Bobby in Brisbane

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[Podcast: Episode 8] Pack it into your Airpocket

[Podcast: Episode 8] Pack it into your Airpocket

Whenever I travel long haul, I like nothing more than to stretch my legs. I'm not always able to do that if my handbag is jammed under the seat in front of me.

Oh, those restless hours as I toss and turn, trying desperately to find a comfortable spot. That will change now: I'm using Airpocket to transform my flying experience. I will shift from a place of discomfort to one of cushy comfort - nearly as good as my sofa back home.

What is Airpocket? It's a small travel bag into which I put all my on-board essentials. Airpocket slips into the seat pocket in front of me, immediately opening up space under the seat to stretch out my legs and feet. Ahhh! I can already feel the difference.

This neat and elegant product fits aptly into the Planepack travel light philosophy. I recently chatted to Trish Smith and Tanya Corcoran, the owners of Airpocket. This is what they had to say:

Tanya Corcoran, Managing Director and Trish Smith, Founder and CEO of Airpocket 

Tanya Corcoran, Managing Director and Trish Smith, Founder and CEO of Airpocket 

[Or read the transcript of the interview here]

Good morning, it’s wonderful to be here at the lovely Muse Restaurant in Canberra and I am sitting here with the founders of Airpocket, Trish and Tanya, welcome.

Thank you.

Thank you.  Nice to be here.

Yeah, terrific, even though it is very early in the morning.

Q: So tell us what is Airpocket?

Airpocket

Airpocket is a slim compact bag that you can take on the plane with you and it’s for organizing all of the essentials that you like to have with you at your seat. So it’s designed so that you can pop your glasses, your iPod, iPad, reading glasses, and lots of things, arrive on the plane and just slot it straight in to the seat back pocket of the airplane. So everything is fixed during the flight and then when you leave the plane you take it with you and nothing gets left behind. So it’s made from neoprene and it contains pockets and dividers to keep everything sort of organized and protected and neoprene is a very soft and malleable sort of material that molds and shapes around, pretty much whatever you can put in inside, and protect things from being scratched.

That sounds amazing.  I can’t wait to try the one that I just brought one from you. 

Q: So tell me what prompted you to design Airpocket? How did that come about?

I was on a flight home from Brisbane and we were all boarding.  I had sat down and there was a queue forming in the aisle and I looked up to see a young lady blocking the aisle while she ruffled around in her handbag looking for all of the things that she wanted, so she stood in the aisle and she had makeup bag and the magazine and what have you. I just sort of watched her doing this, thinking that was a bit inconvenient for her and everybody waiting in the aisle and it would have been quicker had she been able to take all of those things out in one go and sit down comfortably and that was the concept and the idea sort of quickly formed from there, so yeah I was just inspired then I think I sort of drew a rough diagram of it on the back of a boarding pass and then yeah that was how it got started.

I love that.

Seeing a problem and coming up with a solution.

Yes, I love the drawing on the back of the boarding pass. Did you keep it and frame it?

Yes, it’s in my home.

That is amazing, that's wonderful, well done.  

Q: I know you ran a very successful Kickstarter project to fund Airpocket. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Sure, well the wonderful thing about Kickstarter is that it is a great way to test your idea in the market without too much money upfront. You don’t make it first and then try to sell it. You test the idea first, see whether people are interested to buy it, see whether they think its a good idea and then if they do then you also raise the money to get going. So it became apparent fairly early on in the piece that I wasn’t going to be able to launch this idea without some sort of financial help externally. So it became yeah and being able to test the idea was really an attractive proposition. So yeah that’s how we decided to move that way.

Well it is a fabulous Kickstarter project itself. I see that you can still access it online so if anybody is interested in having a look at it, I saw the video recently.

That’s right, yes.

So it is a good exercise in how to run a good campaign, well done.

Thank you, yes, yeah it went very well.

Q: I see apart from Airpocket itself you have two other products. Can you tell us about those?

Yes, so as part of the Kickstarter campaign what you have is a target and what people typically do is have what’s called stretch goals so if you need certain financial targets you can add another product to that and your backers will select to purchase as well.  So Trish designed the Travel Book which is a travel wallet.

It’s a travel wallet?

Yes, it is a travel wallet so we call it a Travel Book but it's function is as a travel wallet.

Alright.

It can hold up to eight passports, and I think Trish was inspired to design something like this because she has a friend who has dual citizenship as does her children and her husband. So I think when they travel they can take up to eight passports.

Have a bundle of passports that’s amazing.

Clearly I think there's a gap in the market for something that can hold all those passports and we all know that mum is usually the one that carries everybody’s belongings.

Yes.

