Kevin Urrutia is the founder at Chester Travel, a DTC Suitcase brand. They launched in 2017 and in 2019 did $1.5m in revenue.
Kevin has a background and degree in computer science. He had always been interested in business and upon graduating, figured that working at a startup would be the best way to meld his interests and skills.
He moved to the Bay Area and quickly got a job with Mint—a financial planning and tech startup. Kevin went to California because it’s very much the HQ for startups and he spent a few years there, getting a feel for the business and startup world.
Eventually, he moved back to New York where he jumped into starting a business of his own. He joined forces with a friend and together they launched a hiking company.
The two of them did everything on their own. From sourcing to pitching to shipping the two co founders figured it out and got it done. This, Kevin says, was where he cut his teeth.
They experimented using FBA with that product and were excited because the cost of entry was low, but the price point was saturated. They held on to the idea that D2C and FBA were a good mix and once again put their heads together, this time to launch a luxury luggage line.
They chose luggage by looking at key statistics and their overall strategy. For Kevin, the product is less important than the process of starting businesses, which is his passion.
- Based in Brooklyn NYC
- Sell primarily to USA and Canada
- Can technically sell everywhere but shipping is prohibitive
- Sales from website and FBA
- WooCommerce Platform
- Starting to launch wholesale to local retail stores
Favorite WooCommerce Resources
Chester has a three person team and they outsource manufacturing and importing. Everything else—from marketing to design and running the day to day is all done in house.
Kevin says they run lean internally and are minimalist when it comes to stacking their to-do’s, preferring to focus on necessary and high impact action items..
Going High End
After getting burnt out in the $30-$40 FBA world, Kevin says they were happy to go after a higher end market.
They didn’t necessarily mean to go in quite so high but when they broke the manufacturing down they realized Chester would have to come in at a higher price point. Kevin says they have been pretty aggressive about maintaining quality for their product.
Selling Lux on Amazon
Even on Amazon, Chester is considered a luxury product—which is an unusual place to sell for that segment.
Kevin points out that people are in fact looking for luxury luggage on Amazon, but brands like Tumi and other high end brands aren’t there.
Chester has been more than happy to fill the gap and Kevin thinks getting in front of these customers is a great opportunity. It also worked because the FBA market in luggage is very small.
The higher barrier to entry makes it a much less popular FBA channel.
Colors are one of the most important design elements for the brand since making a single mold is a big investment.
Classic black and pink are their best sellers. Another parameter is that Chester can’t ship via air, because it’s cost prohibitive, something that Kevin says makes inventory planning and management even more important.
With a background in computer science, Kevin focuses pretty heavily on SEO.
They spend a lot of time looking at keywords and optimization and tend to look for unusual keyword formulas that are sort of back doors.
Because Kevin says a lot of people search for airline specific luggage requirements, they do a lot of Airline Name + Luggage Size. This gets people clicking to their site already knowing that their products fit what they are looking for.
Chester has had a lot of success with influencers, partly because influencers travel frequently and so the luggage continues to get tagged over and over again.
That repetitive nature of the influencers involvement with the product makes those campaigns really work for them. Kevin says they also partner with Youtubers and bloggers. Depending on the product you have, it’s important to remember what people search for.
Kevin says they will first search for the name of your product then right away, they will search for reviews. This is why getting online reviews is a great marketing strategy.
You’re basically controlling your narrative online and it’s important to get ahead of any potential bad reviews by getting plenty of positive ones.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling: Master the Art of Persuasion, Influence, and Success by Jordan Belfort
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- SEO—takes time but once it gets traction you just keep moving up
Tool Top Tip
- Slack for the integration. Slack keeps up with everything, including new orders, customer service and internal messaging.
Growth Top Tip
- Product Market Fit—Look at keyword planner, look at Google. Really check to make sure people are buying the product you want to sell.
- Maxwell Scott Bags’ William Forshaw discusses selling internationally, and the power of a luxury brand
- Shifting from Wholesale to D2C with Finlay London’s David Lochhead and Dane Butler
- Full Disclosure’s Shirine Modad-Neill discusses email and customer service in luxury fashion retail
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