Bright lights and cozy clothes, gingerbread smell flying in the air, and songs that bring memories back to the present blast from inside the stores. New York in December is a scene straight out of a classic holiday film. In this city that never sleeps, even the chilly winter breeze seems to whisper tales of dreams and determination. And it's in this magical backdrop that we at Airpals have navigated another year of challenges and triumphs. As we wrap up 2023—a year that has been as unpredictable as a twist in a Shyamalan movie—we want to share our journey with you. It’s been a ride filled with exciting new features, unforgettable shipments, and invaluable connections with our customers. So, grab a slice of New York cheesecake (or thin-crust pizza) and a warm cup of cocoa, and join us as we stroll down memory lane, reflecting on the year gone by and dreaming about the bright future ahead.
Like every great New York story, Airpals began with a dream. A dream to simplify the complex, to turn the mundane task of shipping into an experience as smooth and enjoyable as a walk in Central Park. It was a sunny day in 2020 when the idea of Airpals came to life, much like the opening scene of a feel-good movie where everything seems possible and nothing has been set in stone.
Our beginnings were humble, reminiscent of the classic underdog tales that the city is known for. In a small office, crowded with big ideas and bigger ambitions, the first lines of code were written, the first package was shipped, and the first customer smiled when the package safely arrived. This was the start of a journey that would take us from the busy streets of Manhattan to the far reaches of the city.
In the spirit of New York, a city that constantly reinvents itself, Airpals has been evolving since day one. We've been influenced by the diversity, the energy, and the unyielding pace of the city. Every challenge we faced was like a New York minute—fast, intense, and full of learning. We've seen our share of metaphorical 'King Kongs', daunting obstacles that seemed overwhelming, but each time, we emerged stronger, more resilient. We grow stronger and become better at what we love.
Our growth can be likened to the iconic skyline of the city, continually reaching higher, striving for better. We've expanded our services, grown our team, and most importantly, built a community of customers who believe in us. Our platform, much like Times Square, is a hub of activity, innovation, and connection, bringing people and their parcels together in a symphony of logistics—a symphony that sounds like a Latin party ready to light up the night—.
And just like New York, we've embraced change as the only constant. As we adapted to the evolving needs of our customers, we've introduced features that aren't just about shipping packages but about delivering experiences. Our technology isn't just a tool; it's a bridge between aspirations and fulfillment, between senders and receivers, between you, your business, and the world. Our clean and easy-to-use website summarizes our philosophy: We deliver.
In 2023, Airpals didn't just deliver packages; we delivered innovation. This year was our 'Home Alone 2' moment, where we, much like Kevin McCallister in New York, explored new territories and conquered challenges with a blend of ingenuity and charm. Let me elaborate further:
The Shareable Tracking Page: Picture this: It’s Christmas Eve and Kevin, lost in New York, is constantly updating his family on his whereabouts and his location in real-time—that would ruin the whole point of the movie, but OMG that’s s smart move for a parcel service—. That's the idea behind our shareable tracking page. This feature revolutionized how teams track shipments, turning an individual task into a collaborative experience. It's more than just knowing where your package is; it's about bringing everyone involved in the process onto the same page—literally. With real-time updates and easy sharing options, we've made tracking as exciting as watching the iconic pigeon lady scene in Central Park, but with a warm cup of coffee, sitting in your cozy home.
The Multi-User Account System: Keeping with the idea of Home Alone 2, do you remember the scene where Kevin outsmarts the bandits with a series of ingenious traps? Our multi-user account system is somewhat similar, but instead of traps, it's about empowering teams. It's our way of giving each member the tools they need to manage their part of the shipping process effectively. A real rube-goldberg machine that takes your stuff from point A to point B. With customized access and collaborative tools, managing shipments has become a seamless team effort. Everything you need is at your fingertips.
These features aren't just about technology; they're about understanding and adapting to the human needs of our users, and how to solve them. They're not only about making the website look cool but rather to ensure the experience of the shipping process is as thrilling as a holiday adventure in New York.