So the Travel Book was predominantly designed for families or multiple passports however I use mine, I only have one passport and I use it to travel with myself. It can also hold all your travel documents, credit cards or you know regular flying program cards, business cards, etc. And it can hold up to a B5 notepad so some people actually even use it at meetings as a nice little folder.

Put your little Moleskin dairy into it or something like that.

And the third product is the Amenities Case. So the Amenities Case is a, it has a clear top and it’s designed for all the loose items so chargers, I use mine for lip-gloss, hand cream, particularly for long haul flights - I like to be able to get up in the flight and I can brush my teeth and put some eye cream on and a little bit of a freshen up so I put all of those bits and pieces in my Amenities Case and the Amenities Case is designed to fit into one of the pockets in the Airpocket. So for me I will get on the flight I have got my Amenities Case, I have got my phone, my headphone, my pen the best thing ever so when you filling out the form 

All those awful forms that you have to fill in just as you are arriving somewhere, yes.

I always leave my pen up in the overhead locker and have to get up after I have settled to get a pen. So now the first time I used my Airpocket they gave me the arrival documentation I was so excited all I had to do was reach for my pen.

Isn’t that wonderful? It's worth it just for that!

No, no it’s the small things. So for me the Airpocket, the Travel Book, the Amenities Case is all about convenience. 

Yes.

I like to be organized, I travel light and that extra level of organization has really enhanced the whole travel experience.

That’s amazing.

Yeah.

Q: You kind of took the words out of my mouth because I wanted to ask you are you both light travellers? Is that one of the things that inspired you to do something like this and can you tell us a little bit about your light traveling experiences?

Yeah, so I think we have different approaches which is interesting because we look at our products from a different point of view in some respect. We both very much like to be organized. I personally, it depends on your definition but I probably travel quite a bit, you know 10-15 trips a year, domestic and international and I tend to just travel with one of the hard shell light carry on bags and I can comfortably fit everything I need in there - anywhere from a long weekend to a two-week trip. So I am a roller. I roll things. I find I can get more in. I use packing cells as well. It keeps things together. I always travel with a laundry bags so I can separate grubby things from everything else and the biggest challenge is reducing how many pairs of shoes that I take.

Q: Yes.  How many pairs of shoes do you take?

Well I try to wear the bulky shoes on flights so they don’t take up place in my case depending if I'm traveling somewhere warm I try and take a pair of shoes that I can be worn casually but also dress up.

Yes.

So that they are multifunctional.  So I try and get away with two, I can only get one more pair in but always I have to take slippers.

Slippers for the comfort to the hotel, you like to tuck your feet in to those.

I do, I don’t mind walking around.

Barefoot.

Yes, so and I am not prepared to run the risk that hotel won’t have slippers.  So I always take slippers with me.

Those will be just soft and light.

Yes, that’s right.

That’s lovely.

So they don’t take up too much space?

What about you Trish?

Well I have had some disasters over these holidays. I can remember going on my very first big overseas trip. I went to the US for three months after I graduated from university and I took a bag that was so heavy and so big I couldn’t lift it. And looking back I had no strategy at all for packing other than take everything. So fortunately I have come a long way from those dark days but I am still quite inspired by Tanya's . . .

Minimalist approach?

Yeah, very much so in fact when we weigh the bags at the airport. I have always got my eyes on the numbers.

On the numbers, yes. Dammit, she's always a few kilos lighter than me!

But I am learning, I did a trip a few years ago where I travelled from Australia into Bangkok where it was very hot and then I spent a couple of weeks in Norway where it was a bit cooler and I was determined to take just carry on. I managed it, so I learnt that less is more, I think. I tend to fill the space available, the more I take, I have recently bought a smaller suitcase to force myself. So I have to get a bit more strategic, but packing cells and rolling is definitely the way to go

Way to go.

Way to go yes and being realistic about so many tops you need to take: you don't need to take five, when three will do.

Q: That’s true, so talking about weight, as a matter of interest, how much does Airpocket itself weigh?

Empty, it weighs 385 gm?

Yes.

So it’s quite light. We spent a lot of time thinking about what material we'd make it out of, obviously the lighter the better for travelling. The great thing about neoprene is that it is quite light but it also provides that cushioning so we don't need an extra layer of padding in it - the padding is part of it.

So it will protect my iPad or protect my phone, protect my glasses, anything soft in it will be shielded from accidental bumps?

Yeah so I wear glasses and when I want to go to sleep I can take them off and I don’t even need to put them back inside their case.

That’s really good, because cases themselves are quite bulky, so if you don’t need to take them.

Yeah so neoprene doesn’t have anything on it to scratch, there is nothing inside the Airpocket that will scratch anything.

Amazing.

