Belfast luggage shipping firm bags lucrative US contracts - and changes name
A FORMER student start-up in Belfast has graduated on to the international business stage after bagging a number of new contracts and taking on additional staff.
And what began life a decade ago as Uni Baggage, helping students transport items between home and university, has taken on the name MyBaggage.com to reflect its place on the global luggage shipping service sector.
The company was founded by Paul Stewart (30), who spotted the opportunity while studying engineering at Edinburgh University and encountered difficulties shipping his belongings to and from his home in Belfast.
He set up the business while in his second year at university and had reached £100,000 in sales by the time he graduated in 2011.
And after signing off last year on a lucrative $1 million deal with US couriers to ship customers items in and out of America to 500 new global routes, My Baggage has now registered an American subsidiary and is starting to grow its presence in the States.
After focusing on marketing and web development in recent years, annual sales have jumped into the millions, and My Baggage now ships to more than 40,000 international routes, all bookable online with clear prices and a simple fast booking process.
The UK to US route is one of the company's most popular, and Paul and his team hope their presence in the USA will help them win business shipping items between the States and other countries.
Typical customers are people relocating for work, migrating to a new country or students studying abroad.
Rather than use a shipping container which can take months and cost thousands of pounds, they can use MyBaggage.com for a much faster service at a fraction of the price. When sending two or more suitcases My Baggage is seen as more affordable than paying the excess baggage fees to the airlines.
With more than 20 people now in the team in Belfast and plans for further expansion into Australia and other markets, the company changed its name after customer research reflected a lingering perception of the Uni Baggage brand as being exclusively for students.
Paul said: “Uni Baggage was a great name to get us to this point, but the customer research we did showed it placed a glass ceiling on the business.
“Even though we have statements on our website that we weren't just for students, some visitors were hesitant because they perceived us as a student-focused company.
“I realised that if you have to tell people you're not just for students, then it clearly must be a limitation, and so we made the decision to rebrand into MyBaggage.com.”
He added: “The new name reflects our offering as a luggage delivery service for everyone regardless of age, location or life stage. Simply put, we are the experts at shipping personal effects, whether in boxes or suitcases, anywhere in the world within a few days and we do it cheaper than anyone else.”
Paul said the rebrand hasn't been without its challenges, but month on month the company has been seeing significant growth, even with a new domain.
“We had outgrown Uni Baggage and it was time to make it absolutely clear that we had expanded beyond just student shipping,” he said.
“Now we're gearing up for more growth and targeting the USA and other markets. It was far better to change name now rather than further down the line when we are even bigger.”