If you dig down into the inner workings of the luggage world, you kinda discover that it’s controlled by a handful of large corporations (and their stables of super brands), that have been around for decades. And if you’re a new brand, trying to compete is tough. But that’s where crowdfunding comes in. The rise of crowdfunding has provided opportunity for entrepreneurs and startups that once didn’t exist. And it’s giving them the push they need to not only compete, but to succeed.
Enter G-RO. A company founded by industrial designer Netta Shalgi and business partner Ken Hertz back in 2010. In the span of less than a decade, the company has been able to launch a highly-recognized and successful Kickstarter campaign for their innovative, axle-less, large-wheel carry-on luggage. Their 2015/2016 Kickstarter campaign broke the mold for the possibilities for a small luggage company, raising over 3 million dollars.
We sat down with Netta to pick his brain on crowdfunding, business, and to check out the latest collection of travel bags, backpacks, and luggage that’s currently on Kickstarter.
How do you actually conduct the research and analysis when building a brand? Any great services or tools?
We conducted a ton of market research primarily looking at trends in emerging markets like fashion, technology, travel and gear and kept a close eye on what people were talking about in blogs, newsletters, press, and social media. Statista is fantastic resource for data and analysis on existing consumer markets.
After we conducted our research, we had to look for hole in the travel industry that needed to be filled. We talked to everyone, friends, family, colleagues, random people we met in the airport, to understand what they were missing and we quickly found an entire demographic of travelers that weren’t being taken care of by any part of the travel industry.
How do you design a successful crowdfunding campaign? What’s important when doing so?
While it may seem like luck, the making of a successful crowdfunding campaign takes months of planning. The crowdfunding community is comprised of highly knowledgeable, product savvy early adopters and you have to really stand out to get their attention. Before starting a crowdfunding campaign it’s important to get an idea of what’s going on in the crowdfunding world. We’ve spent countless hours looking at how others are conducting their campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and there’s a huge amount of available information on the web right now. Websites like Kicktraq and CrowdCrux are valuable resources for anyone looking to run a campaign.
Then after you finish conducting all of the necessary research, you have to create solid strategies for marketing, production manufacturing, fulfilment, customer service, and the eventual transition from a crowdfunding campaign to a legitimate commercial business model.
Also, many people are under the impression that all the work is done as soon as you start the campaign, but this is when the most work is needed. We are constantly tweaking and optimizing our campaign to provide the information that our community is looking for and seeking out new promotional opportunities.
How do you differentiate your brand from the big luggage brands?
You have to identify a problem, and design a solution. For example, our products and brand represent some of the first real innovation in luggage in nearly two decades. For the longest time the pinnacle of innovation in luggage design was the four-wheel spinner model, which works great on the smooth surfaces of an airport terminal, but instantly becomes a liability when a traveler ventures out into the real world.
Moreover, as a start up company we have less resources than some bigger brands, but we turned this into a strength as it allows to be much more flexible and agile in testing new products and pushing the limits of innovation in our industry. We are constantly addressing new needs that big brands are not because they are obligated to maintain their brand identity.
How do you best develop a ‘feedback loop’ and how does this influence your product development?
In addition to our internal team, the crowdfunding community plays a huge role in providing feedback. They’re on the forefront of innovative products and will be the first ones to give you feedback on your product. By conducting a crowdfunding campaign before producing any products you can implement feedback and suggestions from thousands of people before committing to a design. For example, we got hundreds of comments on different features on our two campaigns and sometimes within a matter of days we can make changes to the products that save us hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in the future. We’re also constantly in discussion with frequent flyers, business travelers, and flight professionals to understand their needs and pain points.
What should you do when conducting a second KS campaign? What’s different? What do you have to consider?
The main difference is at the start of your first campaign nobody knows who you are, and so that’s part of the challenge – you have to introduce your brand. Once you’ve done one campaign you have the advantage of the crowdfunding community already knowing who you are and knowing that you’re legitimate, so your focus can shift entirely to the product. There is a lot of skepticism around the crowdfunding industry and rightly so as 9% of crowdfunding campaigns are never fulfilled. As a consumer this is quite a risk to take, so knowing a company has already successfully delivered on their promises in a previous campaign gives you a level of credibility.
Is ‘direct-to-consumer’ the way of the future? Is it a way to start and maintain a successful luggage brand? Why is it a good strategy?
Similar to crowdfunding, the direct-to-consumer business model has enabled entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and we’ve seen an explosion of companies using the direct-to-consumer model successfully. It’s a huge part of what G-RO does. It gives us a direct line to our customers that isn’t quite as available when conducting wholesale business, and allows you to stay agile, current, and hands-on as a brand.
To someone who is only familiar with the G-RO carry-on or has never heard of G-RO what would you tell them about your new line of products?
Almost as soon as people began receiving and using their G-RO carry-ons we started receiving requests for companion bags with similar features to go with the carry-on. People wanted bags of all different shapes and sizes married with the large signature G-RO wheel. We’ve listened to our community and now have two backpacks, a commuter bag, and a larger check-in bag available for pre-order as part of our latest Kickstarter campaign. All together they create a family of companion bags with something for everyone.
Check out G-RO’s newest line of companion bags, only available for pre-order on Kickstarter at up to 40% off.