One Foot in Farmington Hills, the Other, Everywhere Else

At 30, Scott Brills has been to 70 countries and all seven continents. By 35, his goal is to set foot in 100. Lest one think all that traveling isn't enough to pack into three decades, Brills has also started and managed a website development firm, dedicated months at a time to raising funds for international charities through road rallies, and is an active member of the non-profit A Vision for Clean Water. Oh, and he's currently launching a safari company - in Farmington Hills. 
 
To be clear, the safaris will take place in Tanzania, but much like all of Brills' other international endeavors, his hometown of Farmington Hills will serve as his headquarters. Though he's designed websites and served charities from cafes and hotels worldwide, like a boomerang, he always knows where he'll be returning. 
 
"My parents are both still living here. I have relatives in the area, and I grew up here," says Brills. " I'm pretty active in the entrepreneurial scene in Detroit. A lot of my friends are doing big things there, and I like being a small part of the revitalization of the city."
 
A graduate of Oakland University, Brills' itch to travel began when he studied in Japan at the school. Though he focused on international business, the young adventurer found that his self-taught side job, building websites, was a potential means to continue traveling as he made a living. 
 
"I didn't start the company with that in mind, but after a few years it because pretty clear it was something I could do with a laptop and Internet connection anywhere in the world," he says. "It gave me the resources and the freedom to pursue my love of travel, and that was the clincher for building up the company."
 
The result was mSeven, a Farmington Hills-based web design firm that began in 2002. The business employed seven and managed about 150 projects over the last decade. During that time, Brills traveled as he worked, including participating in charity road rallies from London to Mongolia, across India and more. While Brills is now winding down mSeven in favor of new ventures, his next projects have sprung from the travel opportunities afforded to him by the very mobile business. 
 
Brills has a particular passion for the international clean water crisis, an issue for which he raised money by driving an auto rickshaw across India. His interest in the effort has followed him home, where he is a part of A Vision for Clean Water, a non-profit that trains about 30 people per year how to use technology to bring clean water and sanitation to places in the world in need. 
 
"I've seen a need for this. I've seen the people who live in these places, and I've interacted with them," says Brills. "Water is a building block of life. It comes before anything else, before you can concentrate on food, education, women's rights... because if you don’t' have water, you can get to those other things." 
 
It was another road rally - one that took Brills from London to Cape Town - that started him thinking about his new business, Pamoja Safaris, which will donate a portion of its profits to African orphanages. 
 
"I spent about five months in Africa last year, and I visited some orphanages over there. They aren't the same as we think of here," Brills says. "They're a safe place for children to go to during the day. About 75 percent them have a places to sleep. It's mostly a place for them to play and go to school and be with other children." 
 
Brills began working on Pamoja Safaris in 2011 with an African partner. While his partner will handle most of the work on the Tanzanian end, Brills will man the marketing and advertising from Michigan - or wherever he happens to be at any given time. 
 
His hope is that Pamoja Safaris will inspire people to become more aware of wildlife conservation issues in Africa, as well as encourage more young people like himself to look at world travel as something within their grasp. 
 
"The main goal of the company is to make safaris more affordable and put the word out there that you don't have to be 65 and retired to go on a safari," says Brills. "People think it's prohibitively expensive, but if you save some money, you can do it in your twenties or thirties."
 
While operating a business in Africa will certainly be cause for Brills to continue his world traveling, he doesn't expect his home base to change any time soon.  
 
"I know there is a bright future ahead for Detroit, and I'd like being a part of that," he says. "I love New York and San Francisco, but everything is already sorted out there. It's hard to get your foot in the game." 
 
At the same time, he doesn't plan on letting the grass grow under his feet in the near future either. As he works toward his goal of visiting 100 counties by the time he's 35, Brills hopes to continue with the same philosophy that has kept him going so far."
 
"Keep traveling, keep learning, keep meeting people and having fun," he says. "If you're not having fun, it's not worth doing."

Natalie Burg is a freelance writer and Concentrate's Development News Editor.

All Photos Supplied by Scott Brills
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