Neckpacker gives travellers a break
The journey of Finnish company Neckpacker has been long and winding – but that’s okay, since this is exactly what it wants to prepare its customers for, too.
Neckpacker isn’t trying to hide it: it’s running late. Initially, the company told the backers of its crowdfunding campaign that they’d get their products sometime around November 2017.
“It does look like we made a mistake with the number on our Kickstarter page,” admits founder and CEO Niklas Kuusela. “We’ve had more setbacks than one startup would need, really.”
However, now its backers are finally bound to get their money’s worth: the first deliveries will be dispatched very soon, and the online store will be launched in November. The recipients will get their hands on a Neckpacker: a coat custom-made for travelling with different kinds of pockets, an inflatable travel pillow and a hood that brings some privacy to nap times.
The idea for the product was born, perhaps unsurprisingly, in 2013 during a long car journey from Lapland to Southern Finland. Kuusela struggled to find a comfortable sleeping position and began pondering over different kinds of solutions to the problem millions of people face every single day.
“Suddenly I didn’t feel that sleepy at all. Instead, I just developed the idea further and further.”
Words of discouragement
Once Kuusela had introduced the idea to his friend, the duo started putting more effort into it. With the prototype they managed to create, Kuusela even went to meet some officials and experts – but the result wasn’t always encouraging.
“At one of the meetings, I was literally laughed at and told this would be a waste of my time as well as theirs,” he recalls.
Some people were a little more supportive, but the company still had trouble finding someone who’d take it seriously. Fortunately, Kuusela was determined that this is a product that the world is in need of, and disbelievers only made him work harder.
In 2016, the doubters had to swallow their pride. A company called Baubax had developed a jacket similar to Neckpacker, and its crowdfunding campaign brought home over 11 million US dollars.
“We were told that they should’ve listened to us then, because that would’ve made us the first. That’s when we started receiving money for product development, and we started our own crowdfunding campaign, too.”
The campaign attracted over 700 backers, and Kuusela is confident that many more will be keen to get their own coat. He points out that somewhere in the world, there’s a plane taking off every second, day and night, making the potential customer base immense – and counting cars, trains and buses, it grows even more.
Back luck with partners
However, convincing people wasn’t the only bump on Neckpacker’s road. The partners it initially chose to manufacture the inflatable pillow and the coat itself turned out to be slow and unreliable.
“Some things took forever, and we were kept waiting for months on end,” Kuusela says. “One manufacturer provided us with unacceptable quality. We had to start looking elsewhere, as we couldn’t just let things grind to a halt.”
Now, Kuusela is content with the Chinese partners Neckpacker has found, and things seem to be running smoothly after a rough patch. He notes that although it’s sad that the crowdfunding backers didn’t get the coat on time, the team is much happier with the product they have now than they were a year ago.
If the crowdfunders are eager to get their items, so are some retailers and importers around the world. Kuusela tells that a few companies in the US and Japan are interested in collaborations.
The founder doesn’t think that every single air traveller will eventually wear a Neckpacker. To him, even a share of the huge market would be a great reward after the years-long battle.
He has got no doubt that, every day, many people feel exactly like he did in the car coming down from Lapland.
“We all know how useless regular inflatable pillows are. With Neckpacker, travellers can adjust the pillow in countless ways, so everyone will find a cosy position. Sleeping well bites off a good chunk of a long journey.”
Text: Anne Salomäki
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