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To find out more behind how STAGrack got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews STAGrack co-founder, Levi Lewandowski
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with STAGrack co-founder Levi Lewandowski. STAGrack makes the world’s first interchangeable roof rack. Unlike your average roof rack, STAGrack’s unique system utilizes suction cups to adhere to the roof of your car, allowing you to securely attach whatever adventure gear you need for your next adventure. Originally born out of necessity, co-founder Levi Lewandowski, shares with us how he and his partners decided to a different but, more versatile route when developing their product.
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What is STAGrack?
“We created STAGrack for people like ourselves, the co-founders, urbanites that love getting away whether it’s after work, hitting up a mountain or maybe for a long weekend... It’s an interchangeable rack that’s easy and convenient to put on just about any car…”
How did you develop such a technical product?
“I think the early sketches and the earliest form of prototyping started months and months ago and, that was just from supplying the vacuum cups which is really the sturdy base. If you don’t get those right then the whole rack is going to be obsolete… Once we actually started getting our hands dirty and building the actual physical product, luckily Matt is the engineer type, he’s the handyman on the team...I would say right now we have a pretty great product and have a couple little things to do before Kickstarter...”
What’s the carrying capacity of the Stagrack?
“As far as bikes, that’s pretty standard. We have a 9mm quick release but, we have every converter under the sun. If you have a thru axle, or a 12mm, or whatever it is you need there’s different conversions for that but, it holds two bikes… you can fit four snowboards or eight pairs of skis. We’re making it wide enough where you can pack the car, all four seats, and get up to the mountain…”
Were there any roadblocks in developing suction cups as an anchoring system?
“I think the one thing in creating this product, we realized that even if we have all the trust in the world in these cups we have to make it very clear the expectations of where to put the cups and, how long you should drive before you should get out and check them. Just trying to be clear as possible as, these are the capabilities and if you stick to these capabilities it’s going to be great…”
What made you guys decide to go the Kickstarter route?
“...We were debating between the preorder business model of raising capital upfront and I think Kickstarter. I think the one thing that’s been the selling point is you can rally behind a Kickstarter and it’s such a momentum shift… It’s a lot of momentum that gains more attention and also can help blast this first production system and keep up the numbers…”
What is your marketing strategy to maximize the strategy when it launches?
“We’ve been collecting the emails upfront about people who have been excited about the product… We’ve been putting out weekly emails and typically they’ll contain votes for, what color do you want? What features are important to you? What questions do you have for us?... We want to make sure that with our first entrance and first supporters we’re making a product that’s perfectly fit for them. That’s how we came up with the bike and ski attachments…”
Do you have a specific goal for email subscribers with your upcoming Kickstarter Campaign?
“We are somewhere around 170 emails right now for the prelaunch. Our goal is getting somewhere around 300 leading up to the launch. These aren’t just random emails that we collect, these are people that have gone onto our website, checked out the product and, said ‘I’m interested and I want to be one of the first people to get this product…”
What has the work/life balance been like while building STAGrack?
“Honestly, it’s a lot of time but, luckily it’s in an industry and it’s a product that I’m super interested in…I can say that after about a year of pulling late nights and early mornings like this, I’m so glad to be in this industry because I love mountain biking, and snowboarding, and stuff like that… It doesn’t feel like a burden which is great but, it is a lot of time commitment… That’s been kind of an interesting place to be but, I wouldn’t have it any other way…”
What’s been some of the hardest parts about getting STAGrack off the ground?
“I would say the three of us, the partners, being in different cities. We found a way to work around it but, it’s definitely harder when we can’t all be holding the rack at the same time and pointing out little features and stuff like that...A second one is one of the biggest questions we get when we’re showing pictures is ‘how do we ensure that this rack isn’t going to fly off’... we’re trying to turn that doubt and early question into a selling point… We’ve found it’s a little easier to show people its strength and it’s capability…”
What is your greatest fear and how do you manage it in regards to STAGrack?
“So far I’ve been trying to not focus on what are the negatives… A fear of mine and something that you just want to start preparing for is, week one if something goes wrong or if a supplier falls through our something's how do you mitigate those problems. With every Kickstarter success story I’ve read, something is going to go wrong…”
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a business?
“If you're going to start bootstrapping like we have, something I had to do with family, girlfriend, and everyone near and dear to me was to set the expectation that this was a second job on top of my already strenuous job…”
Where do you see STAGrack headed into the future?
“To start, we’re targeting the Pacific Northwest, multi-sport athlete. In the next few years we see it growing wider across the US… Once the production systems are in place where we’re manufacturing, really efficiently, these two sport attachments, we’d love to start throwing in additional attachments whether that’s a roof-box, kayak, surfboard…”
What’s the best part about running STAGrack?
“I think the ownership piece. At the end of the day if a decision is made and it works you celebrate that victory and if a decision doesn’t work you just go back to the drawing board… I love that aspect where if I create an Instagram ad and it’s running well I get pumped about that… It’s also just fun to be in an industry that I’m so passionate about…”
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