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Justine Barone started Gearo after a failed attempt to find a place for her and her husband to rent paddleboards for a day-trip. Having faced this problem several times, she dug a little deeper and discovered that while many specialty shops offer rental programs, they struggle to manage the logistics. Her background in automating processes and information management gave Barone a brilliant idea: launch a business that does the heavy lifting and makes things seamless and easy for both retailers and customers alike.
What drew you to make independent specialty retailers the center of your company?
It was an easy decision for me. I really fell in love with the people and the passion they have for their businesses. Unfortunately, a lot of these retailers don’t have the tools they need to efficiently run their rental programs. Often, they’re 3 to 5 people operations that don’t have the bandwidth to have a marketing department, let alone an operations consultant. Ultimately the goal is just to protect them and help them grow, and I think that these retailers have been overlooked so much because they lack the convenience aspect most renters look for. Improving rental logistics will definitely encourage more foot traffic and help these retailers compete.
Gearo offers a variety of management tools to benefit retailers. Which have been most effective in the beta testing phase?
It’s hard to say because each retailer is different in what ends up working for them. Some are more data driven. They understand that harnessing data analytics can transform your business and save costs. Then there are other shops that just want to be able to make their gear rentals more accessible. It varies from shop to shop, but so far, the most effective piece is our ability to show the company’s products on its website and create automatic booking. Taking that time otherwise spent with someone in line for thirty minutes and turning that into five minutes online is huge for the staff as well as the customer.
Retailers have also really liked the calendar tool. Being able to look at the calendar and say, “this is when x number of customers are coming in,” or “this is the status of these customers, Joe hasn’t returned his bike, but Sally completed her order,” etc. Being able to track details has been really helpful. I mean, there are bike shops that are writing down on pieces of paper the time frames, and then losing those papers. They’re losing money! There are so many shops losing potential revenue because they can’t track their product.”
What makes Gearo “the easiest way to rent outdoor gear”?
We’ve really spent a lot of time designing the interface and making sure that it’s perfect for anybody and everybody. Customers that have zero idea of what they need can find gear, as well as customers that are experienced in the activity. Not only is it user friendly for customers, it’s also incredibly simple from the retailer side. We’ll have retailers pull it up for the first time and know intuitively what they’re looking at, how to upload products on their own, and manage their gear by themselves. It’s meant to be managed 100 percent by the shop, however, we are here to help.
We have a retailer that just joined whose average rental took them up to an hour to get a customer set up. With Gearo they can accomplish that in five minutes because they’ve been able to prepare the gear (the system works for any time of gear rental—from paddleboards to bikes to skis to tents) beforehand and the customers have already paid. They’re literally just walking in to pick up the gear. Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, employees will have the time to connect with the customer.
How have you adapted Gearo to the needs of the retailers in this initial testing phase?
Well, we’re beta testing the Denver market and with companies like 1876 Co., Altitude Paddleboards, Confluence Kayaks, Mojo Wheels and Outdoors Geek, which has just been phenomenal. I talk to these people every day. They’re helping me build this business. It’s really the retailers who are defining what Gearo is more than anyone, and without them I don’t think we would have had the success that we’ve had so far. You look at other platforms and they were built around what the companies thought the retailer needed, but we’re working with retailers to build Gearo around what they tell us they need. We have functions and resources no other platform has because we’re built by outdoor gear rental retailers for outdoor gear rental retailers. We’re nothing without our retailers.