Just as Kevin McCallister found surprises around every corner in New York, we too have had our share of remarkable shipments this year. Here's a couple of them, a sort of a top five, each one a unique story in the tapestry of Airpals:
*These are fictional retellings of some Airpals deliveries by some of our top customers
The Mystery Box: This shipment traveled more than Frodo in 'The Lord of the Rings'. Starting from the bustling streets of Manhattan, it felt like it journeyed across continents, through storms and sunshine, to deliver a mysterious box whose contents remained a secret—until it reached its destination in a remote area of the city. The reveal? Maybe you were expecting handcrafted toys for a remote village, but it was the latest in fashion for our friends at Lululemon in the form of a box full of the latest trends in clothing. A last-minute delivery to start the fashion week.
The Last-Minute Miracle: Echoing the warmth of 'Miracle on 34th Street', this shipment was a race against time. A critical document needed to be delivered overnight to a customer waiting to change someone's life. Battling weather conditions and logistical hurdles, our team ensured it arrived just in time, proving that miracles aren't just for the movies and helping Laura Devine finish the paperwork that would provide someone with the passport needed to get into that airplane and complete the Christmas miracle story, just in time for the holidays. Even though this was a one-shot client and not a regular, we treat every customer with the same importance, ensuring things flow like a well-sung Christmas carol.
The Unusual Artifact: Straight out of an Indiana Jones film, this shipment felt like it contained an ancient manuscript needing delicate handling (actually, we just had to keep from shaking too much, but for us, it was as fragile as the ark of the covenant itself). It could have been a package from Cairo to Nepal, but it was a journey shrouded in mystery and excitement through the streets of busy Manhattan, with Airpals ensuring its safe passage through the sands of time to the hands of one of their funders. The critical documents for the Five Boroughs arrived just as intended. Now they can crack a cold one open and cheer to us, their friendly and efficient parcel service.
The elves' big makeover: You’ve heard of the elf on the shelf, now get ready for the elves in the parcels! For several weeks and directly from Santa’s personal design table at the North Pole, many boxes full of jumping elves were transported in the days before Christmas from the cold Arctic circle to the warm and cozy offices of Team Design for the final touches of prototyping and the ending steps before these magical creatures became the final product that will be bringing joy to friends and families around the USA. We really enjoyed the challenge, and we cannot confirm nor deny we’ve now got Santa’s personal phone number on speed dial and his personal address in our buddy list.
Sweet dreams are made of these: Talking about packages we enjoyed delivering, we cannot forget how every time we carried boxes from Ole & Steen, our vehicles became moving gingerbread cars thanks to the delicious smells coming straight from Denmark on those gift bags. Every delivery began with a big smile from us (the cookies were warm and the smell was just perfect) and ended with a hint of true happiness in the eyes of those receiving the sweet surprise that can only be elicited by grandma's cookies or the sweet kiss of a loved one. And believe us when we say that’s exactly what those baked tokens of love provoke.
Each of these shipments is a testament to our commitment to making the impossible possible. They're not just parcels; they're stories of hope, joy, and human connection with all the friends we’ve created along the way.
This year, as we've navigated the post-COVID world (3 years have passed, but the memories are still fresh), the importance of connection and gratitude has never been clearer. Much like the Grinch, whose heart grew three sizes when he understood the true spirit of Christmas, our hearts have swelled with appreciation for our customers. The lockdowns taught us the value of togetherness, and as families and friends reunite, we've been privileged to help bridge the physical distances through our services. Being forced to stay apart has only brought us even closer.
We'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our top customers of the year. You've been the Whos in Whoville to our Grinch, reminding us of the joy and community spirit inherent in our work. Your trust and support have helped us grow and improve, and for that, we are eternally grateful. We are who, and where we are, thanks to you.
As we stand on the edge of 2023, it feels like we're at the beginning of an exciting new movie, filled with anticipation and promise. The future for Airpals is as bright as the lights of Broadway, illuminating the path to new adventures and achievements to come. One of the most electrifying plans on our horizon is the expansion to a nationwide shipping platform (one step at a time to make sure we are doing things right, but with the confidence that we will make this just right and we will reach the far corners of the nation). This isn't just growth; it's a transformation, a leap toward making our services accessible to every corner and every place in the USA. We are ready for this challenge and eager to show how we deliver.
