Traveling with a baby for the holidays? First you’ve got your own gear to worry about, then a stroller, something for the baby to sleep in, a baby carrier, toys, snacks, a diaper bag, possibly a car seat and whatever else the plane might allow you to shove into the overhead compartment or check at the gate. Then you’ve got to soothe and entertain the little one so everyone on the plane doesn’t hate you. the struggle. is. real.
But one startup out of New Mexico hopes to at least take care of the gear portion of your personal travel nightmare. Babierge (think baby+concierge) is a baby gear rental marketplace where, instead of lugging everything around with you from city to city, you can rent from individuals wherever you go baby cribs, strollers and whatever else you’ll need.
It’s also a way for families, called “trusted partners,” to make an extra bit of cash for the baby gear they already have.
It works like this: Those needing baby gear log onto the site and choose the destination city they’ll be traveling to. From there, you’ll see the family willing to rent and the equipment they have to offer listed below. Choose what you need and then select the dates you’ll need the equipment. From there you’ll see if the gear is available and the total price. If all looks good you can check out and arrange for delivery wherever you may be in town.
It’s conceivable the company could go beyond baby gear at some point. This month, some on the site are even offering holiday packages such as delivery of a full-bodied faux pine Christmas tree that comes pre-lit with 300 mini-white and 300 mini-colored lights or a Menorah with candles and matches. However, given the name and focus, the site isn’t likely to branch out further than a few of these one-offs.
The startup’s growth is a testament to a need in the market for this type of platform. According to Babierge co-founder Fran Maier, Babierge has served about 5,000 traveling families this year, fulfilling more than 400 orders during Thanksgiving alone.
The company launched a mere 18 months ago and so far covers more than 100 markets in the U.S. and Canada. Maier also tells TechCrunch Babierge is adding about five new markets a week — and all that on very little funding of about $500,000 from friends and family so far.
Of course, activity is going to spike around big family travel days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Babierge will need to figure out how to sustain sales and revenue throughout the year. It’s also seen fast adoption from those wanting to rent their goods in several markets, and will likely need more cash to help it safely scale.
Maier told TechCrunch she expects to get to about 6,000 orders by year’s end and has considered raising from venture capital or “wood for the fire” for next year.
In a way, the startup is a bit like Airbnb in the early days, but on a niche, baby scale. Still, it’s able to learn from those who’ve gone before and I’m told it does offer liability insurance to ensure no harm comes to either party in the process.
Or perhaps it’s more like a Craigslist. Trusted partners choose the pick up and delivery details and list their pictures, emails and phone numbers on the site. Babierge will need to scramble that contact info or create a messaging system to prevent unscrupulous individuals from abuse.
But Babierge says it also offers required safety and cleanliness training for all partners and is a good way for stay-at-home moms to earn a little extra cash for used baby items. The average partner makes about $600 per month, according to the startup.
Overall, it seems like a pretty useful idea and without much competition, excepting one company out of Colorado called Babies Away, which offers similar rental services in about 80 locations throughout the U.S.
“But they haven’t changed,” Maier says. Though Babies Away, which has been in business since 1991, does offer more equipment on the site.
But it doesn’t come with the same personal touch or family friendly feel as Babierge. There’s no Christmas tree delivery, for instance.
It’s also not geared toward moms hoping to make a few extra bucks on extra gear. Babies Away partners run their shops like a straight-up business.
But it’s a niche industry, either way. Parents (and grandparents and other family members hosting the parents) don’t need to rent gear all the time. Just a few times a year when families are traveling. Still, Babierge fills a definite need for those not wanting to lug their entire nursery with them around this time of year — and I’m glad it’s around, as I’ll be joining this special lot in the next few months.