goBaby’s Natalie Kaminski and Ksenia Bolobine
When a stressful start to vacation sparks your next business idea
Picture the scene: you arrive at your destination airport late in the evening with the whole family in tow after a tiring flight, eager to get to your hotel so you can crash before a busy few days exploring. You head to pick up your rental car when the company informs you that there are no car seats available. You’re effectively stranded at the airport with all your luggage and two kids who need a car seat.
Eventually, your husband heads to the nearest Walmart, still a half hour’s drive away, to purchase car seats, while you wait with the kids at the airport. By the time you arrive at the hotel, everyone is grumpy, tired, and a lot less excited about this family vacation than just a few hours ago. Plenty of parents are familiar with this experience. But for goBaby co-founder Natalie Kaminski, it was the spark that ignited the idea for goBaby, “the Airbnb for Baby-Gear-on-the-Go.”
goBaby, a New York City-based startup, provides busy families who love to travel with a peer-to-peer marketplace and on-demand app, where they can rent strollers, baby seats, bouncy chairs, and more, instead of hauling them on vacation. “I have two girls, and my husband and I love to travel as a family,” said Natalie, “but each time we do, we were always filling ourselves like a couple of camels, because we had to carry so much stuff. And whenever we decided not to bring something, like that car seat, inevitably it was the item we’d need and we’d spend the day trying to find it in an area we weren’t familiar with.”
After the airport car seat fiasco, Natalie, whose professional background includes building software solutions for clients, couldn’t believe a service like goBaby didn’t already exist. “So I went ahead and developed it,” she said. Soon after, co-founder Ksenia Bolobine got involved and the two set out to build a service that would prove to be a lifesaver for busy parents.
Getting goBaby off the ground was tricky. While plenty of women were excited about the idea — “I’d use this if it existed!” — fewer were interested in investing in it, because they didn’t think it’d grow big enough. Natalie acknowledges that this is something that women still struggle with.
“Some of us are mothers, others have jobs, or all of the above. If we’re going to take away time from another part of our life, we want to have some certainty that it’s going to be worth it.”
Nevertheless, encouraged by the positive feedback the goBaby idea received, Natalie and Ksenia kept going. They worked hard on the website and building the app, and finally launched in early 2017. Then they sat back and waited for the hordes of transactions…and waited some more. Kicking off your startup is an up-and-down journey, said Natalie.
“You have these high hopes and expectations to be this unicorn — and suddenly you realize you’re not going to achieve these goals immediately.” Ksenia agrees. “The setbacks make you question whether you’re going down the right path. But I’m an optimistic person, so I’m always trying to find a silver lining in disappointments. They’re almost always a lesson or an experience that makes our business stronger, and us co-founders wiser.”
It took about 7 months for the first organic transaction (a Pack ‘n Play) to happen. “It happened on a weekend, so we missed the transaction occurring live. Then we came to work on Monday and saw that a person actually ran a transaction! Just when we started getting annoyed that nothing was happening, it happened.”
That first transaction gave Natalie and Ksenia the push they needed to keep at it. They got in touch with their very first customers to get feedback, something that the team still does today. For Ksenia and Natalie, the analogy “it’s a marathon, not a race” has proved especially valuable.
“However basic this analogy sounds, it’s hard to both tackle a long-term growth strategy with immediate wins that need to happen to take a startup forward,” Ksenia said. For her, one of the most important resources along the startup journey has been meeting others who have already been down a similar path. “Women entrepreneur events, VCs that cater to minorities — sharing information with other entrepreneurs is important to me.”
Today, goBaby is available across the U.S., with inventory in 35 states, and more being added each day. Best of all, goBaby is fulfilling a need that’s invaluable for families; spending vacations making memories, not searching for equipment.
Ksenia’s go-to “let’s kick some butt” song: Florence and the Machine, “Dog Days Are Over”
What she’d tell a younger version of herself: Get out of your comfort zone earlier!
Her favorite tip for staying productive: Turn off notifications. Disconnect and just focus on 30 minutes of productivity at one time to deliver something meaningful.
Natalie’s go-to “let’s kick some butt” song: Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
What she’d tell a younger version of herself: If you’re young and have no responsibilities, don’t settle for a job just for a steady paycheck. Go ahead and explore, see what you can do. Tech is simple these days — you don’t need to be a math whiz. Anyone can embrace it and make their idea come alive. It’s very different when you’re pushing 40 with two kids and a family (but still achievable!).
Her favorite tip for staying productive: Plan and break everything down into small tasks. I have my morning coffee, then break down my tasks for the day into the smallest chunks possible. That way, you never have a huge piece of work, and you can cross things off as the day goes on.
For parents, the scene is probably easily imagined: you’re at the airport with a rental car when you realize there’s no car seat for the kids. For goBaby co-founder Natalie Kaminski, that too-familiar moment was the beginning of goBaby, a peer-to-peer rental marketplace for parents with little ones. Read more.