I would add to that, one of the reasons for neoprene is it's quite robust. So we wanted to balance weight for convenience but also a fabric that’s robust that can bear the rigours of travel.

Inevitably something is spilt on your bag or on yourself so is it is quite easy to clean Airpocket?

Yes it is, and that’s another thing, you are probably familiar with wetsuits from Australia and the surfing culture? So that was another reason why selected the neoprene. So you can particularly just wipe it off and its good to go, it doesn’t retain the moisture, it’s great from that point of view.

Q: It’s certainly the bag, Airpocket itself it looks very elegant I like it so that leads me to my next question which is should I carry on a handbag as well, do I do need to hide my Airpocket or how do you manage that process when you are travelling?

Yeah its interesting, so the Airpocket wasn't designed to replace your handbag. It was designed to handle a level of convenience whilst traveling. So for myself I don’t carry a handbag when I travel I just find that my handbag day-to-day and not to put in things I need when I am traveling. So I tend to leave my handbag and I just carry, my phone and credit cards and cash. I travel with a tote because I have other bulkier items that I might take, so I might take a larger laptop device, my scarf - I put that in my tote and that tote is going to carry with that and then when I go I take the Airpocket out of my tote with the tote and everything I don’t need in the flight in the overhead bin.

Well out of the way, what I like about the notion of Airpocket is that it enables you to stretch your legs out so rather than keeping your bag under the seat in front of you, you have got the space where the Airpocket is in your Airpocket, that’s great.

Yeah exactly, I mean all seat back pockets are not created equal so there are some times where your Airpocket won’t fit in your seat pocket.

In smaller planes I suppose?

Smaller planes, the Dash Eights, trains and planes In those instances I typically just put the Airpocket next to me and the last one I had it on my lap I had my iPad out and had my iPad on top of my Airpocket while I watched a movie and I just popped it in the Airpocket on my shoulder and off of my__

In front of you, you could as well, yeah because it’s robust enough to live down there.

It doesn’t slide around that was something I hadn't factored in. You put it on the floor and it doesn’t slip around because of that neoprene the friction.

Holds it in place, what I particularly like about it is that you have produced it with a longer strap as well so I like those bags that you can carry across your body.

So that was a change we made to the design during the Kickstarter campaign actually. We had a lot of our people, our backers asked if we were going to be providing it with a shoulder strap and that comes back to how I thought the Airpocket would be used by people. I didn’t think that anyone would want to use it as a separate standalone bag. I thought it would be 

Carry over the shoulder?

I thought you'd put on or slip it over the extended handle over your suitcase or just sort of carry it under your arm and then pop it in something bigger than that. So people said oh like to wear the it as a bag - alright then. So we actually then asked our backers after the campaign because we keep touch with through the Kickstarter platform. How many of you would like us to provide a strap? and many, many people said yes. So we want back to manufacturing and said we're going to need to create that as previously we just had a small wrist strap. So that’s been really successful, across body bag where you can shorten it that so that’s more like I a short handbag.

Or you mentioned that you can slip it over the handles of your luggage bag as well?

It has a wide band across the back so that it's a luggage trolley sleeve.

I love that because when you are running through the airport you don’t want your bags banging against your shoulder and it’s perfectly safe to slip over that.

And then it’s sitting really quite neatly on top of your suitcase so if you are standing a queue at check in or through immigration, it's easy to reach in and get what you need.

Q: So what future plans are there for Airpocket? - Global domination! - So what steps have been taken towards global domination?

Well we have just come back from our second visit to the Las Vegas Show, Travellers Association International travel show, it’s an annual event in Vegas and we've just come back from our second show and that’s been really great to meet with obviously in America, American retailers and buyers and start to think how do we expand because at the moment we sell online all over the world and we are looking at our options you know, retail outlets. So going to an international trade shows gives us access to those sorts of opportunities. Its a bit harder to reach from Canberra.

And I think one of the things we are also looking at is our theme generally is around organisation, we have a couple of new products in the pipe line that we continue that theme. We like to expand our product range to look at other products that will enhance your life, whether that will be day-to-day or travel. I think generally most have a travel theme given that that's one of the things that we like to do. So we are currently working on some designs that we hope to be releasing later in the year or the first quarter of next year.

Wonderful I look forward to seeing what those might be.

Exciting.

Q: It is exciting, so just to finish off you mentioned that you sell your products - you sell Airpocket online. Can you tell the listeners where they can find it? What is the URL or what’s the best place to buy?

Our URL is www.airpocket.com.au it will take to our online store.

Fantastic, well thank you that’s the end of my formal questions. I really, really appreciate your time this morning. It’s been more than fascinating and I look forward to seeing what those new products might be so hopefully we will have another interview in six months’ time. Thank you very much. 

Thank you very much. 

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