Jacob Wedderburn-Day of Stasher tells us about luggage storage in hotels and local businesses.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: All staying healthy, thanks for asking. We managed to get together for Christmas before the restrictions tightened, so it was a good chance to spend that time together.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Stasher.
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: Anthony and I came up with the idea for Stasher in 2015, the year we graduated from University. Anthony lived very centrally in London, between Euston and King’s Cross, two of the city’s busiest stations, so he often had people asking to store belongings at his flat. One time, I remember him joking, “I should charge for this”, and that was the lightbulb moment. We started working on it and never looked back.
How does Stasher innovate?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: We’re a small team, and we move fast. We never really have to worry about “innovation” the way that bigger companies do. We’re always coming up with new ideas or ways of doing things because when things become repetitive, we find a way to automate them. That way, we free up time to keep doing new things!
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: Pretty badly, I can’t lie to you. However, we have been very lucky on two counts. First, we raised money right near the end of 2019, so that timing could not have been better. Second, we’re a very lean business anyway, our main cost is people, and the government support schemes have helped us retain our talented team.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: As mentioned above, the support in the UK has been good. I think the hardest thing we’ve had to deal with was, before the seriousness of the pandemic was really being felt, we started putting contingencies in place, like introducing 4 day weeks. I don’t think people appreciated at the time the gravity of the situation as we did, but then it’s our job to keep on the pulse with stuff like this, and we could see from early March how bad things would be for travel. Acting decisively is important in a crisis.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: Actually, this is one area that didn’t change for us. We’ve always been very proactive with customer support – we’ve run a flexible refund policy forever since we know travel plans can change. We’d rather people have a good experience dealing with us, even if it means they don’t use the service and we don’t get paid, because that’s the essence of good customer service. So we just kept doing what we’ve always done, and people continue to like it.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: Yes, definitely. We would have survived, but we would have had to mothball a lot of what we were doing. The furlough scheme has been a blessing to keep our team together. I’ve read before that it’s designed to work as a pause button, the idea being that when travel resumes, we can press play and kind of carry on where we left off. For us, that’s the dream because hiring takes time, especially hiring the kind of team we’ve built over the last 4 years.
Your final thoughts?
Jacob Wedderburn-Day: On a personal note, 2020 has been a rare opportunity to step back and slow down. It’s created space for Anthony and I to found two passion projects.
One is Treepoints (https://treepoints.green) – a social enterprise to help tackle climate change, which recently got a lot of press attention from Fast Company, among others.
The second is our podcast, the Morality of Everyday Things, which we set up for fun to debate topics we find interesting, and which, to our surprise, has landed in the top 5% of podcasts globally.
Both have been a lot of fun and ultimately feedback into Stasher since climate change is the biggest problem facing travel, and the podcast has been awesome for our network.