I like to imagine Airpals as a network of interconnected lights, each representing a community, a business, a family that we'll be able to reach. I like to think of this expansion as more than just a business move; it's our commitment to being there for you, whether you're sending a care package to a loved one or managing a complex logistics operation for your business. We're not just expanding our map; we're widening our embrace and getting ready to be a new cog in the machine that you’ve worked so hard to create.
And while the details are still under wraps (like the best Christmas presents), we can assure you that 2024 will be a year of innovation, improvement, and increased connectivity. We're excited to embark on this journey, and we invite you to join us as we navigate the exciting possibilities that lie ahead. We started in New York with a simple dream, but in 2024 we are awakening to a whole new deal.
As the year 2023 comes to an end, and 2024 starts knocking on our door, we take the opportunity to have a little chat with Carlos, Isa, and Joshe, the people behind the curtain that make Airpals what it has become. In a small game of quick-question quick-answers, I was able to delve deeper into their minds to understand better what makes them tick and how the magic is taking place.
(The interview was conducted right after Christmas, with hearts full of love and our bellies still full from last night’s dinner, with laughs and good memories, through a Google Meet call because, even though we are a close group, none of us share the same city: Also, the answers will not be presented in a verbatim transcription, rather my interpretation of the answers provided by them).
"Jumping into a startup like Airpals can be a whirlwind. What was your initial reaction to the company's vision and team when you first joined?"
For me, this was a huge change. I came from a big company, where I mostly worked with big data and screen monitors full of charts. Airpals is different, with a focus on the human side of the business that comes from a women and minority lead, the vision to optimize the processes taking place, and the willingness to learn at every step we take. Currently, I could say I’m most of the marketing center. This has been a good change, I feel good.
"Considering the innovative nature of Airpals, how did you approach crafting a marketing strategy that captures its essence yet stands out in a crowded market?"
Airpals is a small business with a huge heart. Differentiation is the keyword here. Trying to compete only with costs is not the smartest way to do things. In fact, getting to know our clients and becoming not only a courier service but a group they can entrust their sensitive documents, their important papers and doing that with absolute confidence is what makes us different from our competition. In summary, it is the combination of differentiation, segmentation, and an understanding of our clients and their needs.
"Since your arrival, what are the top three marketing initiatives or campaigns in 2023 that you're particularly proud of?"
Since my arrival many things changed, we started using more data-driven strategies and optimizing the Google ads experiences. We’ve had great returns from that front. Also, we’ve been doing some testing (and having great results) with seasonal campaigns and multichannel ads. For the first time, we used promo codes connected with black Friday and Xmas, with great results and very positive feedback.
"Among these campaigns, was there one that exceeded your expectations in terms of audience response or impact?"
We feel that the changes we made in our landing pages and overall graphic identity of the pages were well received, in fact during NYC Fashion Week we had a lot of success. We had a very aggressive (yet friendly) campaign that had newsletter, ads, and blog entries under the same concept. We had a lot of interaction with all our ideas. That motivated us to keep using those strategies for new engagement opportunities in the future.
Another important thing to highlight is that our founder, Joshe, started her professional life here in the US as part of the fashion industry, working very closely with the logistics of this world. Our successes during the fashion week felt really natural, like a full-circle experience.
"Joining a new team always has its moments. What's a memorable instance from 2023 that highlighted the unique dynamics of your marketing team?"
Internally, we don’t have a marketing team per se, but having the chance to closely work with collaborators and content creators has brought me back to what made me fall in love with marketing. The fun that comes from working on a project and seeing it become a hit. I really enjoyed going back to Instagram, since I had been spending most of my time in what's considered to be the “boring part of marketing”.
"Every marketer faces challenges, especially in a startup environment. What's been your biggest hurdle since joining Airpals, and how did you tackle it?"
Well, that has a very clear name: Client retention. We are great at bringing clients, but we struggle with keeping them. This has been a challenge, but we are getting better at it by the day. We are finding ways to create a community, and currently, we are setting up a great plan for achieving this next year. Social networks will become our biggest allies in 2024.
"Marketing often requires out-of-the-box thinking. Can you share an instance where a wild idea turned into a successful marketing tactic?"
