Gulliver Preparatory high school students John DeLappe, Tadeo Acosta Rubio and Leonardo Gorgatti are already a well-traveled bunch.
Their experiences led them to envision Väska, a next generation luggage solution that would streamline the packing and unpacking process, keep clothes organized and create a compartment for dirty clothes. The business, which is still in the concept stage, took first place in the Teen Track of the 2018 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.
“My family enjoys traveling to Europe and other parts of the world to experience new cultures, and luggage has always been an issue for us,” says DeLappe, 17, a junior. “For me, it’s really about the dirty and the clean clothes. I have a little bit of OCD,” he says with a laugh. “So I thought, let’s design something that can help eliminate this problem.”
DeLappe’s family is originally from Boston and they return two to three times per year. They also have plans to visit South Africa this year.
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Rubio, 17, a member of three school musical ensembles, travels frequently for performances. The talented junior plays violin in the string orchestra, piano in jazz band and percussion in the symphonic orchestra. For him, the biggest travel frustration is packing and unpacking his suitcase and keeping everything where it belongs. He began traveling with his family at age eight across Asia to destinations including China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia.
With Väska, they’ve set out to provide customers with a “wardrobe around the globe,” hoping to take a slice of the $19 billion luggage industry that they cite in their business plan. They see Samsonite and G-RO as competitors.
Their TSA-compliant suitcase is designed with a hard shell; adjustable, reinforced nylon shelving; a battery pack to charge devices and a bottom compartment specifically for dirty clothes and/or shoes. they hope
They’ve also developed a spring-loaded “pop-up Dopp kit” to ease the process of removing liquids at security. That improvement was suggested by a judge at an in-class presentation.
Their business plan reads: “One would no longer have to unpack into the hotel furniture and closet to experience the comfort of shelving while on the go. Clothes are much easier to find by being separated into sections and in stacks, and wrinkling would be eliminated since folded clothes would be better maintained.”
Their initial idea was to create a true dresser on wheels with drawers that pulled out and a mechanism that expanded the bag upwards to eye level, but they realized it would be too heavy with too much weight distributed at the top.
“The stability of the bag was questioned, so they had to go back to the drawing board,” said their teacher Daniela Brenha Werlich de Abreu, who is the Prep International Business and Entrepreneurship chair. “The great thing about this team was that they didn’t get discouraged. They implemented the feedback and tried to find another solution. I think what made them so successful is that they were really engaged and devoted to the plan.”
When it came to redesigning their concept, they kept a few things in mind. “Luggage gets banged up,” says DeLappe. “We needed to make it more durable.”
“There are also weight and size restrictions,” adds Rubio. “We needed to limit the mechanisms; things that can break.”
So where did the name Väska come from?
“It means bag in Swedish,” explains Rubio, who plans to study entrepreneurship, finance and music in college. “We wanted it to have a sleek-sounding name, something exotic to make the brand cooler.”
This summer, they hope to build a prototype they can travel with and chronicle their adventures on a blog with videos and music for exposure and brand recognition. “It’s the best way to test it and see how it holds up,” says DeLappe.
Rubio says he gets his entrepreneurial flare from his parents who founded the international Churromania restaurant franchise in 1997. This summer, he plans to intern at both the company’s headquarters and corporate stores.
Gorgatti, 16, a sophomore, plans to volunteer at Shake-a-Leg Miami this summer and intern at a genetic-engineering company. He’d like to become a geneticist and own his own company one day.
In the meantime, the trio is focused on Väska. Says DeLappe, "Väska is really a brand trying to make all of travel easier.”