How I Made Luggage Free Travel Experience A Possibility
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello guys! I’m Sangeetha, the Co-founder, and CEO of Cubby. My love for travel coupled with expertise in customer service has been instrumental in the formation of Cubby. “Take memories, leave footprints”- has always been my traveling mantra! It’s interesting because that’s how cubby was born too - making memories without photobombing luggage!
Cubby is an online luggage storage marketplace bringing together travelers who need to store their luggage and local businesses who have unused space to store their bags. It's a unique and modern solution to an ancient problem of lugging! We started out at Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, in the month of July 2019. After validating our business for a couple of months, we are now across 10 cities in the country, storing 700+ bags and counting.
We started out the year 2020 right by being selected to exhibit at the Startup Grind’s Global Conference 2020, at the Silicon Valley. We are very excited to expand across the nation and help many more travelers go un-bagged!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Have you ever looked at you’re vacation pictures and wondered if you could get rid of the bags or luggage photobombing the otherwise perfect vacation photograph? That’s our eureka moment! As a mom of five-year-old, I'm constantly clicking pictures of my son to keep up with him growing up so fast. After one of our vacations, I was trying to find the perfect picture to design for a keepsake. It didn’t exist.
Imagine my horror when I went back in time and still couldn’t find a picture without luggage. They were mostly ruined by either the stroller lurking around or the luggage staring back at us. Our sentiments were shared by our friends and we decided to do something about it. It got us thinking about how it could be changed. It then dawned on us that we had to lug around all our luggage because of the unavailability of lockers to store them when we didn’t need them.
Digging more into it, we soon realized that, lugging due to lack of convenient storage lockers were a huge problem and resonated with vacation rental guests, hotel guests, long layover air passengers, event attendees, etc,.This meant there’s definitely a need for a luggage storage solution. It must be simple, convenient and also affordable. Cubby was designed to keep these key factors and most importantly the safety of the bags.
We put it to test at Dallas after designing a mobile-optimized web platform. The results were encouraging. After two months of practical learning and improving our process, we set about slowly streamlining the same and to expanding to ten more cities.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
There was now a lugging problem and a great solution. It was time to bring it to life. The first thing we did was to design the website. It had to be a quick and seamless experience for the customer. We had a website ready in a few months, where a customer could book his cubby in less than three minutes and also send him a text and email of the confirmation.
The next step was to onboarding our partner locations. Dallas had not heard of short term luggage storage before. This process was very educational and gave us a pulse on the market. We personally vetted each of our cubbers (our partner locations) for working cameras and trained them on our simple procedure of all the bags being secured by bag seal tags. It was big learning which helped us when we expanded.
I can still remember the very first booking as it happened yesterday. Our very first customer was flying back to South Carolina from Austin and had a delay on his connecting flight from Dallas. Instead of waiting around killing time, he decided to go for a game instead. And he needed safe storage space for his luggage. Voila! Cubby came to his rescue. From then on we have helped more than 400 customers go un-bagged!
Describe the process of launching the business.
I remember one of my friends saying that she wished she could leave her gym stuff and yoga mat on her way to work so she didn’t have to make a trip home to grab it. This dawned on me that it’s not just travelers who are bogged with extra baggage but locals too. The potential for this business is huge. It’s the part of educating our customers about our services, which we have to invest more in. Thanks to the sharing economy made popular by Airbnb and Uber, it’s become not a hard task. We are Airbnb for luggage!
In the first few months, we spent a lot of time learning from customers and partner locations. Our cubbers (partners) and customer feedback have helped us grow. As a young company, it was vital for us to keep our eyes and ears open all the time and make changes swiftly. We learned and relearned customers’ needs and concerns to keep up with customer expectations.
We started seeing international customers as well. Of Course, the advertisements helped reach many more customers. What our customers loved was accessibility. How easy it is to go un-bagged anywhere.
