Alex Y, community manager at LiteTravel tells us how they are creating solutions that make travels stress-free.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alex Y: Hi there! Well, like a lot of people out there, we are navigating the current landscape with a fair share of ups and downs.
During the past year, the entire LiteTravel team has been working from home, and many of us (either ourselves directly or indirectly through our loved ones) have had encounters with the virus, some more serious than others.
2020 found us experiencing many more lows than highs, not unlike many small businesses out there. But as a company that brings most of its products to market through crowdfunding, we are committed to our customers and backers, and we continue to push through the challenges as best we can.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined LiteTravel.
Alex Y: I joined the company in its early stages when our very first product was just an idea. I’ve seen it grow from an idea to reality, and I am very proud to say this is more than a job for me and everyone in the LiteTravel team.
In fact, there are no employees and bosses in our team. We are all just team members, working alongside to fulfill our company’s mission.
Within the LiteTravel team, we are an extended family, and I believe this might be one of the most important factors that helped all of us pull through the difficult challenges brought on by the pandemic.
How does LiteTravel innovate?
Alex Y: As a general rule, we don’t try to reinvent the wheel simply because we believe people don’t need more products; they just need better solutions.
I’m a passionate traveler, and so is everyone here at LiteTravel. So we look at the products that we ourselves use most often, the ones that really make our travels easier or more time and cost-effective.
Our focus is on improving existing products and turning them into more functional gear so everyday travelers like ourselves can travel easier, lighter, and stress-free.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alex Y: Being a travel brand, the coronavirus pandemic had a massive impact on our operation.
When the virus started spreading through the world, we were just finalizing our 3rd crowdfunding campaign for SMOL – the 6 in 1 reversible jacket that packs small, and getting ready for mass production optimization.
Having delivered on time on 2 previous crowdfunding campaigns, we had a great deal of experience with our supply chain, so we braced for impact and hoped the new virus we’ve been hearing about will not become a major issue.
Of course, nobody could’ve anticipated the scale at which the coronavirus would impact the whole world, and our business was no exception. We faced multiple delays in the manufacturing process, mainly because of a few repeated lockdowns and because suppliers and factories started prioritizing bigger orders to maintain their own operations afloat.
Our suppliers and fulfillment partners also started increasing prices for materials and shipping, bringing our overall costs up by as much as 25% – 30%.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Alex Y: Absolutely! When we bring a new product to our crowdfunding audience, our aim is to get enough support to get it off the ground (as opposed to making a lot of profit).
Because of that, we really focus on eliminating the middlemen and passing any possible savings on to our backers. This has the downside of leaving us with enough margin to account for challenges, but not enough to see us through a global pandemic that brings travel to a complete stop and a 30% overall increase in costs.
We tried very hard to keep the brand going through promotions and offers that would incentivize people to get their travel essentials at the most affordable prices.
But the reality was that everybody was focused on the pandemic news, and nobody had the time or energy to think about travel. Our online store was not generating any income but was consistently eating into our already crippled capital.
Like many other business owners out there, we’ve had to use our personal money to keep our business afloat, maintain our commitment to our backers, and deliver on our SMOL campaign. It was the right decision, and we’re very grateful that, although not without difficulties, we made things work and were able to fully deliver on our 3rd crowdfunding campaign as well.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Alex Y: I try to take it one day at a time, although at times it does get overwhelming.
Dealing with people is never an easy job! The global pandemic just amplified everything and brought us face to face with customer behaviors that were hard for us to understand and navigate. But we continue to serve everybody with genuine care and consideration, just like we did long before the pandemic because we understand everybody is fighting a battle of their own.
For the most part, we are fortunate to have a community of backers who are extremely supportive and understanding. Their encouragement or appreciation messages have gone a long way in keeping our team on track and motivated to show up day in and day out.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Alex Y: Oh, that’s a tricky one because we don’t base anything we do on competitors and what they do. We base it on customer feedback – this is what dictates our products and overall business direction.
I think the key in difficult times like this is to stay nimble enough to pivot. Always focus on the customer and what would be valuable to them that your business can create and deliver on.
We are in fact working on a new product launch. I can’t disclose much at this stage, but it is a product that’s extremely practical for everyday use, it fits in your pocket, and comes with a quirky benefit that we believe our community is going to love.
Your final thoughts?
Alex Y: I think people often forget to see or at least consider the other side as well. Customers sometimes forget that behind every business, there are people too, navigating the same difficulties as they are, with families and personal issues. The times we’re living in are tough enough as they are for all of us, so if each and every one of us would extend a little kindness every day towards others, we’d all have something to gain.
Our biggest hope is that everybody stays safe and keeps a positive mindset. The tide will turn, and travel will return to some sort of normal. And when that happens, we will continue to create solutions that make our customers’ travel as easy as possible. Until then, you can find us on https://litetravel.co/, or you can say hello at [email protected].