Packing is a significant part of travelling with a baby. Every mother puts a lot of mental and physical effort into it, and some may even change their minds about their travel plans when they discover all the stuff they need to carry.
Mariam Al-Shebokshi, a 35-year-old mother and the founder and CEO of Kidzkit, discovered this the hard way when she visited Alexandria with her newborn child. She had made the decision to travel light and had just brought a car seat. But when she reached her location, she found this strategy was not practical for families with young children.
She needed a stroller, toys, and much more as well, but she could not find anywhere in what was then an unfamiliar city to her to rent what she needed. To sum things up, she had gone on vacation to unwind, but the whole thing turned out to be very taxing. It was from this experience that Kidzkit, a marketplace for kids’ gear rental, was born.
Kidzkit aims to help families declutter their homes by removing kids’ toys and other things that are no longer used and thus make space for other things. It also helps mothers make a side income while taking care of their kids by renting their kids’ unwanted stuff to other families instead of selling it and probably losing at least 50 per cent of the original cost. It works for families who travel a lot, helping them to travel light and stress free without the hassle of packing and shipping stuff for kids.
“Supporting new parents is our top priority,” Al-Shebokshi explained. “Through Kidzkit we help them out by purchasing unwanted stuff and renting items that new families need but don’t want to pay for as long as they need them. This saves a lot of money and allows families to rent more stuff with the money they save.”
“It saves space because they can return items they no longer use. Even if families are going to buy items for their kids, they need to test and compare them before making a decision.”
Kidzkit also helps the environment because renting increases the lifetime of baby equipment until it is recycled. It supports the circular economy and reduces the environmental impact that producing more and more new baby equipment can have on the planet. It reduces the risk of fire associated with storing unwanted items, and it inculcates the value of sharing, lowering the burden on natural resources and reducing carbon footprints.
Finding herself sometimes struggling with everything she needed as a new mother, Al-Shebokshi decided to help families by renting out essentials in perfect condition. “I started working on the idea in late 2019, but when the Covid-19 pandemic happened I paused everything. I launched the idea in June this year, and we got more than 19,000 visitors on the website. In two weeks, we’ve got more than 30 orders. We started with 50 vendors/parents, and now we have more than 150 and have started to partner with companies and traders,” she said.
“After I gave birth, I found I needed to buy a breast pump. But my cousin, who lives in the Netherlands, said “why don’t you rent it?’ Apparently, this is something people do in Holland, and I wondered why we don’t have this service in Egypt.”
“I needed to rent things for my daughter as I live some distance away from my friends and family and I can’t take all her stuff with me. I was travelling twice a month to Alexandria, and I couldn’t carry everything for my daughter. All these things made me more determined than ever to start this project.”
Parents can now rent clean and safe car seats, strollers, cribs, walkers, highchairs, toys, costumes, and much more from Kidzkit, all in perfect condition. Rentals are not only available for short durations, and they can also be organised for longer periods.
“Kidzkit cleans, sanitises, and does maintenance on baby gear. Sterilisation is the most important. After that, a request takes two days to be sent to the renter. Bulky baby gear is heavy to carry and could be broken or lost when shipping. That’s why we also deliver and collect it to parents at their location, home, hotel, or airport,” she said.
Every project must satisfy the demands of the public, and one that is successful has thoroughly researched the market, is aware of wants and issues, and is able to offer solutions. The Kidzkit website acts as a middleman between the two families involved, those renting and those being rented to, and it is the overseer of the entire process.
“We are a team of 10, including operations, deliveries, business development, account management, a media team and business mentors, inside and outside of Egypt. Most of the team members are parents themselves. They understand the problems, and they work from the heart.”
While the reactions of most parents have been good, the challenges are not easy. “Operations is a main one, but we know what we do and we have learnt a lot and are still learning. We offer clean and sanitised products, and we deliver and collect free of charge, so there is a hassle-free service. Kidzkit rule number one is that we never deliver a product that we wouldn’t accept for our own children.”
Al-Shebokshi used to work as a user/customer experience consultant for individuals and companies before the project. She worked with corporates in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Canada, the UK, and the UAE. She is also design-thinking certified from IBM, Google, and the Hasso Institute that mentors students around the world on many online platforms. She also has an online school for product and service design.
“I have been working in this industry since 2008. I know how to understand users’ feelings and empathise with them on how to solve their problems. But in the first place, I am a mother myself. This helps me to understand parents’ feelings and see things from their perspective,” she concluded.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.