How Michael Bettua Jump-Started A Second Career By Filling A Need
Business travel is no vacation. In fact, it can be quite the uncomfortable journey. It doesn’t have to be though, especially for those whose working life consists of constant on-the-road travel. The smoothest, least complicated and non-problematic way to get from point A to point B is the only way to sustain this kind of working life.
That’s what Michael Bettua, the CEO and founder of Max Mirani, (a collection of slick, space saving and maximizing suitcases) recognized after years on the road with limited travel-efficient resources. Bettua did what any enterprising entrepreneur would do with a problem in need of a solution: he jump-started a second career with a business that helps make quick and constant travel a more pleasant experience.
Inventing out of necessity
Before Max Mirani, Bettua spent years working in senior management sales and marketing positions at companies like Silknet Software and BladeLogic. The work had him constantly traveling to sales meetings and tradeshows throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He’d be in one place for a night or two and then off to another destination for another night or two.
“I was always frustrated by the need to constantly unpack and repack in each place, and that I had to repeatedly re-iron my dress shirts,” says Bettua. “It was such a waste of time and distraction. I tried trips without unpacking which made it worse. Hotel rooms, particularly in Europe and Asia, are simply too small to even have floor space for luggage. I found myself constantly stepping around my luggage or putting it on the bed, which is unsanitary.”
Seek overwhelmingly supportive market research
The unsanitary insanity grew to a boiling point and Bettua decided to do something about it.
“It was my clever wife who said, 'Why hasn’t someone made durable luggage that can collapse for compact storage?'" credits Bettua. “The more we talked with friends and colleagues about it, the more people shared stories of how they wished there was a simpler way to travel with and store their luggage.”
Discover and aim to create only new and more efficient solutions
As living spaces seem to be decreasing in size and airline luggage fees are ever increasing in price, Bettua recognized the demand for more efficient ways to live and travel.
“It became clear that there was an opportunity to create a new category of luggage that uses space more smartly,” says Bettua.
And if there was one goal Bettua had beyond having a piece of luggage that fit nicely in his closet and in airplane overhead compartments, it was his burning desire to eliminate that whole unpack/repack routine.
His solutions were CRUSH, a collapsible suitcase and MOVE, a mobile carry-on suitcase/closet. CRUSH was his wife’s inspiration, but MOVE was Bettua’s solution that creates a wardrobe layout replete with a shelf and compartment system that then keeps clothing unwrinkled, organized and easily accessible.
“You can easily live out of MOVE while traveling without looking like you're living out of a bag,” says Bettua. “It makes travel time more efficient and saves space in small hotel rooms.”
Open those closed doors and create something already existing even better
Actually visualizing his invention came after a friend introduced him to those shoe storage systems that hang in closets. With a hanging shoe-closet as inspiration, Bettua then figured he needed to create something more sophisticated and savvy in design so he decided to pay homage to the old school travel trunk—those wood-walled, cedar-lined vaults of yesteryear with their “perfectly organized shelves and compartments [that] opened up for easy access.”
As a seasoned business traveler, it was a given this would be a carry-on sized accessory. Thinking about his own experiences again, he crafted accessible pockets for toiletries and travel documents for when dealing with security.
Once the idea was fully sketch out, he involved industrial designers and engineers
“Some from the luggage industry, but mostly people who bring a strong sense of ingenuity, newness and modernity to this product category,” says Bettua. “I didn't want to just make a new product. I wanted to redefine luggage itself and to create a new category of space-saving luggage. I want us to be the Dyson or Bugaboo of this industry.”
Don’t rush for a quick solution, carefully craft a plan for the long haul
Sourcing and producing were a totally different experience following the years of sales and marketing Bettua was better acquainted with. He sought out relationships in Asia and was focused on networking to create more long-term relationships..
“[This] was the most difficult part to sort out as an entrepreneur,” says Bettua. “It took a lot of networking and a lot of time in Asia. I eventually found the top luggage factories and built a relationship with them to produce for us. Even though we were unknown to them as a brand, they saw the innovation and design and our determination for mutual success, [and] they partnered with us for the longer term.”
Always think about a product you want
The time obsessing over the details he personally would have liked as a business traveler back in the day have afforded a thoughtful product. There’s a removable shoe and laundry bag and a built-in bag that zips out as a tote to make room for swag, gifts and whatever else accumulates extra before returning home.
“I love the cantilevered shelves,” says Bettua. “It makes it so simple to organize and access my wardrobe.”
Extend what you’ve done well to widen your product category
Now that he’s resolved one business traveler’s dilemma, Bettua is focused on creating more innovations to simplify life on the road and at home. Right now that means building out the SmartSpace line which involves variations of MOVE. Next year CRUSH, the collapsible truly joins as the second Max Mirani product.
“It has the sleek sculpture and protection of a hard-case yet it collapses 50 percent for easy storage in small spaces,” says Bettua. “It combines the best features of both hard and soft luggage.
Image credit: kthread