Landing investment worth $2.5m just months before a global pandemic is good timing. It’s even luckier timing when that business is entrenched in one of the sectors hardest hit.
That’s the story of Stasher: the world’s first luggage storage network.
Its co-founder, Jacob Wedderburn-Day, knows he and his business have been lucky.
Stasher was formed in 2015 while Jacob and co-founder, Anthony Collias, were still studying. The pair had just moved to London and were constantly being asked to store luggage for people visiting. That sparked an idea - and Stasher was born.
“Airbnb was becoming really popular, but people were saying they couldn’t store their bags,” Jacob said. “There was nothing to service them. Railway stations had lockers, but the solution wasn’t right.
“Shops, hotels and businesses were open all the time. We signed up the shop across the road from us and things snowballed from there.”
Following a number of funding rounds, including a recent $2.5m raise just before the pandemic hit, there are now 1,500 StashPoints across 30 different countries, with ambitious plans to expand even further.
Jacob said: “We were very lucky we did the funding round at that time. Covid-19 didn’t even come into any discussions.
“We’re quoted somewhere that we had a plan to be in 10,000 cities worldwide. Airbnb claim to be in 50,000 cities worldwide. I’m not sure there are that many cities across the world, but in theory, we could be anywhere there’s an Airbnb.”
Jacob says he has been equally as lucky with the mentality of those who have invested, allowing him and his team to focus on their current business rather than having to actively pivot to survive the crisis. The business dropped to a four-day week and furloughed 75% of staff, while a core team remained to focus on the apps, website and SEO, among other elements.
He added: “The first few weeks were the hardest. I feel we were lucky, as we’d been talking to an adviser in Spain - which was ahead of us – they were taking it very seriously. I thought there was no harm in overreacting, and we put a plan in place. We emphasised cash flow management above all else.
“There was no sense in letting anyone go prematurely and it gave us time to focus on making our website and apps better, as well as looking at other ways to bring in different revenue. Nothing as drastic as a pivot, but we have looked at storing different things at the moment, like bikes or belongings, as people move home.
“Our investors actually urged us not to pivot. The message was that it could waste time and resources, rather than focusing on the business they invested in. I know a lot of companies that have had pressure to pivot and that seems stressful.”
Asked about plans for the summer, Jacob said: “It’s tricky in the times of Covid-19 - though I think travel will return. As things pick up, we’ll be looking at more places in the UK, too - especially places with train stations and airports.”
Stasher is a start-up that prides itself on a happy, productive culture, but keeping that up in a work from home environment is a challenge.
“Right now, everyone who is working is working from home,” said Jacob. “I was sceptical about working from home because as a start-up, we believe in an office culture, but it’s worked so far. I think we may bring back a hybrid model going forward. I don’t know if we’ll keep the four-day week, but I’ve read a lot about it and it seems to be productive. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out in a normal world.”
Jacob took part in the Virgin StartUp StepUp programme in 2018, which is designed to help founders scale-up their businesses. He described the programme as ‘fun’, adding: “It’s nice when you are together with people who are at the same stage in the process as you. People were coming up against the same challenges we were. It gave a real sense of community.”
To follow in Jacob’s footsteps, download the Virgin StartUp business plan template today.