Got to bag it up, Minaal

Minaal, a travel gear startup created by two Kiwi travellers, has recently launched with a goal to make you more productive, while getting you to your destination faster and happier.

Their debut product is a hyper-designed travel bag, which has been created to be as versatile as possible. It’s rainproof, not heavily branded to maintain professionalism, has a dedicated laptop compartment, and can even double as an office travel bag.

Jimmy Hayes and Doug Barber, Minaal’s founders,  met while living in a van with three other people as they toured North America. It was there that they realised they fit the profile of an increasingly growing market – the young and stylish travellers who need to remain professional, while being mobile with a sizeable amount of luggage.

“We’ve all had those moments on the road,” Jimmy wrote to us, “where the gear that we trust to travel with us fails or simply gets in our way.

“I guess my co-founder Doug and I just have shorter fuses than most! After one too many broken bags we went a little crazy and decided to make our own dream bag. Specifically, a specialist carry-on made for people who travel often, pack light, and move fast.”

Minaal quickly made headlines world-wide after its Kickstarter project, which asked for $30,000 in funding, received $341,393. The idea, and subsequently the campaign, had been in development for about 2 years before Jimmy and Doug took it to market, and their strategy was to ensure that they released it in a contained and focused way, by knowing that their target market on Kickstarter would be interested in the product.

“Throughout the entire concept and design process, we talked to everyone we knew that lived the sort of lifestyle that we wanted to serve,” Jimmy said. “Those were the people with the problem we wanted to solve, and if they weren’t interested in our solution, we were going to have a very large problem!

“Of course, we also tested the hell out of our product, travelling from New Zealand to Asia to the USA and back again a few times over.”

Jimmy recognises that the years of hard work they had been doing before the campaign was no guarantee of funding success, and credits the campaign’s accomplishment to the community of like-minded individuals they found, who were generous with their  feedback and pledges.

“I’ll never forget bursting into apartments and throwing bags at people while demanding their thoughts on everything, from the colour, to the placement of zips, to my new haircut,” Jimmy recalled. “On top of that, I think we were in the right place at the right time – there’s a huge movement towards location-independent entrepreneurship and light travel in general.”

The guys behind the world’s best travel bag chose Kickstarter as a way to fund Minaal rather than investors because essentially it solved three major problems they had, in one solution. They were able to raise money for a theoretically risky idea, while gaining media coverage and having their product validated.

“With Kickstarter,” Jimmy explains, “you’re essentially raising seed capital without handing over any ownership of your company, and taking pre-sales is a lot healthier for your balance sheet then paying interest on a loan!”

Jimmy said that the entire Kickstarter experience was one big learning exercise, but there were a few key realisations along the way. First of all, he recommends that you talk to the people who you expect to back your project and find out if they actually will back your project.

“Find people who will give you honest opinions on your idea and suck it up when they tell you you’re on the wrong track,” Jimmy advises. “They can also give you useful feedback on your draft project page before launch.
Secondly, people hate uncertainty, and when you’re communicating with your Kickstarter backers, Jimmy says it’s important to make sure they know what’s going on and when they’ll hear from you next.

Thirdly, Jimmy recommends you do as much media outreach before you launch as possible. “After you’re live,” he says, “it’s too late to start building relationships and organising coverage.”

After your campaign is over, it’s still not all smooth sailing, Jimmy says, especially when it comes to developing physical products.

“I think the one rule you should remember is that a million things will always go wrong, so make sure you give yourself way more time than you think you’ll need, and always under-promise.”

One of the most crucial pieces of information that the team behind Minaal learned is that, when you’re creating a physical product, it’s imperative that you know where and how your product is being made.

“It’s too easy to get burned if you sit in New Zealand and expect an overseas manufacturer to get everything right first time,” Jimmy warns, “and for a Kickstarter, they need to.

“Get over there and commit to overseeing the project yourself.”

In the future, Minaal will provide a wider range of travel gear to adventurous professionals who share the same needs as Jimmy and Doug, but currently their focus is set on getting everything perfect short-term.

“Once in a blue moon we stretch our legs out in front of the fire and talk about the wider concept of building a company that makes travel gear with user experience at its core.”

Minaal’s mission statement, to help you get to your destination faster, happier, and more productive, guides the majority of their decisions, if not all of them.

“We have big plans for the future,” says Jimmy, “but they all have to fit inside that premise of faster, happier, and more productive.”

A day in the life of Minaal co-founder Jimmy admittedly follows this course of events.

“After saving 16 babies from blazing infernos before breakfast, and bringing peace to the Middle East before lunch, there’s not much time left for travel gear.

“Of course, in reality, life is a lot less glamorous than even I expected – and I had pretty low expectations! I’m incredibly lucky and grateful that I get to work on this from pretty much wherever I want around the world; in saying that, when you’re pounding away at your laptop keyboard for 16 hours a day you really could be *anywhere*.

“My typical day is fairly similar to anyone else who’s ever run a business – it involves a lot of phone calls, a lot of decisions, and occasionally a funny music video passed between colleagues.

“Wouldn’t change a thing!”

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