How to Equip Yourself to And Others to Achieve Success and Make an Impact with Fran Maier
By Mary Maxey
October 24, 2019
In today’s episode, our guest is Fran Maier. She is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and fundraiser responsible for five successful business ventures. She’s also a former co-founder of Match.com and the founder of a new company called Baby Quip. She has gone through a journey of world-changing businesses, so if you want to create a great business idea and do things differently, this episode is for you.
[2:05] Why should I listen to you?
You should listen to me because I am a fun conversationalist, I’d probably ask you what you’re up to and eventually get around to introducing myself as the CEO of Baby Quip and the services we render as a startup business.
[3:10] If you were to break down baby quip in its basics, what would it be?
Baby Quip is the largest baby gear rental and delivery service in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Australia. We are the Airbnb of baby care, and we have over 1400 people (mostly moms) who own baby gear, and they are the ones who deliver it to families who are traveling to their local area. This isn’t moms renting their extra cribs, strollers, or seats. Most of these moms are building a real inventory of strollers, car seats, cribs, toys, baby monitors, and all kinds of other things. Because of the bombs, they get a lot of gratification from serving other families who are trying to have a good vacation. Baby quip is the one who connects the parents to the providers and parents can choose among providers their destination.
[5:22] How long has Baby Quip been around?
We launched it in May 2016. I finished my fourth startup sometime in 2012, and between 2012 and 2016, I got on the Airbnb craze, so I bought a house in San Francisco and was renting rooms on the top floor of my house. Afterward, I went to Santa Fe, where my mom was at the time, bought a couple of vacation rentals there, and started to think about how travel is changing. I didn’t have a 9 to 5 job; instead, I was running properties and had a gig job. Then, I met somebody in Santa Fe who was doing the baby rental business, and we connected and joined forces in May. We launched pretty much immediately on the first platform. Almost seven years later, we survived the pandemic on Shark Tank on March 6, 2020. We were expecting our business to just take off, and then the pandemic came, but we are still standing and stronger than ever.
[7:00] What was the aww shift moment?
I had already been an Airbnb host, and I knew I did not want to store, clean, or provide the range that I saw families traveling with. I had a few families bring babies, and there was no way I wanted to do this. So when I saw this idea of baby gear rentals, the first thing I tried to find out was if anybody was into the business, and all I found were some small regional players. So I saw that nobody had the intention to build a national brand. When I saw the ideal vision for baby quip, I knew we needed to create trust because we are dealing with kids and babies. I also looked into liability insurance. Every piece of inventory was aimed at the baby. It also requires us to get background checks on all the quality providers, and we have a whole lot of things that we call trust and safety that give our providers, customers, and parents a piece of mind. We train our quality providers on cleanliness, safety, hospitality, and social media. That’s how we’ve done it, and we are still the only national brand that is sold to babies all over the world.
[12:39] How would you navigate the next few steps to getting a life?
I think it’s surprising that many people don’t necessarily go through the steps. One is what problem you’re solving or trying to solve. Then, who is your target market? You need to understand to whom you’re selling this solution. You’ve got to refine it. Okay, there is a target, there is a problem. What is one aspect of the solution? What are the unique benefits that you can bring? Of course, you have to think about how you’re going to reach those people, and that is daunting because it takes years. It takes time. Your audience must see your content over and over again.
[16:06] What are some of the hidden pitfalls that we don’t see?
Let’s face it, the pandemic trumps all. When we were declining and also refunding orders in March and April of 2020, it was super painful. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it, but fortunately, I had raised some money, and then we got government money, which I’ve never had in my entire life. I think getting the insurance was a big lift, and not only was it a big lift to qualify, but the premiums are super expensive. Now that we are expanding, not every place is like the United States. For example, we recently expanded it to Australia. It’s a fairly well-to-do country, and middle-class moms can afford to buy baby gear, but Mexico has a different demographic. So, we are looking at some of these challenges when moving into a new market.
[18:10] Do you choose the right ideas yourself or do you bring other people in whenever you have these sticking points?
I deal with a lot of them on my own, but I have a good team, and we talk through things. I also have some legal financial advisors that always help a little more.
[20:10] How did you enroll people in your brand’s idea and vision?
We spend a lot of time on brands and culture. One of the things I probably should have mentioned earlier is that my brand name at the beginning was Baby Eres, but I could never get my mother to pronounce it correctly, and the spelling was really hard. We started working on the brand, which has values about putting family first and helping people enjoy their journey, and those kinds of things make a difference as well. Every year, we take a look at our business and brand and the feedback we’ve been getting. We might refine our brand values in our brand voice, but so far it has helped pretty steadily.
[26:50] How easy is it for someone to start this as a business?
It takes a little bit because we require everybody to get through the training. They could also go to babyquip.com and find the link to become a quality provider. We outline all the different steps; there are somepieces of training, and we do personal interviews to see if people are a good fit. We charge 200 bucks to get on the platform, and we train them on how to upload gear. One of the things we do mostly in the US is they could even put on the platform that they have the gear that they don’t have yet and if they get an order, we pay them and they could buy the gear and be ready for reservation.
[32:24] What promise did God make to the world when he created you?
I will make some impact, and I feel like I’m on that path already.
[11:02-11:06] What holds many people from being an entrepreneur is that they think about the objections ahead and it scares them off.
[14:41-14:44] In a marketplace business, you must consider the supply.
How to connect with Fran Maier