Secure storage, close to traveler hotspots and easy to use – that’s Bagsort, a startup born of the combined efforts of Jean-Luc Martineau and Ashley Belleau-Dame.
Jean-Luc has always had entrepreneurship coursing in his veins. No surprise then that he chose to do a bachelor’s degree in finance and business administration at the University of Ottawa. During his studies, he had the opportunity to take part in a student business program where he managed a housekeeping company. For three years he was responsible of everything marketing, sales and clients, giving him his first real taste of entrepreneurship. Thanks to his efficient management, the company excelled and Jean-Luc ended up winning the top selling student franchise award for the Ottawa region.
Ashley, meanwhile, first started her university studies in health sciences, aiming to work in the field of dermatology. Halfway through her course however, she realized that she would prefer a more dynamic industry that didn’t require long years of studying. She decided to switch to a master’s in business administration to then go into hospital management. Ashley quickly realized that the field required entrepreneurial experience. She thus joined the same student business program as Jean-Luc, where she managed a landscaping company. The experience amazed her!
A winning team
During this student program, some colleagues recommended to Ashley that she consult with Jean-Luc on matters related to profit. Having one year of experience more than Ashley, he could answer many of her questions. This was the beginning of a great friendship.
Two years later, at the end of the program, they decided to launch a business together. “We realized we would have complementary skillsets if we went in business together,” says Jean-Luc. Ashley likes to set things in motion and create partnerships, her talents being human relations. However, she’s not a big fan of financial plans or market studies. Thankfully these are Jean-Luc’s strong suit, owing to his analytical mind.
The idea behind Bagsort came to Jean-Luc while he was travelling in Toronto with a friend. After their arrival, they had several hours to wait before being able to access their Airbnb reservation. They looked around for a place to store their luggage but couldn’t find any such service. Assessing this, Jean-Luc called Ashley to tell her that he just found their business venture.
The idea is simple: offer secure storage for travelers’ luggage that is near train stations and other transportation hubs and is easy to use. And that’s exactly what they created.
All a traveler has to do is go on the Bagsort website and enter a stress address, or use their device’s built-in location system, type in the amount of luggage and the required storage time to then see a list of all partner businesses around that currently have space. Booking and payment also take place through the app. The partner then receives an alert telling them a client is on their way, and the traveler can go there straight away. Everything is done online. On arrival, the partner sticks a security seal on the suitcases and bags, then puts them in an area out of reach of the public. “We tried to think of everything,” says Ashley.
Stepping outside the country
The aim of these entrepreneurs is to always have a Bagsort storage option within a ten-minute walk of a traveler in a large city. Bagsort is already available in dozens of partner businesses in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Boston. New York and Chicago are also part of their plans, as well as Paris, London and any other city enjoying a large tourist influx.
Their rapid expansion is due to the fact that they don’t have to build any infrastructure. Ashley and Jean-Luc only connect already existing spaces to the Bagsort network.
To find theses spaces, they use the tried-and-true method of going door-to-door. The team had first tried contacting partners by phone, but they soon found out that speaking directly to business owners and evaluating the available space in real time is much more efficient. Jean-Luc and Ashley can spend several days in a row methodically combing the streets of city centres to secure enough storage sites. It’s exhausting, but it works.
Tips for future entrepreneurs
“Take the risk,” recommends Jean-Luc. You have to follow your instincts, especially when you’re young and have less responsibilities. Without a partner, a child or a mortgage, there are fewer consequences if you make a mistake; it’s the best time to try.
“Go for it,” encourages Ashley, recalling her beginnings. “I didn’t know anything when I first started.” You have to be confident and have discipline. “Your reward comes with the effort you give. If I work day and night, I will have the rewards of working day and night. If I do nothing, I’ll have nothing. This is way more motivating than an hourly wage.”
Bagsort’s services are available at bagsort.com/en.