When I told Joshe about our possible role during Black Friday, that was an interesting gamble because this is the holy grail for B2C companies and we’re B2B. We needed to adapt and find a way to become part of this. My train of thought made me realize that we needed to find a way to help our clients reach their clients smoothly and creatively. Coming up with the proposal took me some time to prepare, but in the end, we were able to show them what a great team we’d make. And you know what? We succeeded at it.
"As you reflect on 2023, what are you most excited about in Airpals' marketing journey for the upcoming year?"
In our last growth meeting, several new elements were considered, and the new plans and goals are quite exciting (not only for what we are hoping to achieve but also for what we are
already doing). We have our panorama clear, we are happy with our interactions with clients and I feel like the cogwheels of this machine are ready to start grinding for greater success.
Clients are not numbers, they are people who need a personal approach. As we lean more towards a B2B SaaS marketing mindset, I become happier with the results we are getting. 2024 will be a great year for us, with plans for expansion and better deals for our clients.
With Joshe, the interview was conducted a little differently, because she had a lot of activities (both professional and personal) taking place in the last few days. She took some time off from the networking sessions full of new plans (and the friendlier parties, full of eggnog and laughs) to answer my questions. Here’s a glimpse of what goes on in the mind of an awesome woman who is changing the way deliveries are made in the Big Apple (and soon enough, the rest of the USA)
(I was also able to have Joshe answer a couple of questions via voice message, which allowed me to have a more intimate view of her life at Airpals)
"Could you take us back to that 'Eureka!' moment? What was happening in your lives when the idea of Airpals first flickered to life?"
This idea was born from the accumulation of past experiences in the world of fashion and the creativity that comes from a time of necessity. Before Airpals, I used to work in the fashion industry, and one of my responsibilities had to do with logistics and deliveries. During the Covid pandemic, everything was closed, and our trusted delivery guy was nowhere to be found. A friend of mine, who had recently ended up without a job, needed a source of income, so I told him to give a hand with the deliveries and I set up the rates. I thought of it as a great idea, since I was always depending on others. When we did our first delivery, I connected the dots. We could create a better system, with better rates, better prices, a friendlier platform…
"Every epic journey begins with a single step. What was that initial, bold leap you took that transformed Airpals from a concept into reality?"
It happened during the pandemic. We already had some orders, and I thought we could do something out of it. I quit my job, and I did not have a plan b. I was applying for some other job, but the whole process fell through the cracks. My savings would not allow me to sustain myself during the lockdown. I told myself “I have to make this work, there is no other way “. At first, I was doing everything by myself, in fact, I started with another idea (taking packages from the US to Ecuador) but that did not align with my core values, so I left it aside and began this journey with Airpals.
"In the early days, what was one hilariously unexpected challenge you faced, and how did you turn it around?"
Well, at first I was doing everything by myself, just with a hand from my boyfriend. I remember one of my first deliveries, one time that I had to move a parcel using one of the city bikes when suddenly, the weather went crazy and a rainstorm hit the streets. There was no shelter from the rain and only one rental bike. Since I had to take it back to one of the designated return points, I had a double responsibility now. I had to take care of the package, and also return the bike. Hiding under a small canopy, I ended up calling an Uber, those that have a special service for carrying wheelchairs and, well, once he got there he took pity on me and helped me finish my delivery. At that moment, that was a terrible episode, but now I remember it with laughter.
"Fast forward to now, what are the five deliveries or milestones of 2023 that you're proudest of at Airpals?"
In the first place, to have been able to form the best team I could wish for, with common goals and the same view regarding work ethics. That is what drives us to create awesome things, to work together and see in every problem a challenge, and in every hurdle a chance.
Second, I gotta say that our platform receives constant compliments, in both design and functionality, from our clients. We are professional, yet cool. We also have developed a lot of processes that didn’t exist before in office shipping businesses. I’m quite proud of that. Thirdly, we are survivors. Things happened this year that could have broken our spirits, but we came out victorious. Our bank collapsed, and the tech industry took a great hit, some things that I can’t tell you about also affected us… but we are resilient. Nothing can keep us down.
