This innovative firm has a great idea in the bag
Follow Your Bag is a business based on resolving a very straightforward problem.
How can travellers - especially air passengers - overcome difficulties when carrying heavy or several bags? The challenge is common and the affordable solution is Follow Your Bag.
The idea was suggested by Dr Adrian Gundy, who is a non-executive director with the company and is responsible for the firm's quality and business improvement. He is also an innovation consultant with the independent business improvement company, the Centre for Competitiveness, which is based at the Science Park in Belfast's Titanic Quarter and also in Dublin.
"The idea came about a year ago, when I saw something similar in the United States," explains Dr Gundy. "Helping someone to move their bags around is not new, but in the past it was mostly for royalty and the wealthy, because of the expense."
Follow Your Bag operates as a trading division of Speedlink International Logistics, which has established offices and distribution facilities in Belfast, Dublin and Amsterdam. The result has been a successful new spin-off business.
David Rogers is managing director of Speedlink Northern Ireland and Bert Moore is Speedlink's group managing director based in the Dublin operation. "David runs the commercial side of things, and Bert handles the worldwide operations, using local operators [to deliver] around the world," explains Dr Gundy.
"Others do something similar, but can require up to three weeks lead time," he adds. "Ours is the only service you can organise in a matter of days or hours."
Initially the company thought it was offering a specialist niche service, mostly for businesses. But with the often exorbitant cost charged by airlines for heavy and additional luggage to go in hold areas, Follow Your Bag has found itself in demand for a range of requirements.
Service users include older people who find large bags too heavy to carry when travelling, people with sports kit, brides getting married abroad and worried about loss or damage to their gowns, as well as holiday makers meeting up with a cruise liner. Several businesses use the service to transport display materials to conferences, without the need for senior executives to look after them.
"We collected five packs of display equipment and delivered them to Coca Cola in Atlanta, following a senior management conference held in Belfast," explains Dr Gundy as an example of a recent project. "We have delivered a number of bags to Australia, as well as removing some of the pain for parents of university students coming to universities in the UK - or to institutions further afield, including France and New York."
Costs for using the service are very competitive compared to airline charges for excess baggage. A 25kg bag sent from Northern Ireland to mainland western Europe costs £69, to New York it would be £109 and to Australia it is £135. Bags can also be stored when a person is travelling slowly in stages over a long distance.
Follow Your Bag is now successfully established as an integral part of the Speedlink group, with an extra member of staff employed to support the operation in each of the Belfast and Dublin centres. This takes total employment at the two sites to 18 people.
Total sales are calculated on a roughly equal basis between the company's website - www.followyourbag.com - and by phone. The operation generates export earnings for Ireland, north and south, as about 80% of the customer base is in Great Britain, with most of the rest accounted for on the island.
Some of the best business ideas are both simple and show common sense. Follow Your Bag is a classic example of both in harmony.