I admit it, I’m lazy. Part of the reason why I actually dislike running errands by bike on my way home from work is because I hate having to drag all my stuff around every time I shop. At minimum, I will have with me my breakfast and/or lunch containers shoved in my pannier, along with a toiletries bag and emergency kit. That is, I’ve almost always got a pannier and a purse. Am I the only one who can’t ever leave the house with just an itty bitty purse?!
So when the ladies of Buca Boot reached out to me, I was quite intrigued. The Buca Boot is a hard, lockable case that attaches to your bike’s back rack, and the fabric sides are pockets that expand for carrying larger items while the case is open (for those days you overdo it at Trader Joe’s!). It’s pretty ingenious. Founder Kathryn Carlson said, “I assumed someone must have already created a product like the one I envisioned….I mean, what cyclist wouldn’t want to be able to leave their stuff securely on their bike?” It’s like she knows me! For the record – I Googled around and couldn’t find anything else like this.
I had the opportunity to ask Kathryn some questions, questions that weren’t covered in the extremely detailed website. Some of my questions were about the process, while some where about safety, security and the Boot itself. Here in her own words:
Some thoughts on how the entire process, from idea to completed Kickstarter, went, as if you were giving advice to any other bike style entrepreneur-wanna be.
In one word, the process was…long! I had the idea for the Buca Boot ten years ago while in grad school in London. But, after not being able to find a bike storage solution that was lockable, versatile and stylish, a friend said to me, “If no one else is making it, why don’t you?” And so the journey began….
I had to learn so much, since I’m an economist by training and had been working in finance building spreadsheets as opposed to physical products. I started by talking to everyone I knew who had some connection to engineering and industrial design and working networks and contacts to find the right collaborators.
When we finally got the team together, it took about 6 months to get to the first prototype and we were pretty psyched when it arrived. It looked great and seemed to do what we wanted it to. But it was during the filming of our Kickstarter video that we really tested that prototype. Two solid days of filming…opening & closing the Buca Boot over and over, dropping bikes, riding around New York City, etc…gave us real insight into what had to change. It’s why the final product both has a slightly different look but also is much more durable and secure than what we actually showed on our Kickstarter campaign.
In terms of launching an actual Kickstarter, my best advice is to prepare professionally. Approach it as if it’s a full-time job and don’t assume you will go viral. It will be amazing if you do, but most crowdfunding campaigns don’t, you’re going to have to work hard to reach your goal.
Some key things that we found to be important in terms of a crowdfunding campaign were: 1) an engaging explanatory video, 2) a well-designed page that makes it easy for people to understand your product and your story and 3) preparing your networks for the launch so that you get good initial momentum. Momentum is key. It’s what the story becomes. You want press coverage and they want a winner…so it’s best to reach out to the press before you launch and then hook them with good initial momentum.
On a more personal level, it’s a really big endeavor, so make sure you have a good group of cheerleaders around you. We have a group of advisors that we call the “Brain Trust” who are mainly friends with relevant expertise that we need professionally. But, they are also great for the occasional pep-talk or perspective that is a necessary part of this process.
Say, for example, that I wanted to start a clothing line of my reflective fashion – what lessons learned would you suggest, and what would be the biggest one thing you could recommend?
In terms of some simple lessons learned:
- Everything takes longer than you think.
- Always remember what “problem” your product is trying to solve. It may be as much about the experience you are enabling as the product itself. For us, it’s the freedom that comes from not having to be a slave to your stuff all the time and to be able to have more convenience on your bike. For your clothing, it’s not just a dress or shirt…it’s ‘looking good while also getting to use your bike’ or ‘safety while living the way you want to’, etc…Make sure that everything you do – from product development to customer engagement – is in service of that larger goal. You’ll get stuck in the weeds occasionally – that’s the nature of trying to run a business – but if you keep the larger goal in mind your customers will respond and you’ll be providing them with a better product.
- And finally, and possibly most importantly, TRUST YOUR GUT. It is really important to know the difference between constructive criticism and useful feedback or just lack of vision.
I think that for women who bike in this area, bike theft is a really big concern. I constantly read about another bike being stolen from a garage or yard or even building bike rooms. How would you address concerns about theft and potential vandalism?
Unfortunately, we haven’t solved the problem of bike theft and the weakest link is always going to be your bike lock. In terms of locks, I really like my Abus and OnGuard thick cable locks.
There has also been a ton of new development in the bike lock and bike security areas. For example, Rejjee, another local Boston-area company, aims to be a global “lost and found”. They are creating an online database that the police and bikers can tap into to identify stolen bikes and gear. And bike lock technology is advancing with connections to smartphones, etc…I think we’ll continue to see security improve.
But, if someone steals your bike with a Buca Boot on it, they will be frustrated, since it’s really hard to get into a locked boot. During our product testing, it took us weeks to break into a Buca Boot — we had to try really hard and use a lot of different tools. We also have customers in major cities all over North America and Europe who have been using Boot Boots in urban environments without incident. No product is perfect, but so far, so good.
Something I have observed is that for many women, cost is a big concern. Obviously the Buca Boot is not an inexpensive product – why should they want this over a less expensive set of panniers?
With the Buca Boot, you don’t have to make a trade-off between style and functionality. We spent a lot of time working with outstanding design engineers to create a product that offers functionality, protection and convenience and looks great to boot (pun intended). For all of its functionality and durability, the Buca Boot is a mid-priced product that makes your bike a fully viable transportation option.
We hope someday to be able to offer an even lower-priced product, but to create a new product and set-up a new manufacturing and supply-chain is not cheap; we appreciate consumer’s willingness to support innovative new products and we think you will find that the Buca Boot is worth every penny.
I’m really interested in trying this out and seeing how much I can store and carry in it, and I love the idea of storing my bike helmet in the truck, rather than carrying it around. The Buca Boot is not being sold in stores anywhere around here, which means you have to order it. But when you do, use code “Tin10” to get 10% off your order! That way they know Tin Lizzie sent you!