NASHVILLE, TN—Nothing happens until a vision is established. Look around and see for yourself: The hotels that have been erected; the designs inside of a guestroom; the execution of new brands; and so much more. It all starts with a seed of an idea.
Jeremy Cowart is a dreamer and a visionary. A celebrity photographer—Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire are among his subjects—who has traveled the globe, Cowart has stayed at numerous hotels. One day, it occurred to him, “What if everything in this hotel was connected to a cause or a need?”
“I’ve been a photographer for 11 years and I’ve done a lot of humanitarian projects and worked with nonprofits. The more I worked with them, I realized it’s fulfilling and I enjoy it a lot more than some of my client work,” said Cowart. “In a hotel meeting, I had the idea for the Purpose Hotel. Looking at the way the room was designed, I thought, ‘What if the room had a story attached?’ Each room could sponsor a child and we’d put a name with a face next to the room number. Nonprofits are great causes that are already creating great products, such as linens, blankets and artwork. It’s amazing. I started dreaming….”
For Cowart, the seed was firmly planted but he would have to overcome self-doubts and a group of naysayers to bring this project forth. If every good idea is fought and then adopted, well, he is winning the battle.
“It was four years ago this started, and for three of those years, I thought the idea was too big or I was incapable of doing something at this scale. This fall, I found the courage to move,” said Cowart. “There have been challenges. The voices that are fearful when encountering a new idea, especially one that’s big. That still remains the biggest hurdle to cross in terms of the industry itself. The feeling was unanimous that this needs to happen and that this is a good idea. And, it’s been encouraging for me to overcome those fears and to move forward.”
With the help of the mainstream public and the internet—he’s using Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website to raise awareness and money for the planned Nashville property—he’s been able to drum up significant support and is one step closer to executing what will be a hotel on a mission to help others.
“We’re asking people to engage and participate in the Kickstarter and then we want them to come stay at the hotel, helping lots of nonprofits around the world. They’d be changing their world in their sleep,” said Cowart.
While altruism is divine, Cowart is incredibly serious about the work he will embark upon, cultivating partnerships with nonprofits and tapping into the business acumen of the hospitality industry for The Purpose Hotel.
“The first person I got involved was my business partner. He’s been my business manager for 11 years and he joined forces with me on the hotel. Since then, we’ve met and talked to all kinds of people in the hospitality industry,” said Cowart. “We’re having conversations with potential hospitality partners and we’re hoping to cement things very soon. We’re very excited. Within the last 24 hours, we’ve seen a large bump in the campaign and momentum is brewing. It will be fun to watch the final days of the campaign. The nonprofit partners are on board and seems like it’s been green-lighted ever since we made the choice to move forward.”
Here’s how the hotel plans to effect change during a guest’s stay: A child will be sponsored; the hotel room internet fee will go toward fighting human trafficking; every product from the soap to linens to furnishings is purchased from partners who are making a difference. In the lobby, a clean water well symbolizes the flow of hope and life to everyone and everything connected to the hotel, noted Cowart.
“We want to make clever connections. We don’t want to just add a bunch of nonprofits to be cool, we want it to be a celebratory, bright environment, not a heavy experience. It will feel like a normal, modern hotel,” he said.
The public’s engagement is strong and some celebrities are lending support via social media. The band Paramore, Pastor Joel Osteen, and even Justin Beiber’s mom Pattie Mallette are spreading the word via Twitter and other social platforms. The fundraising has been successful, so much so that as of this writing, The Purpose Hotel’s current Kickstarter campaign has 2,892 backers with $465,996 pledged, surpassing Cowart’s goal of $347,000—and there’s still several days left to raise even more. Since the goal has been met, The Purpose Hotel will receive the target amount plus additional pledges beyond the goal. Additional fundraising will happen in the future.
Next steps include dissecting the project’s budget to include the basic needs to get the hotel off the ground and eventually take the brand internationally. According to Cowart, they plan to shake up the current state of hotels by offering something that is different from what’s currently available in the industry.
“A lot of hotels are thinking more socially and globally. We’re a cause from the inside-out, so we hope to flip the model on its head. We’re looking to do things very differently. We plan to show real-time transparency in the lobby where guests will see it live, the impact of the hotel around the world,” said Cowart. “We’re doing it to create jobs for people in third-world countries and I look forward to seeing what it’s going to do in the long run. I’ve traveled to 30 countries and have stayed in every hotel imaginable, and no hotel ever moved me to make the world a better place. We hope to fill that gap.”