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It was 2012 when renowned celebrity photographer, Jeremy Cowart, had arrived in Los Angeles for a photoshoot at The Standard Hotel. Over the years, Cowart’s dazzling career had found him traveling with Britney Spears as her official tour photographer, snapping pictures of President Obama on the first day of his presidency and providing glamour shots to Hollywood’s elite. Shaking the glitter from his eyes in 2009, Cowart began to leverage his influence for more philanthropic endeavors such as Help Portrait (aimed at providing portraits to those in need) and See University (a photography school sharing Cowart’s expert tips). Having traveled to 25 countries, Cowart had been to his fair share of hotels by the time he arrived in Los Angeles but it was The Standard Hotel that inspired his biggest endeavor yet.
It all started with a room number. The doors at The Standard are designed to look like name tags with the tongue and cheek greeting of “Hello, my name is…Room 101.” What might have proved inconsequential to many was monumental to Cowart who was drawn to the idea of having a hotel room tell a story. Cowart was inspired by The Standard to create a new type of hotel where guests can effortlessly support global causes and rooms could support children in need. “I looked around the room and realized I know non-profits who are doing all the things that go into a hotel room,” said Cowart. The idea that a hotel could be entirely ethically sourced – from the linens to the furniture – was just the beginning; Cowart took his idea one step further with the thought-provoking question of: what if we could change the world while we sleep?
Enter The Purpose Hotel; the brainchild of Jeremy Cowart and business partner, Michael Moore (no relation to the documentary filmmaker). In the past three years, the two have laid down the concept for an unprecedented hotel chain where everything will serve a larger purpose and inspire global change. By partnering with 30 to 40 non-profit organizations, The Purpose Hotel will effortlessly weave charitable donations into every guest’s stay.
Step into the lobby and a clean water well will symbolize the flow of hope and life to everyone and everything connected to the hotel. Check into your room and your stay will sponsor a child from a developing nation. Working with Compassion International, a portion of each room cost will go towards providing a child in need with education and healthcare. Connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi network and your choice to upgrade to faster internet will help the International Justice Mission in their fight to end human trafficking.
With The Purpose Hotel still in the early stages of fundraising, the many ways in which charity organizations will be woven into the hotel is yet to be seen. When asked about the cause that is most dear to his heart, Cowart replies, “there is an organization we’re working with called the Preemptive Love Coalition. They work in Iraq and are on the front lines of the ISIS battle. They’re risking their lives to help all the people that no one else is helping.” According to the Preemptive Love mission statement, they are a global community of peacemakers who provide lifesaving heart surgeries, food and shelter for those persecuted by extremists. The organization looks to provide education for at-risk children and small-business empowerment grants so people can put their lives back together. As Cowart puts it, “I’m most excited to be partnering with them because we will be helping all the refugees that are trying to survive.”
The Purpose Hotel is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to start construction on their first location in Nashville. While Cowart and Moore could have approached private investors to fund the project, they made the conscientious decision to turn to the public instead. Their hope is to involve the community and make The Purpose Hotel a global project that transcends cultural divides. “The Purpose Hotel will be built communally on the internet,” explains Cowart, “the idea of this hotel being built for the world, by the world is a far more beautiful narrative than the traditional for-profit launch.”
It’s difficult to say when The Purpose Hotel will officially break ground but Cowart and his team hope to begin construction in a year. He is ultimately inspired to take the standard blueprint of hotels and flip it into a fresh, innovative idea that will benefit the world. A hotel where – buyer’s remorse be damned – a receipt with all the ways your visit has benefited the global community is given in lieu of a standard, cringe-worthy bill.
In the end, Cowart’s vision is best measured in the story of one of his Kickstarter campaign donors. A young woman who – after being subjected to years of sex trafficking abuse – has only recently found freedom in her life. After learning about Cowart and The Purpose Hotel, the woman approached his team to donate what little money she had to his endeavor. Touched by her story and selfless donation, Cowart and the woman became fast friends as she confided that in her darkest hours – on the brink of suicide – the idea of this hotel gave her light; gave her purpose.