Interview With Fran Maier
Describe your product or service:
“BabyQuip helps families ‘Pack Light & Travel Happy’ to over 1,000 locations in the US, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe. BabyQuip delivers thousands of clean, safe, and insured baby gear items to families who don't want to haul bulky gear while traveling. Its newest service, BabyQuip Cleaning, offers professional baby gear cleaning services for local families and businesses who don’t have the time or tools to do it themselves. As a managed marketplace, the BabyQuip platform enables its community of over 1,200 independent Quality Providers the opportunity to build their businesses renting and cleaning baby gear on the BabyQuip platform. Strategic BabyQuip partnerships include Destination by Hyatt, XPlorie, Guesty, and Vrbo, among others. BabyQuip appeared on the ABC hit show Shark Tank in March 2020.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Mission: To delight traveling families while empowering Quality Providers to build a rewarding business.
- Enjoy the Adventure: Embrace the journey
- Clean, Safe & Accountable: Be trustworthy, transparent, Deliver honesty with respect and accountability
- Reward Entrepreneurship: Acknowledge accomplishments and greatness
- Family First: Provide solutions for families to have more time together to create memories, all families
- Go Above & Beyond: Consistently striving for excellence
- Foster Community: Build Meaningful Connections: We’re all in this together, diversity
- Innovate & Adapt: Be intentional, react ahead of trends and current events, lead the categories”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“Raised total [of] $8.5 million seed funding. The most recent round of funding received in April 2022 was for $3.5 million.
We anticipate to raise [a Series A] round mid-2023.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them!
“16 FTEs, fully remote and located everywhere from California to Massachusetts and many states in-between. Fun Fact: Fran and the CTO (Joe) are a mother/son team! Joe is the only man on the team so far. Many corporate team members began as quality providers.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“In early 2012, I left my last position (at the time, President and Chair of TRUSTe — now TrustArc) and bought a three-story home in the Potrero Hill area of San Francisco. Airbnb was gaining traction, and before long, I was renting two rooms on the third floor of my home on Airbnb.
Explosion of the gig economy caused me to think about how travel and work were evolving. With change comes opportunities. What new companies would take advantage of these opportunities?
It was at that point I came across a baby gear rental business, and I knew almost immediately baby gear rental would be my next venture. As a mom, I know first hand how difficult it is to travel with small children and how hard it can be to navigate airports with the gear they need. As a vacation rental host, I also didn’t want to buy and store gear my family no longer needed, even though my guests might.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“We were originally named ‘Babierge’ in an effort to describe how hard it is to provide the concierge-style service that we offer. Unfortunately, the name was hard to spell and understand, so we rebranded to ‘BabyQuip’ in mid 2018.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“This is Fran's fifth startup, with the first being Match.com in the 90s as the internet emerged. Fran thought her extensive experience in brand marketing would be valuable and it has worked in her favor!”
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while launching your company? How did you overcome it?
“With most marketplaces, getting a flywheel started is hard. However, as soon as we built up our supply of quality providers, we got business. Fundraising is difficult, but Fran has benefitted from her extensive network.
The largest obstacle BabyQuip has faced was introducing a new category (baby gear rental during travel) to consumers. We solve a legitimate problem for families, however, we were the first brand with a large enough footprint to create national category awareness.
Being in the travel industry, the pandemic was also a massive challenge.”
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your company with our guide on how to start a startup.
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Traveling families and budding entrepreneurs. Early on, we did spend money on advertising but also relied heavily on customer and QP referrals. There is a strong need for this service that was underserved, so finding market fit happened naturally.”
What's your primary marketing strategy?
“Building a strong, national brand was critical to our success. We are the largest national brand in this space by a long shot, and our reputation is a core marketing enabler. Key components of our brand are safety, trust, cleanliness, and insurance.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“After QPs were on the BabyQuip platform, orders came in quickly, enabled by great search advertising, SEO, social media, and QP business development training.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Customer: YoY growth, Quarter over quarter growth (which is hard since travel is seasonal), cost of acquisition, unit economics
QPs: # active QPs, orders per period, total QPs, cost of acquisition.”
What's your favorite startup book?
“The Platform Revolution”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“Spotify Channel with Peloton favorites”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“As a remote team, we use a lot of Google documents/sheets.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“You can never go back.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“With grown children and lots of experience under my belt, this is easier than it used to be.”
When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?
“Didn't have a day job before I started BabyQuip.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“Waitress - always take the money!
‘Go for’ at a law firm — being a lawyer wasn't for me”