Sweet, a new travel company, has been founded to deliver fun-filled, eco-friendly, volunteer-oriented and empowering lesbian travel experiences.  Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sweet's mission is to offer vacations that empower and motivate guests to achieve their personal, professional and philanthropic goals. Travel itineraries will include volunteer programs that provide aid to underserved communities and fundraising activities that support non-profit groups around the world. 

Sweet's first offering will be a Fall 2009 Caribbean cruise departing from New Orleans. Before setting sail, Sweet plans a three-day land package for guests interested in helping with Hurricane Katrina Relief. 

Sweet founder, Shannon Wentworth, took some time to discuss her new venture with me. 

Cole Wakefield:  First off, let’s talk about the name, ‘Sweet’.  Lots of things come to mind when I hear it, but not necessarily travel.  So, why the name ‘Sweet’? 

Shannon Wentworth:  Being a child of the 80's, I grew up saying dude, sweet, awesome, killer, rad and other things that drove my mom crazy (she did not like being called dude one bit.) As we were looking for a name, we wanted something short and, er, sweet. From the moment we threw it out there we knew it was the one. It works so well in so many situations.

Sweet is our name and our mission. Whenever we’re making decisions we ask, “Is that sweet?” and/or “How can we make that sweet?” The day after we came up with the name, I told my trainer I was starting a lesbian charter travel company and he said, “Sweet!” And I said, “Exactly.”

CW:  Sweet!  I doubt starting a venture like this is easy; what motivated you to take the leap and form Sweet?

SW: I wanted to be surrounded by smart and beautiful women in stunning destinations and do good things.

Sweet was born from a desire to do all the things I love as a job. Sweet connects so many of my passions and interests. I became an ardent (and probably very annoying) environmentalist and animal rights advocate in high school. I came out in college. I’ve always loved to explore the world, especially to get really involved in the places I visit.

I spent a summer working at a fishery in Alaska. I spent three months in Australia where I traded labor on organic farms or at kangaroo sanctuaries for room and board. After visiting the Galapagos, I realized that if I want these places to be around for me to visit, I've got to do something. We all need to do something. I love to challenge myself physically. I also like to have fun, lots of fun. Sweet combines all of these things into one awesome package, all while traveling to spectacular places with amazing women.

We want our guests to come home with something more valuable than a hand-woven basket, something that sticks with them and makes them feel great about themselves. Helping the environment and helping others makes people feel good, that is core to a Sweet travel experience.

CW:  There are already several options out there for the lesbian cruiser, most notably Olivia, what is going to set a Sweet cruise apart?

SW:  Olivia is No. 1 in lesbian travel. It’s celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, an incredible accomplishment.

The lesbian travel market is huge. Gay and lesbian travelers will spend more than $60 billion in 2008. Sweet is creating its own niche in this channel for fun-filled, empowering, eco-friendly lesbian vacations.

Our purpose is three-fold: (1) To leave the communities we visit better than we found them; (2) To offer our guests the opportunity to really interact with the community we’re visiting and get the high that comes from giving; and (3) To show the world how amazing and generous lesbians are.

Another key for us is the environment. Sweet is doing its part to fight global warming by offsetting all the carbon created by our business operations, in addition to all the carbon created by our guests’ air and sea travel with our friends at CarbonFund.org.  

Our pricing is sweet, too. We’re priced really affordably and simply. We roll all the confusing additional fees into the price, so the price you see is the price you end up paying. We offer a free monthly payment plan. For example, if someone booked our least expensive room today on the payment plan, it would be less than $50 per month per person. We don’t have only a few rooms at that price, we have 146 rooms at that price.

CW:  So you’ll be doing good and feeling good!  Is there anything else our readers should know about Sweet?

JW: We have amazing entertainers, like comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, the sardonic Philly Cream Cheese angel Erin Foley and musicians Jen Foster and Edie Carey.

We also couldn’t be more pleased about working with Norwegian Cruise Lines. They love what we’re doing and are bending over backwards to help. They already do volunteer work in some ports and are excited at the opportunity to share it with guests.

Even though our first cruise is 19 months away, sales are swift and we’re loving the enthusiasm of our guests. They have been really generous with their ideas and energy.

For more information on Sweet visit:  http://www.discoversweet.com

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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