The Rebirth of SOTTOS and the Art of Connecting to Customers by Solving Real Travel Woes

Paul Graham, the esteemed venture capitalist and co-founder of Y Combinator, posits that most startups fail because the founders create an elegant solution to a problem that does not exist.

Conversely, entrepreneurs who meaningfully solve problems that consumers actually experience ultimately achieve genuine product-market fit and succeed in the long run. These founders often come face to face with a problem, experiencing the frustration that comes from inadequate or nonexistent solutions firsthand. It's from these moments of real-world struggle that the most heartfelt and impactful entrepreneurial ventures are born, setting the stage for achieving genuine customer loyalty and long-term success.

To be certain, The entrepreneurial journey is as much about discovering an unmet need and developing a connection with those who experience that need, as it is about creating an innovative company. Many entrepreneurs, however, fall into the trap of designing products or services based on what they think people want rather than addressing the genuine desires of the customer.

Enter SOTTOS, a luxury luggage startup with a cheeky brand voice in Portland, Oregon - that sells only 2 products on its website - a carry-on suitcase with patented large diameter wheels that change the way travelers interact with rough terrain, in two colorways. They are a microcosm for this lesson. The brainchild of an LA entertainment lawyer representing A-list musicians, the brand emerged out of his need to seamlessly and stylishly adapt to his constant travel itinerary. Originally named G-RO, the demand for an elegant but tough product that could confidently roll over any terrain while taking pressure off shoulders and backs was apparent when the brand’s Kickstarter campaign quickly captivated what became the largest funded luggage campagne the platform had seen to date. The bag would go on to win the Edison Award and develop a kind of cult following.

Mark sacks, a former customer who now heads the company was tired of having to force small wheels over carpet in a hurry, “Nothing drives me crazier than being trapped behind amateur walkers when I’m hustling to make a flight and this bag instantly made zipping through crowds addictive”

Kali Sanders, the new creative director, also a former customer, had a similar experience,“I initially bought it because of how it looks but I ended up obsessed because my back stopped going out on trips and it took so much stress off my shoulders,I no longer needed help putting my bag in the overhead compartment–it seems trivial, right? But it's stressful and embarrassing knowing you're going to have to impose on a stranger.”

Unfortunately, the company faced many challenges, which were exacerbated by the global pandemic and ultimately forced the company to fold. But in the true spirit of Hollywood, its  devoted fans would not accept anything but a happy ending. Deeply invested in the product vision and potential, some of the original Kickstarter contributors approached the founder about a relaunch, quit their day jobs, and stepped in to steer the company.

Now, under the guidance of this new team, the brand is relaunching as SOTTOS. With its uniquely versatile 2-wheel bag, the Roll Model™, an irreverent brand voice, and an eye towards true customer service.

“You know that feeling you get when a brand discontinues a product you love and count on? Then you have to find a replacement…this time when I looked, there wasn’t a good replacement, so when I heard how many fans felt similarly, it only made sense that this bag should get a second chance to make a first impression — just like we all should, really,” Sacks says.

The Roll Model™, designed for the curious and discerning traveler, merges the quiet confidence and sophistication of ‘sotto voce’ (the name is derived from the Italian term meaning under the breath) with the practical demands of varied terrains and the unpredictable nature of adventures. The oversized, axle-less wheels may seem like a simple solution, but they reflect a deep understanding of travelers' challenges. Going an inch wide and a mile deep on a massive consumer pain point, the SOTTOS Roll Model™ is poised to disrupt the luxury carryon space.

“Our customers have blown us away with their engagement–Since kicking off our soft-launch this month we have been humbled by the overwhelmingly positive customer response and the level of of thoughtfulness in their feedback ”

This rebirth, fueled by the passion of its community, SOTTOS’ unique position in the luxury travel market, offering not just luggage, but a different way to travel, is an elegant solution to a real problem.

To learn more about SOTTOS, visit the brand’s website.


Jarone Ashkenazi

Jarone Ashkenazi is a seasoned writer who covers: travel, luxury items and other lifestyle topics. View more work at Connect with him on Twitter at @JaroneAsh ...(Read More)

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