In fourth place, we are the favorite platform for celebrities, and huge public and private companies that are complicated, yet amazing, clients. This was a challenge at first, but now I see them as a reason to be proud of ourselves. Finally, we have been able to work shoulder to shoulder with non-profits, such as Deliveristas Unidos —a group that fights for the rights of food delivery personnel— organizations that work with Parkinson’s Disease patients, and groups that work with children. All of them have a special place in our hearts
"Among these top deliveries, was there one that surprised you with its success or impact?"
The team. A lot is said about me as the founder, but the true credit goes to the team. When I started this, I never imagined that the team would grow like this and now, ten people drive this company's growth
"This year has been a rollercoaster. What's one memory from 2023 that never fails to bring a smile to your face?"
A beautiful surprise for my birthday was a highlight for me. With a remote team, getting together for a celebration is hard, but they managed to order a cake and fooled me into a Zoom meeting —I thought it was something work-related— and suddenly, when everybody was online the cake appeared and they started singing “happy birthday” and “las mañanitas”... Also, when my dear dog passed away in Ecuador, everyone understood what I was going through and was very supportive. I will always remember those events fondly.
"Speaking of memories, could you share a story from this year that encapsulates the spirit and culture of your team?"
When we finally were able to have a meetup in Cuenca. The team came from all over Ecuador, and I was able to show them my city, we even went to a zoo. We are all very professional, but when we allow ourselves to share playtime, we truly enjoy the moment together. We went out to party, we went wall climbing. It was beautiful, because sometimes when you try to share these things with coworkers, it can feel forced or have some tints of shame —especially if you are a bit shy—, but with this team, it was simply beautiful.
"Every startup has its trials. What's been the toughest nut to crack this year, and how did you manage it?"
It has been a year full of huge changes. A structural change in the architecture of the platform, an overhaul of the app. A senior engineer with vast experience in back-end programming joined our team and improved the platform in ways that make it provide services that were not seen in this type of site. We are broadening our reach, and we are coming strong in 2024 with great projects and changes.
"We all have those late-night, pizza-fueled brainstorming sessions. Can you share a particularly memorable one from this year?"
We have long days, especially when we are testing new features in the platform and we need to wait until online traffic drops down. Sometimes, especially Belen, who has to be testing until very late to make sure everything we implement is working the way we expected.
I don’t endorse the overwork culture, nor the idea of spending 24/7 at the office, but I appreciate that no matter how hard things have gotten, nobody in the team has thrown the towel. That is Airpals.
"Finally, looking back at 2023, what's one 'What were we thinking?' moment that you can laugh about now?"
There are many of those. The typical one for me is getting mixed up with chats and responding to the wrong person. I specifically remember that I was chatting with Isa and a message notification came up from a friend with some hot gossip and I started answering the message —with a not very professional language— to Isa instead of her. That was for sure an awkward moment. Also when during a Zoom call, one of those you take in your pajamas and with a messy hair bun, I accidentally turn on the camera letting the world see a comfortable, yet not fashionable, look.
Also, and I believe this is a part of growing as a professional, the times when my looks were not the best for the event. My comfort zone is jeans and a hoodie, and I remember when we had a meeting with an elected official later, I saw in the pictures that everyone else was wearing formal suits, and I was dressed like a child. I see those pictures now and laugh. Every meeting is a chance to learn and get ready for what is to come.
As the final notes of 2023's holiday melody fade away, we at Airpals want to express our deepest gratitude. To our customers, our team, and everyone who's been a part of our story, thank you. Your support has been the best gift we could have asked for this year. As we bid farewell to 2023, let's do so with the joy and hope that this season embodies. May your holidays be filled with laughter, love, and the magic of new beginnings. Here's to closing one chapter and stepping into another, with dreams as vast as the New York skyline and hearts as full as the holiday spirit. Happy holidays and a magnificent New Year from all of us at Airpals!
Don't miss out on the unfolding story of Airpals in 2024. Follow us on Instagram for real-time updates, stories, and a behind-the-scenes look at our adventures. Share your own Airpals stories with us, and let's keep this conversation going. Here's to delivering dreams, creating stories, and building connections, one package at a time. Join us on this exciting journey, and let's make 2024 a year to remember!