After the first few months into the expansion, we could definitely see how many people needed it on a daily basis. The excitement you get when you’re idea is validated is beyond words. To see the business slowly make baby steps is any entrepreneur’s initial dream. And we were living it. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that it takes a lot of courage to turn ideas into action and so listen to the inner voice constantly telling you to keep going and filter out all the noise. Believe that you are made for greatness.
embed:instagram Our very first customer!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We have made use of social media space to create awareness about Cubby. We also take this opportunity to explore and explain to our customers the various ways the luggage storage service can be used. We share travel tips and tricks, place-specific things to do, food lovers must try spots and other interesting reads revolving around travel.
As a result, we have seen customers book a cubby from social media. Keeping up with current trends also helps. To give you a taste of our social media, here is our fun takes on lugging in #dollypatronchallenge:
We also have a cubby blog, which is not just information about us but also leisure reading. We do invest in Google ads and have seen significant growth through it. We also are working and building our SEO to rank better organically, which is necessary for going forward. We understand the significance of partnerships and are looking for valuable partnerships and affiliates. We have partnered with ISIC, the Iinternational Student Identity Car which is the only internationally accepted, UNESCO endorsed proof of student status. It gives lots of benefits and services at a discount and students can avail of luggage storage service with us.
The most powerful tool is without doubt satisfied customers. Nothing beats, the age-old word of mouth marketing. We at Cubby, try our very best to go above and beyond to give the best customer service. Our reviews encourage and show us areas of opportunities to improve ourselves and help make the best memories.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We have made great strides from where we started. We are only a 6-month-old young company and have a strong base not just in Dallas where we started but also at all major cities in Texas - Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth. We have expanded our wings over to Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC and Las Vegas. We will be in major cities in the country by the end of the year. We hope to become the best travel companion.
We are one of the startups who will be exhibiting at Startup Grind’s Global Conference 2020 at Silicon Valley and we are honored to be selected among the 300+ startups. We hope to attend more conferences, not just for the learning piece but most importantly for the friends we make along the way. Networking is a powerful tool and we plan to make use of it.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The most important learning for me is not to make assumptions. What you expect to be insignificant, can actually mean more important things. Something which is assumed to not work may actually yield extraordinary results. So I've learned the hard way to put it to trial, irrespective of already known or assumed facts.
Be ready to embrace new ideas or suggestions, even if that means you’re wrong. That’s the only way to complete the loop of learning - feedback by reviews. Learning from this must be made regularly since they are the easiest way to keep you informed of what the customer wants.
Time blocking will also help immensely to keep a healthy work-life balance. So much literature has been written about mental health and we need to respect it. So, going to the park with the kids or walking the dog for a mile are invested time to keep you sane. I believe you have to be successful in both work and life to taste true success.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We have used a very popular and industry-standard, angular universal technology for our mobile-optimized web application. We have used this as it makes our front end flexible for changes.
As all our transactions are cashless, we have used Stripe as our payment gateway. It’s been great so far and particularly the payout is easy with stripe. The feature I love most is that it will help me with preventing credit card frauds.
Email communication is vital for any business and Zoho mail is what has worked for us. Some of the other tools we have used are Hubspot for lead management, Databox for KPI tracking and Mailchimp for email marketing.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Excellence wins by Horst Schulze is one book which taught me how being good is not enough but excelling it is what makes any project unique and successful. Customer service is a pride to any company and this taught me a great deal.
The Lean Startup is one of the books I'm reading right now and thoroughly enjoy it. I stick to comedy on podcasts whenever I get a chance. Between work and home, I treasure this time alone and laugh out as much as I can. After all, nothing good comes out of stress!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You hear people saying time and again about the difference between theory and practical but never taken it to heart. I am one of those who experienced it first hand. When we started, I knew what we wanted and how to do it in my head. But until we went life, I had no idea how many factors come into play and you learn as you go. That’s my biggest learning. Have a plan but also be ready to embrace change!
Most times I think, we forget to acknowledge the small achievements and the tough path we had crossed and focus only on the end goal. I’m not asking you to lose sight of you’re vision but rather celebrate every small victory along the path to greatness. This will help not only to live in the moment but also to enjoy the process of growing your business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We will need help soon as we plan to expand rapidly to major cities across the country. Although we are not hiring as of today, we plan to hire as we grow and when we are sufficiently funded. We don’t plan to stop just with the USA but serve travelers across the globe. So, we will be bringing together a great team with the same motive of making hassle-free travel experience.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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