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SOTTOS A Luxury Luggage Startup Is Connecting With Customers Through Solving Travel Challenges

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Paul Graham, a well-known venture capitalist and co-founder of Y Combinator, argues that many startups fail because their founders develop complex solutions for problems that do not actually exist.

In contrast, successful entrepreneurs are those who genuinely tackle issues that consumers encounter, ultimately achieving a true product-market fit and long-term success. These entrepreneurs often face a problem firsthand, experiencing the frustration of inadequate solutions or the lack thereof. It is from these real-world challenges that the most meaningful and impactful entrepreneurial ventures emerge, fostering genuine customer loyalty and sustainable growth.

The entrepreneurial journey involves not only building an innovative company but also identifying unmet needs and establishing a connection with those who experience those needs. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of creating products or services based on assumptions about what people want, rather than addressing the actual desires of customers.

Enter SOTTOS, a luxury luggage startup with a playful brand voice based in Portland, Oregon, offering just two products on their website: a carry-on suitcase with patented large diameter wheels that transform how travelers navigate rough terrain, available in two color options. They embody this concept. Conceived by an LA entertainment attorney representing A-list musicians, the brand originated from his personal need to elegantly and efficiently adapt to his frequent travel schedule. Originally named G-RO, the demand for a durable yet stylish product that could smoothly roll over any surface while alleviating strain on shoulders and backs became evident when the brand’s Kickstarter campaign quickly garnered the largest funding for a luggage campaign on the platform. The bag went on to receive the Edison Award and develop a dedicated following.

Mark Sacks, a former customer now leading the company, expressed his frustration with small wheels on carpets when in a hurry, stating, “Nothing irritates me more than being stuck behind slow walkers when I’m rushing to catch a flight, and this bag made maneuvering through crowds effortless.” Kali Sanders, the new creative director and also a former customer, shared a similar sentiment, saying, “I initially purchased it for its aesthetics, but I became obsessed because it eliminated the back pain I used to endure on trips and reduced the stress on my shoulders. I no longer required assistance with placing my bag in the overhead compartment—a seemingly trivial yet stressful and embarrassing situation that you’d have to rely on a stranger for.”

Despite facing significant challenges, magnified by the global pandemic, the company eventually had to cease operations. However, in a cinematic twist, loyal fans refused to settle for anything less than a happy ending. Driven by their unwavering commitment to the product vision and potential, some original Kickstarter supporters approached the founder about a relaunch, left their regular jobs, and assumed control of the company.

Now, under the leadership of this new team, the brand is resurfacing as SOTTOS. Featuring its uniquely versatile 2-wheel bag, the Roll Model™, a playful brand identity, and a focus on authentic customer service.

“You know that feeling when a brand discontinues a product you rely on and love? Then you have to search for a replacement… and this time, when I looked, there wasn’t a suitable replacement. So when I learned that many fans felt the same way, it just made sense for this bag to get a second chance to make a first impression—just like we all should, really,” Sacks remarked.

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The Roll Model™, tailored for the adventurous and discerning traveler, blends the subtle confidence and sophistication of ‘sotto voce’ (derived from the Italian term meaning under the breath) with the practical needs of varied terrains and the unpredictable essence of adventures. While the oversized, axle-less wheels may seem like a simple solution, they embody a profound understanding of the challenges faced by travelers. By delving into a significant consumer pain point, the SOTTOS Roll Model™ aims to shake up the luxury carry-on market.

“Our customers have amazed us with their engagement—since launching our soft-launch this month, we’ve been inundated with incredibly positive customer feedback and the depth of consideration in their responses.”

This renaissance, ignited by the enthusiasm of its community, positions SOTTOS uniquely in the luxury travel market, presenting not just luggage but a fresh perspective on travel by addressing a real problem with an elegant solution.

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