How the 'Airbnb for luggage' has built a happy, loyal team on its journey from clean sheet to global business.
As we found in our recent exploration of annual leave policies, there’s a lot to be said for starting a project with a clean sheet of paper and no previous experience.
Just ask Jacob Wedderburn-Day, who went from fresh university graduate to co-founding brand-new business Stasher with his former roommate Anthony Collias in just a few months.
“This is a company we’ve built without ever working anywhere before. I mean, Anthony worked at a digital marketing agency for a bit and I spent some time at the Bank of England while Stasher was still a side-hustle, but in my case it was only a few months. So we had this opportunity to build a company from a blank slate, just how we’d like it to be.”
So, what exactly is Stasher? In simple terms Jacob refers to it as the "Airbnb for luggage", but if that's still not filling in the blanks their website blurb does a grand job:
Stasher is the world's first luggage storage network. We connect you with hotels and stores that can keep your luggage safe while you enjoy your time in a city. We work with large partners like AccorHotels & Premier Inn in cities worldwide. No need for cash — with Stasher you can book on-demand and leave your luggage in secure storage rooms.
Now that's cleared up, let's peel back some of the layers inside this carefully packed suitcase.
How did it all begin?
Stasher came to life in a pretty straightforward way in 2015. Co-founder Anthony used to live between two of London’s busiest railway stations and was frequently asked if people could leave their belongings at his property.
The lightbulb moment came when Anthony one day replied “sure, but I’m charging you for it”. A website offering storage in his and Jacob’s conveniently located flats soon followed.
Things developed from there, as Jacob explains: “Over time we saw people cared most about short-term storage — they were using it as a better-value alternative to lockers — and so we began working with shops and hotels to provide the storage as they had more reliable opening hours.”
Today, award-winning Stasher is active all over Europe and continues to expand into North America, Australia and Asia. They're especially proud of their partnership with Premier Inn, who have a vast array of locations.
Sounds like a lot of luggage
It is, but despite the thousands of bags being checked in using Stasher, the team behind it isn’t huge — just 15 people look after the entire operation.
The team work remotely and from a co-working space in Shoreditch, London. They all get together a few times a year for a summit, and Jacob is keen to ensure everyone stays on good terms:
“People who are friends tend to work well together in our experience. It certainly started that way with Ant and me, and several of the people we hired then helped us hire friends within their networks, who do work really effectively together while having a good time.”
The team are kept on their toes with regular sweepstakes on when they'll hit certain milestones and awards to celebrate recognition-worthy efforts, though sometimes an award is done just for a laugh.
Fresh company, fresh policies?
Stasher have an interesting take on the modern way of working. They accept people can't really focus 100% throughout a whole shift, so there's no pressure to work long hours — as long as you’re hitting your targets, you can do what works for you.
They also question the age-old term ‘work-life balance’ — here’s Jacob to explain what’s going on.
“We’ve always said we don’t really believe in work-life balance as a concept. We think work should be a positive part of your life, something people get excited about, not something you have to balance out with ‘life’ to make it bearable.”
As we dig deeper, this company’s keenness to look after — and motivate — its staff shines through. All employees, for example, own share options in the business. Jacob says the key appeal for this is “taking pride in working on something you own and caring about it with a mid- to long-term view”.
Finding their own way
Being a modern company, Stasher must’ve gone for an unlimited annual leave policy, right? Nope, though they did consider it.
“We thought it had a few drawbacks,” says Jacob. “You never want to put people in the position where you’ve said “here, have unlimited holiday” but if they take more than a certain amount you’d be judging them. There’s too much risk of hypocrisy. Likewise you don’t want people taking too little holiday because they don’t know what’s actually acceptable.”
Instead, this year they introduced a policy that rewards loyalty. Starting from a base of 25 days plus bank holidays, staff get another day’s leave with every extra year of service. It’s capped at 5 extra days but they’re up for reviewing this further down the line.
By creating a culture that rewards loyalty, the company enjoys a very healthy staff retention rate. Jacob says:
“We’ve done very well to retain over 80% of the people we’ve ever hired and it’s so good to keep all that experience in the company while it’s growing.”
This illustrates how investing time in thinking through your policies and giving people something they love to be a part of can pay dividends further down the line.
Dad to the rescue
Speaking of looking after people, we mustn’t forget Stasher have been happy Timetastic users since 2018. Jacob used to use Google Calendar and a hand-written list of who had taken how many days off, but with six employees and an expanding team this was becoming inefficient.
So, Jacob did what many of us do when we get a bit stuck – he asked dad.
Jacob’s dad said to get a simple wallchart and that’s exactly what he did, though it was our digital wallchart which he discovered when googling to buy one.
Since Stasher came on board, Timetastic has helped ease some of its growing pains. One “really handy” benefit Jacob found was being able to easily implement the new loyalty-rewarding holiday scheme without needing to track everyone's time off individually.
There are simple pleasures, too. Jacob says: “I think people really appreciate being able to submit requests so easily, without having to write it down by email. It feels smarter and more efficient."
"I also like how responsive the Timetastic team have been to my suggestions. It’s nice to feel like it’s an improving product, not some legacy system, and it will evolve as our team gets bigger.”
Happy to help, Jacob! And thanks to you and Ant for bringing hassle-free luggage stashing out of your bedrooms and into the world.