For the founder and CEO of Baby Quip, making connections is nothing new. A member of the Match launch team in the 1990s, Fran Maier’s latest venture targets consumers who have transitioned from dating to parenthood and now have young children. It helps make trips more enjoyable by matching them with a network of independent entrepreneurs in the places they visit who rent cribs, strollers, car seats, jumpers, monitors, high chairs and even safe and clean toys and books. “Pack light and travel happy,” she promises.
There is an important market to target. Maier says 14 million families in the United States and Canada take trips each year. Now, instead of paying extra baggage fees and “traveling like you’re traveling”, BabyQuip customers simply go online, research where they’re going, and connect with over 1,000 quality suppliers located in 650 markets. Orders are delivered to where you are staying, so you don’t waste valuable vacation time.
The concept has become popular with both vacation rental hosts and guests. Grandparents also appreciate the service, says Maier, and traditional hotels represent the next frontier. As a rule, hotels have a limited number of cribs and not many more. This means upset customers if they are loaned out to other customers and unproductive storage space for the hotel. In addition, there is maintenance and cleaning.
BabyQuip only rents new items – so there are no used clothes and items are professionally cleaned between uses. Maier says her quality suppliers are a serious business that attracts both moms who want to help other moms and entrepreneurs in the gig economy. A QP in Santa Fe raised $30,000 last year, Maier says.
Each QP defines its own service area, makes its own inventory decisions, and can set its availability. This means that site users are assured that the provider they are connecting with has what they need and will be available when they want it.
BabyQuip offers QPs training on customer service, cleaning, product safety and liability insurance. Because it tracks what is rented, it can notify vendors of product recalls. More importantly, “We give them a showcase,” Maier said. Forbes. Sellers also have a private community where they share tips, advice, and motivation.
Yet it hasn’t all been easy since its launch in 2016. After appearing on Shark Tank in early March 2020, BabyQuip saw sales drop 60% from 2019 as Covid all but halted travel.
However, the business has rebounded and Maier thinks the concept is more valid than ever. Last month set a transaction record. She says QP’s network is growing rapidly, with about 20% starting as customers. BabyQuip has a Net Promoter Score of 94 from over 20,000 reviews. The company is currently completing a $3.5 million funding round.
In addition to hotels, Maier thinks travel agents who book family vacations are potential affiliates. Advisors would earn a referral fee. Above all, she sees plenty of fertile space without national competitors and local vendors primarily focused on opening hours instead of offering a personalized connection with the customer.