Meet Fran Maier, The Powerhouse Behind BabyQuip
We recently partnered with BabyQuip to share their amazing mission to help parent with all their needs, but we decided sharing about the company was not enough. We found out about the dynamic woman behind the company and knew we had to find out more about CEO and Founder, Fran Maier.
Tell us more about you…
I'm a five time serial entrepreneur, best known for my roles as Co-Founder and first General Manager of Match.com (mid 90s) and for my 10+ years leading TRUSTe (now named TrustArc) internet privacy trust mark and compliance company. After Stanford business school, I joined Clorox where I got my "post doc” in BRAND marketing: building brands, advertising, promotion and managing a business. I co-founded Match.com in 1994 because it was obvious to me that the Internet was going to change everything - especially marketing - and I wanted to be part of it. I knew that as a woman, that my perspective would help "online personals” succeed (and it did!). After Match.com, I joined Women.com and Bluelight.com (Kmart's online venture). In 2001 I joined TRUSTe - now TrustArc- and I converted it from an underfunded non-profit to a venture backed for-profit (a relatively rare occurrence) because I knew internet privacy would be a big issue (and it is!). Then I came upon BabyQuip . . .
When did you decide to start your own business and why?
In early 2012, I left TRUSTe and bought a home in San Francisco, as it happens in Airbnb's neighborhood. Before long, I was renting rooms in my home on Airbnb and began to think about how travel and work (gig economy!) are changing. Change is always a great catalyst for new companies. At the time, I was also advising female founders and I met a gal who built a growing baby gear rental business in Santa Fe (my home town, which gave me a better perspective on her revenue numbers).
In our first meeting, I suggested I join as CEO - I knew from my own experience as a mom and Airbnb host, that this service was needed and it tapped into the big changes in work and travel.
I didn't have to jump on it.I was doing fine with advising, board work and renting on Airbnb. But I had the itch to build another internet brand, a business with positive impact, one more time.
BabyQuip, baby gear rentals for traveling families, is now the leading national brand with over 450 providers in 400 markets. We’ve achieved this in less than 3 years. I’m especially proud of the men and women, our Quality Providers, who we are launching as passionate and dedicated entrepreneurs, and the solid side-gig income they are making. I’m happy to see so much diversity on our platform too. I’m also blown away by the beautiful and inspiring reviews BabyQuip customers leave often writing that BabyQuip “saved their vacation.” I love that BabyQuip helps families Pack Light and Travel Happy!
What is the biggest lesson you've learned about starting your own business?
I’ve been part of five Internet businesses and I know to expect incredible highs and incredible lows. What keeps me going is that if you have strong product/market fit - if people (or other companies) are engaging, buying, renting, with you, then it will all work out. It takes an incredible leap of faith, but I’ve seen it happen again and again. Not to say that its not tons of hard work, and of course, luck and good timing can make all the difference too. I am also lucky at this juncture in my life to be able to tap into my experiences - everything from how to raise money to managing a team - as well as my extensive network and friends who can really help.
What is the most valuable entrepreneurial advice you've received?
I come from a marketing background, so I like to be disciplined on identifying the target for our service as well as the unique/differentiating selling proposition. It sometimes can take a while to get to this. For BabyQuip, our target is traveling families with small children and our selling proposition - reflected in our tagline “Pack Light, Travel Happy” - is that BabyQuip will deliver whatever a family needs to have a great vacation (or family stay). For our Providers, we offer a great opportunity to earn good money doing gratifying work. We are differentiated in that families are connected to Providers who are insured and accountable for the service and delivery we provide.
A couple of other tried and true guidance I like is ABC (Always Be Closing) - you are always the Chief Salesperson at your company.
I also like to remind myself not to solve tomorrow’s problem today and focus on the things that will have the most impact, every day (and sometimes that’s not the business!).
Anything exciting on the horizon?
Now that we’re the national brand, we’re excited to pursue partnerships with hotels and vacation rental owners and managers. Everyone in Hospitality is talking about improving guest services and satisfying travels. We are a big part of that opportunity.
How do you describe your slay
Interpreting my “Slay” as how do I keep refreshed and positive while running a start-up . .
One of the things I’ve advised other female founders is that they have to take care of themselves, and as you know, many women put themselves last on the list. This is a sure fire way to get burned out.
I’m in my mid-50s, no more kids at home (and no husband either!) so its a bit easier to find the time for working out, connecting with friends, and some travel (as I write this I’m on my way to New Orleans Jazz Fest for a weekend with my sons and a very good friend). Startup are hard and stressful. If you an afford even a part-time or virtual assistant, do it! And try to be clear about what you want, not want your employees or investors want, but what it most important to you. Its not selfish, its empowering to be clear about how you define success.
To Find the Baby Gear You Need or Sign up to Make Money by Renting Your Baby Stuff, Check out BabyQuip