As much as Singaporeans love to travel, the humble travel pillow is still something many might overlook as an essential carry-on.
Personally, I was one of these ‘doubters’ – until I realised how an unassuming neck pillow I bought from the transit area helped me tide through a gruelling 15-hour flight to San Francisco without any uncomfortable squirming from restlessness.
In fact, it helped me sleep so well that I didn’t suffer from any jet lag after.
However, not everyone sleeps similarly, even when they’re confined to a mostly upright seat. And while travel pillows come in all materials, but one thing stays constant – their signature ‘U’ shape.
Having experienced this first-hand, a team of Singaporeans have come together to create a travel pillow that you can customise to fit whatever sleeping style you have.
They Quit Their Corporate Jobs To Start Up
Originally a part-time personal project, the core team is made up of Phyllis Ong, Raymond Chng, and Alvin Lim.
While their backgrounds differed, there was one thing they had in common – they were frequent travellers for work.
Having spent the initial 9 years of her career in consumer brand management, and the subsequent 10 years helping out in her family business, Phyllis shared with me that her many trips overseas made it clear to her that “the travel-related industry has a huge long term growth potential globally”.
She then shared her idea with Raymond, who was a fellow frequent flyer like herself.
Said Raymond, who did sales for a travel retail channel, “I was traveling just about every other week, and am all too familiar with the common pain points experienced by frequent travellers!”
With a wish to solve that pain point, they immediately got to work to “deliver a breakthrough design for a travel pillow”.
“With our modular design, you get to customise the type of support [and] create your very own unique travel pillow that truly works!”
Naming their creation ‘CORI’, Raymond explained that it is a “portmanteau of the words ‘care’ and ‘origami’”.
“One of the evolved inspirations is also to be a Company Of Responsible Innovators (CORI). So we are striving to be able to deliver clever designs with care as responsible innovators.”
Soon, this side gig of theirs turned into a full-time venture, as they quit their jobs to venture into entrepreneurship.
“It is never an easy decision to leave a cushy corporate job in an MNC,” admitted Raymond.
“Our friends and family were sceptical at first, but the positive response of our latest campaign and the ongoing support from the crowdfunding community helped reaffirm our decision.”
Raised Over $40,000 From First CORI Launch
Choosing Kickstarter as their platform of choice to promote the CORI pillow, Raymond shared that they chose the crowdfunding route for a couple of reasons.
“First of all, [Kickstarter] provides a global platform for startups to reach out to many countries within a very short time period,” he shared.
In their current campaign, they managed to secure backers from more than 50 countries, and several international distributors even reached out to them, expressing “high interest” to carry the CORI pillow.
By placing a product on Kickstarter, startups could potentially alleviate inventory and capital limitations as well, given that demand for the product can be secured before production.
“[But] for us, the biggest benefit of Kickstarter is its highly-engaged community.”
Their latest campaign isn’t their first rodeo on Kickstarter, as they made their debut in June last year to test out the initial prototype for the CORI pillow.
“We managed to raise over $40k with over 800 units sold!”
“The generous feedback and enthusiasm from our original backers encouraged us to improve on our prototype to relaunch our product in its current polished form. And it has indeed paid off.”
Over $100k Raised To Date, Hit Funding Goal In 24 Hours
With less than 2 days to the end of the campaign, the pillow has far surpassed its funding goal of $10k.
“We actually managed to be fully-funded within 24 hours!”
“However, it wasn’t a completely smooth campaign as they were periods where we experienced a lull,” he admitted. “We were constantly learning and tweaking the communication and engaging the community […] to see what works and what doesn’t.”
“All in all, it was a very positive and certainly hard-earned validation of everyone’s efforts and commitment. Crowdfunding is not for the faint-hearted but the rewards and learnings from the experience are immeasurable.”
Bringing “Great Happiness And Joy” Via Their Products
Currently at the final leg of their campaign, Raymond revealed that while their immediate priority is to fulfil their Kickstarter orders, they are also in the midst of developing other innovative and high quality travel-related products.
“We are absolutely passionate in our mission to bring happiness and joy to travellers around the world through our creative ideas and innovative products.”
Check out the CORI modular travel pillow here!