Beachcomber’s Burdens Led To Startup

By Diane Mastrull The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Find a pain point and create a solution...advice entrepreneurs often receive. Well, one suburban Mom did just that by creating "Beach Caddy", an app-based, transport-service company to improve the beach-going experience. It offers vacationers a way to connect with teenage porters. The caddies use orange plastic wagons on sand wheels to ferry customers' beach essentials from the house or car to the sand and back. PHILADELPHIA

Ahhh, summer at the Jersey Shore. The sun. The surf. The sandwich-snatching seagulls.

So many memories for families that have roots in this sand-in-more-places-than-you-want-it tradition.

For Danielle Pizza (pronounced pee-zah), one holds particular significance.

It was August 2012. Pizza, 37, and her husband, Joe, of suburban Philadelphia, had spent the day on the beach in Ocean City, with their two children, age 3 and 1, at the time. (They now have three.)

They were wiped out and heading back to the house they had rented.

"Of course he's carrying everything," Pizza said of her husband. "When I say everything, I mean everything, including a stroller.

"I turned to him and said, 'How much would you pay someone to take that back to the house right now?' and he said, '25 bucks easy.'"

That simple exchange was the genesis for Beach Caddy LLC, an app-based, transport-service company that Pizza founded with five other parents from the Philadelphia suburbs to improve the beach-going experience.

It debuted in Ocean City last Memorial Day weekend, offering vacationers a way to connect with teenage porters through an Uber-inspired app available for iOS and Android devices. The caddies use orange plastic wagons on sand wheels to ferry customers' beach essentials from the house or car to the sand and back. The per-trip fee last year was $10.

Thrilled with the response, 323 trips serving 79 unique users, Beach Caddy's founders launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 by July 1 to fund a variety of service enhancements, including the purchase of golf carts, bike accessories and a custom beach wheelchair.

An expansion to a yet-undetermined second Shore town is also planned for this summer.

Beach Caddy's longer-term goals include operations in Florida and California, where the beach season is more than just a few months a year.

"We realized there are towns in this country where we could operate this every single week of the year and we need to be there," said Pizza, who works for an ad-tech company.

Her partners are Todd and Rhiannon Serpico, a teacher and a nurse, respectively; Laura and Jeff Yeakel, both teachers; and Lauren Rice, a teacher.

They are "filling a void in the vacation experience," Pizza said.

"When you vacation down here, it's lovely," she said during a recent visit to Ocean City. "But you're also doing a lot of things you're doing at home. So this service does kind of bring back that vacation experience. You can have things done for you."

This season the per trip cost will increase to $15. "People told us we weren't charging enough, so that was an easy decision," Pizza said. A three-day package includes six trips for $84; a six-day package, 12 trips for $156.

Full-season service is available for $1,500. That's an option Beach Caddy did not plan on but added at the request of a property owner who wanted to offer the service to his renters as an added perk.

That was David Teufel, 33, who owns a small duplex in the area, which he started renting out last summer.

His inspiration for adding the Beach Caddy amenity came after his first renter, when asked, said he would not return for another stay, complaining that the three-block walk to the beach with three kids, all under 7, and chairs and toys was "a lot of work," Teufel said.

That renter was his brother.

Teufel said he Googled "beach wheelchairs" with the idea of buying some sort of "wheelbarrow with sand tires" to make available for his renters. To his surprise, "I found people that actually do that" at Beach Caddy, Teufel said.

He passes on to his renters about half the price of the Beach Caddy service, or $100 a week, and harbors a little bitterness over not starting something like it himself.

As an Ocean City lifeguard for 11 summers, Teufel said, he watched many families struggle on and off the beach with loads of equipment, toys, and refreshments, "dropping stuff in defeat."

"I never connected the dots in my head, but I'm glad they did," Teufel said.

So is Nicholas Hartnett, 17, of Ocean City, who is preparing for a second summer working at Beach Caddy. By the end of last season, he and 14 other caddies were responding to as many as seven calls for service a day.

Compensation was minimum wage plus tips. Pizza would not disclose last year's revenue, but is expecting it to double this year, as will the size of the caddy force. Move-in and move-out service also will be offered for the first time.

Business growth is a realistic expectation, Hartnett said.

"It's 2016," he said. "Convenience is the new thing."

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