How COVID-19 forced this entrepreneur to reinvent his business and fight the virus at same the time

Have you tried selling luggage during the Coronavirus? Good luck! You’d have an easier time selling birth control at a nunnery.

“Sales literally dropped to $0 this past week. On the odd day when we sell a set of luggage, part of me wants to call our customer and say ‘Thank you for your order, but where do you think you’re going’?”.

Meet David Rapps, CEO of iFLY Luggage and President of Calego International Inc. iFLY has been one of the biggest luggage brands on Instagram these past few years and is available at retailers across North America.

Since the devastating spread of COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus that has shaken the world beginning in January, countries have mandated borders to be shut, people to self-isolate and travellers to stay put. In fact, air travel has become almost non-existent as governments have restricted non-essential travel.

For David, whose 3rd generation family-owned business that sells luggage, this meant disaster.

“I was very concerned that if we didn’t get proactive, the company that my late-grandfather started working at when he was only 14 years old, would suffer”, said Rapps.

So what did David do? He shifted his focus from luggage to health kits that he and his team had developed back in 2017. The kits include antiseptic wipes, face masks, headrest covers, gloves and more to ensure that travellers stay clean and germ-free on their travels. They retail for under $10 per kit and even less when purchased in bulk.

With 1 in 5 people getting sick while they travel and David being a germaphobe himself, he always believed in the concept.

He believed in it so much that his team spent 2018 making the kits compliant with US FDA regulations and getting them tested by independent testing labs across the country. David and his company launched the flagship “Healthy” kit in 2019 with select retail partners.

In mid-February, David saw the terrible news coming out of China and called an emergency team meeting. He explained his vision around the kits and instructed his team to pivot off of luggage and get hyper-focused on health and wellness.

Within two weeks, he placed orders for millions of units with his factories overseas and rushed to create different kit configurations to meet demand.

“From February 18 to the first week of March, we tapped into every person in our network to produce and distribute our kits,” says Rapps. “We’ve now pre-sold over 2 million to retailers across the country, and that doesn’t count what we’re pre-selling on our website direct-to-consumer”. Goods are expected to arrive in May.

Rapps isn’t out in the clear yet by any stretch. He is hard at work every day to make sure his supply chain and operations are working.

“I’ve never worked harder in my life, but that’s good. I don’t take anything for granted. This virus has caused terrible damage to people’s health and livelihoods and businesses every day are being forced to lay people off and close. It’s my responsibility to fight for my team, my company and my family”.

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