If you’re traveling with babies often, you know that this experience, no matter how exciting, is the direct opposite of traveling light. A stroller, a crib, a car seat, toys… You have to take it all!
At least it was that way until BabyQuip (former Babierge) emerged. Now, it is the online platform that provides baby gear rental for traveling families. It connects parents who travel with their kids with gear providers, called Quality Providers or QP’s, who rent gear at their travel destinations. Now, the platform has 450 QP’s, passionate and dedicated entrepreneurs who’re providing the gear in hundreds of cities across the US and Canada.
Three years ago, when Fran Maier started growing the company as a CEO, the travel industry started booming with the new category of travelers – millennial parents. More of them started to want to travel more often and more lightly. They also wanted to travel with their babies.
Maier wasn’t new to doing business when she hopped on the new promising venture.
Serving at the leading positions at companies like Match.com, TrustArc (former TRUSTe), Clorox, Women.com, and Bluelight.com gave her enough insight into how to lead tech companies and make them profit and grow.
After leaving TrustArc in 2012, Maier bought a house and settled in San Francisco to serve as the advisor to female founders there. “Before long, I was renting rooms in my home on Airbnb and began to think about how travel and work (gig economy!) are changing,” Maier recalls. It was when she met a female founder (editor: name was not revealed by the interviewee) who built a growing baby gear rental business in Santa Fe, that she understood “this service was needed and it tapped into the big changes in work and travel.”
Maier offered to join the company as a CEO to grow it further across the country and beyond. Already being a five-time serial entrepreneur, Maier says she “had the itch to build another internet brand, a business with a positive impact, one more time.”
When they just started, Maier put her own money into assessing such business factors as how difficult it would be to get QP’s and renters. Liability insurance was another important part of starting. “I viewed this as a very important differentiator and key to success in recruiting Providers and getting renters.” The company also raised over $2M from friends and family, angel investors, family offices, and venture capital. They’re now looking to raise even more through crowdfunding platforms.
The business hasn’t broken even yet, but its strong values and mission are what keeps Maier and her team going. “We are solving important problems for families and generating good incomes for our providers,” she adds.
As a business type, BabyQuip is a two-sided marketplace. The company needs to care to make sure that not only clients (renters) show demand in the services, but also more suppliers (QP’s) join the platform to provide these services.
BabyQuip’s Quality Providers are mostly women, moms who own the gear and rent it. This is a lucrative side-hustle for them. “Many people are looking for a gratifying side-hustle, they really want to have a good paying gig that is flexible,” Maier says. “Our moms love that they can do this with their children!”
Lisa Brown, BabyQuip’s Provider from Kansas City, says, “Being a BabyQuip QP is the ultimate at-home mom gig. Receiving baby gear orders adds an element of spontaneity to my day without interfering with time with my kids. And at the same time, I’m relieving stress for other parents & helping families enjoy their time in Kansas City!”
BabyQuip’s path as a business wasn’t smooth all the time though. In 2018, they changed the name from Babierge to BabyQuip. Maier says it was too expensive and most importantly affected their SEO and hence, online visibility. She advises other founders, “if you’re not happy with your name, change it sooner rather than later.”
The company has big plans for the future. Offering party rentals, long term rentals for new families, expanding internationally are among the key points in BabyQuip’s long-term strategy. Maier is very optimistic about them. “So much opportunity!.. Lots more to do.”
Her determination and drive have been rewarded numerous times. She was featured as an expert in the documentary about entrepreneurship “She Started It.” In 2015, she was named one of “100 Most Influential Women in Technology” by Hot Topics. In 2011, San Francisco Business Times named her one of the 150 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business and in 2010, AlwaysOn listed her among the Top 25 Women in Tech to Watch in Silicon Valley. But she stays humble and admits she’s not perfect.
“I’m so honored to be a role model to other women. Believe me, I’m far from perfect, and maybe that’s why I can be a role model.”
Are you a stay-at-home mom interested in becoming BabyQuip’s Quality Provider? Apply here to start making money without detaching from family!