Trotting with Tots Made Easier for Fams – Interview with Fran Maier of BabyQuip
Fran Maier, founder, and CEO of BabyQuip, eases the stress of traveling with kids thanks to her rental essentials company.
Traveling with kids can be extremely complicated (and annoying!) because baby gear can be so bulky to schlep around. As a parent myself, I cringe when looking back at all the baby gear I hauled onto airplanes when my girls were infants and toddlers. Not to mention, my own luggage!
Enter: BabyQuip, which helps families “Pack Light & Travel Happy” to over 1,300 locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and beyond. Founded by Fran Maier, the Founder and CEO, BabyQuip delivers clean, safe, and insured baby gear rentals right to your door. Say adios to trekking the globe with bulky baby equipment. Traveling light is always the way to go!
BabyQuip rents full-sized cribs, strollers, car seats, toys, books, high chairs, carriers, noise machines, baby baths, bouncy seats, pack ‘n plays, monitors, jumpers—and more.
Prior to launching BabyQuip, Fran was the Co-Founder and first General Manager of the online dating service Match.com, and Founder of the privacy compliance tech company TRUSTe (now TrustArc).
This Latina—who even took a business swim in the Shark Tank (more on that below!)–is a true entrepreneur and a career powerhouse.
Since launching BabyQuip in 2016, Fran has made game-changing contributions to both the family travel industry and the gig economy model with its breakthrough platform, which gives traveling families access to high-quality baby equipment rentals through proprietary technology and an independent contractor community called Quality Providers. Under her leadership, BabyQuip currently serves over 1,300 markets and maintains a network of independent gig economy entrepreneurs in the thousands. To date, Fran has raised over $8.5M in seed funding for BabyQuip. In 2022, BabyQuip’s GMV nearly doubled vs. 2021 and grew its QP network by over 60%.
Fran kindly answered some work and life questions for Latinista.com.
Tell us about your childhood. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
FM: I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is one of the oldest cities in the United States, established by Spain in 1610, and was part of Mexico before becoming a US Territory and eventually a US State. On my mother’s side, I descend from some of the earliest Spanish settlers in New Mexico as well as from immigrants to New Mexico from Central America. Santa Fe celebrates its Hispanic/Latin and Native American heritage which I proudly identify.
My father was in insurance sales and on the way to school he’d often talk to me about sales and building a business. My first entrepreneurial endeavor was starting a frozen yogurt shop at the student union on the Stanford University campus in the early 1980s. I formed the team to pitch that we would be the best team to run the shop and it was a big success. I enjoyed everything from hiring to cutting up strawberries to figuring out how to manage the long lines. After that experience, I decided I wanted to go to business school and later graduated from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Tell us about your time on the hit ABC show ‘Shark Tank.’
FM: Shark Tank was a great time, especially since I was able to do it with my oldest son, Joe Maier, who is BabyQuip’s Chief Technology Officer. It was a fairly grueling application and prep process, but when we entered the tank – with a pack mule carrying tons of baby gear – we were ready to engage the Sharks. Lots of banter with us and amongst the Sharks. In the end, we turned down an offer from Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful), but had a good time doing it! The timing of our episode’s airing wasn’t great (but who would know?) — it was March 6, 2020, right as the pandemic was raging. Still, it has been good for BabyQuip, bringing us brand awareness and more credibility.
There are other baby rental companies on the market. What makes yours so unique and special?
FM: So many things! We have built a two-sided marketplace where we bring together traveling families and over 1,500 Quality Providers (independent contractors who rent, clean, and deliver their own gear) in 1000+ cities across the globe. We are the only international brand, the largest brand, and have the most providers. Safety has always been incredibly important to us, and we offer many protections for our customers and providers that other brands are not able to. Some of these protections include general liability insurance, programs to ensure the baby gear being rented is always safe, including baby gear damage protection (we cover the cost of our provider’s gear if a customer were to damage it), and a car seat replacement program (we buy the QP a new car seat if it’s been damaged). We also have proprietary software that allows us to remove any recalled items immediately from the site to make sure we are only offering safe gear. We have true product-market fit with a 94 Net Promoter Score, which is a well-established measure of customer satisfaction.
How do your children motivate and inspire you daily?
FM: Well, my children, two sons, are adults now. As mentioned earlier, my oldest son is BabyQuip’s CEO and I really enjoy how much he contributes to our success. At work he calls me “Fran” rather than Mom, which is appropriate and helps keep our different roles clear. My other son is also in technology, and I like to think that my entrepreneurial journey helped inspire them. They are also musicians (which I’m not) and it’s very fun for me to enjoy their music and performances.
Not all businesses succeed. How do you know when you should keep going or call it quits–in anything business related?
FM: I always keep going! When the pandemic hit and travel almost completely stopped, we were looking at a very bleak future. After the initial shock subsided, we cut as many costs as we could and focused on efforts that would be important going forward, such as launching a baby gear cleaning business (for all those gross car seats and high chairs) and developing a more robust inventory management system. We kept up our social media presence and when the pandemic started to subside in early 2021, our business really took off!
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
FM: Take the Money! I learned this when I was a waitress in Santa Fe as a teenager. When the customer wants to pay, don’t make them wait. It still holds true for a venture-backed company – when you have an investor ready to invest, make it happen! And when customers are ready in the checkout flow, make it easy!
What advice do you have for other ‘new’ female entrepreneurs?
FM: Don’t let all the naysayers take you down. Once you’re personally committed, in your heart, and confident that you’ve assessed both the opportunity and risk, stick to your vision!
How do you bounce back from a work mistake?
FM: Everyone makes mistakes, in parenting, at work, in life. The most important aspect of mistakes or failures is learning from them and then moving forward. I believe though that the most important mistake is passing on an opportunity, not taking the risk to make a big change. Too many, women especially, don’t take the risk of starting something new, and that itself can be a mistake.
What’s next for you, personally & professionally?
FM: I want to see BabyQuip everywhere, well beyond the US. We’re already operating in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia, and some Caribbean countries, and beyond. We just started to expand last year and we’d like to grow our international business from 5% to 25% in the next few years. We also have some exciting new service offerings that I think will be a great success.
Learn more about Fran and BabyQuip at: https://www.babyquip.com/