By Marc Zarefsky
Hiral Sanghavi and his wife Yoganshi strolled through the San Francisco International Airport last December as they giddily awaited their flight to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary.
The young couple could not wait to spend a week together in paradise, but before they made it to the gate, Hiral realized he forgot something.
Now usually this would not be a big deal. He figured he would shell out $25, or however much the closest airport store was charging for a travel pillow, and be back on his way. The problem was this was not the first time he forgot one while flying. Or the second time. Or even the third.
Hiral had four airport-bought pillows comfortably resting in his apartment in Evanston, where he was pursuing his MBA at Kellogg, and five in Yoganshi’s San Francisco apartment.
His wife decided nine airport-bought pillows was enough.
“She told me I wasn’t allowed to buy any more, that I had accumulated enough,” Hiral said. “So I said, you are a professional designer, why don’t you come up with a solution to ensure that I don’t forget?”
The two kicked a few ideas around as they boarded the plane. Then, settled in their seats, Yoganshi had an epiphany.
What about a jacket with a pillow inside it?
The two thought the idea had potential, so Hiral frantically pulled a sheet of paper out of his wallet and borrowed a pen from the person sitting next to him. For the next four hours, he and Yoganshi listed all the problems they could think of that travelers face, and then sketched out a jacket that could solve those problems.
And with that, the BauBax jacket was born.
On July 7, with Hiral as CEO and Yoganshi as Chief Design Officer, the two launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund “The world’s best travel jacket with 15 features.” They solved Hiral’s pillow problem by including an inflatable pillow (that inflates in two seconds), but they did not stop there. Additional features include:
- Eye mask
- Portable charging pocket
- Phone pocket
- iPad pocket
- Earphone holders
- Zipper that serves as a pen and stylus
- Drink pocket
- Microfiber cloth
- Sunglasses pocket
- Hand warming pockets
- Passport pocket
- Blanket pocket
CNN Money called it “The Swiss Army knife of travel wear.”
The jacket comes in four styles (sweatshirt, windbreaker, bomber and blazer), multiple colors and is available for men and women. On the Kickstarter site, it is described as “the jacket you’ve always needed but never existed.”
The campaign launched with a modest goal of $20,000 in backing.
That goal was met in five hours.
In one week, they had more than $500,000 in funding. In 10 days, they surpassed $1 million.
This past Friday, less than three weeks since launch, they passed $2 million.
As of Monday morning, they were at more than $2.6 million. And the campaign still has more than five weeks to go.
“We have been very overwhelmed and very humbled by all of the support,” Hiral said. “The entire team is very happy to see that the product has actually resonated with people all around the world.”
More than 15,000 people from 75 countries have backed the product on Kickstarter. The jacket — and the Kickstarter campaign — has been written about in dozens of publications, from Yahoo! and Mashable to Business Insider and Inc.
So what’s been the secret to all the success?
“The evolution of the jacket,” Hiral said, “the success of the campaign, the success of the video, all the success we’ve had is thanks to what I’ve learned at Kellogg.”
When Hiral returned to campus from his Mexico vacation in January, he was busy recruiting for his summer internship, but he was also focused on fine-tuning the idea he and Yoganshi sketched out.
He spoke with more than 30 classmates and several professors. He found out what their pain points were while traveling and asked if they thought those problems could be solved with a jacket.
Hearing and watching their reactions, Hiral knew he was on to something big.
Hiral spent January and February refining the idea. During that time, he kept coming back to a lesson he learned during his first quarter in Prof. Julie Hennessy’s Marketing Management course.
“It was in that course that I learned how important it is to have a niche product,” Hiral said. “If I had this idea before coming to Kellogg, I would have launched it as the coziest jacket made for everyone. My belief would be to make a product that everyone could use.
“But Prof. Hennessy taught us to always narrow down your segment. You should be very focused on your customers. You should really know who your customers are and make a world-class startup for them.”
With that in mind, Hiral focused on frequent travelers. As he and Yoganshi would discover, though, the jacket appealed to a much wider audience.
The next two months were dedicated to prototyping the product. By May, Hiral was ready to focus on the marketing, which ranged from filming the promotional video to creating content for the product’s online presence.
Prof. Derek Rucker, who teaches advertising strategy at Kellogg, became a valuable resource as Hiral turned to him outside of the classroom for guidance on both the product and the communication message.
“When I saw Hiral’s product, I immediately saw the promise based on the product and his understanding of the target market,” Rucker said, “so then it became a matter of discussing how to represent the brand to the consumer. In terms of potential, it seems to fulfill an unmet consumer need, and that’s critical in impactful products and marketing.”
“Of course great ideas have to be executed well, and we can see the proof in the tremendous results he is seeing.”
One area where Hiral greatly benefited from Rucker’s expertise was in his planning for the Kickstarter campaign.
The BauBax jacket Kickstarter page is extensive, featuring far more than just the promotional video and a little text. There are infographics, photos, GIFs, sizing charts and more, all seeking to provide viewers with a complete look at everything the jacket has to offer.
“What I love about Kickstarter is that you hear the consumers’ voice (about) your product directly,” Rucker said. “(To succeed), it takes the fundamentals of marketing. You have to identify a target, have an insight and position around that insight. Based on our personal meetings, Hiral has thought through these issues. BauBax jackets have all of this.”
So why the name BauBax?
Hiral said it was a no-brainer for the young couple.
“My wife’s nickname is Bau, and she calls me Baxhu,” he said. “This is our thing. It’s our baby. We have achieved this together, and with that name, it gives us a sense of ownership and responsibility.”
The jacket is the first of what Hiral and Yoganshi hope will be many products from their newly launched BauBax product design firm. The company’s goal is design and manufacture creative lifestyle products, and while Hiral said they plan on sticking to apparel for now, he could easily envision a line of home improvement products in the future.
As for the jacket, the original plan was to manufacture them in October, but with the increase in support and demand, the manufacturing process will begin right away. Backers have been told that jackets will be shipped in November in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
“Hiral is an example of all that we aspire to at Kellogg,” said Prof. Andrew Razeghi, who taught Hiral’s Launching New Products and Services course. “Attract the best and brightest students from around the world, give them the knowledge and access they need to succeed, and support them in fulfilling their dreams.”
This is the fourth startup Hiral has launched in the past 11 years. The self-described serial entrepreneur said it’s the idea of living life on the edge that makes entrepreneurship so appealing to him.
“It’s a roller coaster ride, and I’m an adventure junkie,” Hiral said. “I need the adrenaline rush to keep me moving.”
The overwhelming support has given Hiral all the adrenaline he needs to keep moving forward with BauBax.
“I am feeling very humbled and thrilled,” Hiral said. “This response has encouraged me to be more courageous to work on innovative ideas and travel the uncharted path.”
Marc Zarefsky is a content strategist on Kellogg’s Marketing & Communications team. In that role, he manages all content related to the school’s Full-Time MBA program and MSMS program.