This is a follow up story for The Airhook. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Craig Rabin, my team & I invented a travel gadget called The Airhook in 2015 and have seen great success over the last 5 years… until the pandemic hit. The Airhook is a small travel gadget that anchors to the back of a locked airline tray table – which holds your beverage and electronics device. All the convenience of the tray table with the ability to move your knees!
Leading up the pandemic we were shipping products all over the world and to every state in the U.S. Business was booming as we had just won the award for the Most Innovative Travel Gadget. Then, the travel world completely froze and has since been thawing incredibly at an incredibly slow rate. What to do, what to do??
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Unfortunately like many others, the pandemic has slowed our business almost to a halt. With our leading product [and moneymaker] The Airhook being in the travel sector, and an optional gadget at that, we saw the demand fall to roughly ~10% of what we had been averaging. So, for the 1,000 hits, we saw probably 50-100 daily instead and many of those we accounted to be bots of false hits.
Expecting the unexpected simply was not good enough. Saying “it will be ok” was not good enough. The entire team and I had to think about our futures first, many with spouses and families, before we could even think about product innovation/growth/etc.
From a conversion standpoint, we fell to about 1% of normal. The Airhook needs to be used more than once to get the full value from the product – travel is extremely limited. One of The Airhook’s main features is holding a beverage – many airlines have stopped all services. Making our value proposition exceedingly small.
This was something we had never imagined happening in our strategy sessions. We knew airline seats were coming that could accommodate some of the same value adds, but even that was years down the road. We were forced to innovate faster than planned and needed to do it outside of The Airhook. This was personally hard for me to get past, I’d put so much into The Airhook’s second launch and we were coming off such great momentum from the Innovation Award. Not even mentioning the bills that were still to be paid, the dreams that had to be put on pause was beyond hard. It took a long time to try to realize if this was a horrible disaster or was a blessing to clear my head?? For the record, I am still not sure! But over the last 6 months of finding out, it has led to two developments. 1) a CLEAR need for diversity in the products, and 2) I needed help with ideas!
The immediate solution was to look at outside sources and part experiences. Some of my best experiences in the past have been speaking at colleges about inventing and following your dreams. How could I replicate it? So, I started reaching out to universities to be a college career coach! What a great opportunity to do what I love while influencing the youth. This is TBD.
The more pressing issue was a current need for a stream of ideas to evaluate. Our own little Shark Tank, but we only provided knowledge not funding. As it would turn out, EVERYONE is an armchair inventor! Love it! Seriously ask the next 5 people you see if they have an idea for a good invention and I bet 4+ will say YES. This is the stream of ideas I needed, and I was the help these individuals needed to get their ideas off the ground, or at least through prototyping which is our specialty. This has become the current focus as of late.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
As noted in the above too, our biggest lesson was that expecting the unexpected simply was not good enough. Saying “it will be ok” was not good enough. The entire team and I had to think about our futures first, many with spouses and families, before we could even think about product innovation/growth/etc.
It was only until each person’s foundation was set that we could begin to move forward with even the simplest of business conversations. Some of those conversations even feeling like we were in early chats, those before launch when excitement was there because it was new. Some because of the personal work each person had to do to get to the point they could help with The Airhook again. And, that was at least a budding of the plan for innovative growth. Even though the conversation was via Zoom – you could tell each person felt blessed to be working together after all this. Excited about the possibilities.
So long story short, I believe we learned humility.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
This is a great follow-up to the question above. First, there is one thing I know for sure. It is hard to try to plan 5 years out, heck even the next 12 months, due to the state of how much every aspect of life has recently changed. BUT, I’d like to believe they are and that we all have many great blessings coming! So, putting my positive hat on, the first thing my teams needs to do is continue to be there for one another on a personal level to weather the storm.
The second thing they need to do… DREAM! Although we have had to cut back on staffing, luckily EVERYONE is an inventor! So instead of leaning on myself for ideas, I reached out to others with the concept of helping them with ideas. Turns out some of them had some! Who would have thought? Even more interesting, would I have asked without this pandemic hitting?!? The good news is I did.
Working on ideas of a few others as I noted before, we will be launching a range of new PET PRODUCTS soonest! That’s right folks, we ditched the airplane seats for the doggie beds on this one!! To find out more and get firsthand launch news, please check out – we appreciate your support! Lucky to be able to pull in the same team to help execute too.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
The book Addicted To The Monkey Mind by JF Benoist was amazing! It helped me see outside my visions and understand where others were coming from. It deals a lot with growing over assumptions and not allowing one’s past to control one’s future. Throughout they allude to various business aspects, here is one of my many favorites:
“Say that you believe that your business partner doesn’t value your ideas. Because of this belief, you don’t share any ideas with them. Now, your partner doesn’t hear your ideas, so gets inspirited by and brainstorms with other people.
As a result, if you bring something up to your business partner, there is a higher chance they will not give it as much weight because you don’t have a track record of sharing valuable ideas. Can you see how this would create a negative pattern in your life?” p.58
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
With the world the way it is now, it is extremely hard to be giving advice. The problems people face now are much more series then the company they are trying to start, at least in my opinion. So, my best advice right now is simple, ask “How Are You” first. Seriously. Before offering any kind of option make sure to listen to where the other side is coming from first.
This goes well beyond business and is a life lesson this pandemic has taught me. Everyone has a hurdle in front of them to jump over, are you a barrier or a helping hand?
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
No – but always willing to help the budding investor or Entrepreneur!
Where can we go to learn more?
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