentorship for college students, developing emotional intelligence, and soft skills. Brian is also the CEO/Co-Founder of Elevation Firm, a Creative Agency that helps develop brands and improve advertising and marketing strategies for countless businesses.

Through all of his travels, the power of cards and points has fueled his ability to travel freely. Brian now conducts seminars, workshops, and can be found speaking to the public in order to help share techniques and tips on how others can take advantage of these resources.

You can find Brian’s site dedicated to travelers at DriftrTravels.

You can become involved in his organization at BLFFoundation.org

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