For those of you frustrated with the hidden costs associated with transporting luggage abroad, logistics app Send My Bag is here to save the day. Adam Ewart, CEO of door-to-door luggage delivery service Send My Bag, discusses how his travel tech business is changing the way we travel and taking the hassle out of the airport experience.
What does your business do?
Send My Bag is a door to door luggage delivery and personal effects shipping service. We help travellers enjoy a smoother trip by skipping check-in, avoiding baggage carousel waits and travelling with whatever they want without the stress and hassle of lugging suitcases around. Our service is very popular with those relocating abroad who often find Send My Bag quicker, more efficient and affordable than traditional international removal options. We offer international routes worldwide as well as domestic services within the UK and USA.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
When my girlfriend (now wife) studied in England, I would fly across at the end of each semester to help get her things home to Northern Ireland. After one occasion too many, lugging two suitcases on public transport to Gatwick, we were charged an extra £50 excess baggage fee. The additional charge seemed completely excessive and unnecessary and it made me think that there had to be a more cost-effective way to get suitcases to their end destination.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Whilst travelling myself, I noticed how many other travellers around me were also getting charged excess baggage fees and would become extremely fed up when there was no way around it. I saw this as a gap in the market and knew that there was an opportunity to be had here. A cursory scan on Google showed that no one was challenging the airlines on their exorbitant charges.
I created a solution to my own problem and registered the Send My Bag domain name for £100 that evening and the business was born. Then after appearing on the local news to talk about it, several hundred students used Send My Bag to get to university from Northern Ireland the following term.
Since then, the market opportunity has really opened up as low-cost airlines such as Ryanair have used these added fees to reduce the number of passengers who check in bags from 80% to under 20%. However, because many people realistically can’t travel with just a carry-on bag alone, we’ve seen airline revenue from baggage handling increase from $400M in 2007 to over $4B in the US in the last 12 months.
This is where Send My Bag can step in to help passengers as there will always be a market regardless of the changes in low-cost airline models.
How did you raise funding and why?
I never actively sought out investment, but in 2012, £100k of seed money was offered by a successful entrepreneur after expressing interest in Send My Bag whilst looking for investment opportunities.
I knew that Send My Bag had tremendous potential and that having this particular entrepreneur onboard would be an invaluable asset. Besides the debt from our first 10 sales, we have always been profitable. We created a model that ensured profits were always recycled back into the development of the company and that original investment is still on our balance sheet today.
Describe your business model in brief
We find people with a need to move personal effects from A to B. We then provide everything to the customer from label holders, to personal effects customs clearance, to a tracking app and 24-hour customer service. Once everything is ready to go, logistics partners then collect the personal effects and put them on their planes.
Without Send My Bag, the customer represents ‘messy’ business to our partners allowing them to either charge vastly more or simply ban people from sending personal effects with them directly. Through the process we’ve developed, we now bring millions of pounds worth of previously untapped revenue to the logistics industry in several countries and simultaneously get our customers personal effects to their destinations in a timely and stress-free manner.
Your lowest point was…
My previous business involved importing and exporting musical instruments and in 2008 when the financial crises hit, one of our warehouses holding much of our Christmas stock went bankrupt in the lead up to Christmas. I found out on Friday afternoon and by 5am Saturday morning we were loading our stock into lorries before the liquidators stopped anything going in or out! At the time it was a nuisance, but I now look back on it as a high point, as it demonstrates our resilience – we jumped into action to handle it and ultimately, we ended up in a better position.
Your highest point was…
The past seven years since setting up the business have been fantastic, and I am proud to say we now send bags to, from and within 100 countries. In the past 12 months alone, 200,000 bags belonging to our customer base of business travellers, expats and general holidaymakers have been sent internationally.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
I believe a successful entrepreneur is someone who can spot an opportunity and then use their experience to execute the idea. It’s perfectly likely you are already a budding entrepreneur with a wealth of knowledge and experience, but have not yet had the opportunity to put this behind the right business. Have faith in your ability and when you get the right idea you can put your prior expertise to work.
I really enjoyed running my music retail business, and worked hard at it for years, but it was never going to sell for £100M. However, this put me in great stead for when I had the idea for Send My Bag. My previous experience of importing and exporting instruments meant I was familiar with a number of freight options.
I would also encourage anyone starting out a business to learn the basics of VAT, profit and loss, and run their accounts like clockwork, it’ll pay dividends (hopefully literally) in the end.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I am a serial entrepreneur but setting up Send My Bag has been my greatest idea to date. In five years’ time, I hope to grow the business, expanding into more countries and offering customers more routes, and be involved in other fast paced businesses.
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and mainly used the opportunity whilst at university to give me the time and financial support to get setup in business. However, I contemplated a career in law for a while but came to the conclusion that it was not a realistic choice whilst trying to get a business up and running as both schedules are very demanding. Saying that, after seeing the bill from one of my lawyers recently, perhaps I should have seriously considered it!
If you could go back in time, what would you change?
Being completely honest – nothing. Of course, looking back, there are mistakes I could have avoided, or things I could now execute better. But in my view, everything leads on to the next opportunity and tomorrow I’ll wake up and get to do what I enjoy because of everything I’ve put into this venture.