POULSBO — It took a trip home to Los Angeles to see the grandparents for Vicky and Chris Lucas to discover a new way to add to their family income.
“We were going to see my parents,” Chris said, “and I didn’t want them to have to buy a crib and have my dad try to put it together.”
So the couple went looking for a place that his parents could rent a crib. And they found Babierge.
Babierge — a combination of the words “baby” and “concierge” — is a growing national company that rents needed baby equipment through local franchises. Once the Lucas family got back to Port Orchard, they did some research and decided to open a franchise to serve Kitsap County, Gig Harbor and the Tacoma area.
“We are parents of a 20-month-old and a 3-year-old,” Vicky said. “So we know what it’s like to travel with baby stuff and how overwhelming it can be.”
The couple had the experience of renting baby equipment in Hawaii once before. But finding Babierge really got them thinking.
As parents of young sons, they already had many of the items that the company suggests franchisees have on hand to rent. Some of the other equipment they have purchased “like-new” products.
They rent everything from cribs to car seats to bouncy seats to toys. They are offering a Thanksgiving package for $25 a day, which includes car seat, full-size crib and a toy package in a 27-gallon plastic tub, based on the gender and age of the child.
And Chris will deliver and set up what’s needed (like the crib) for a small fee, depending on how far he travels. Typical rates are $30 in Port Orchard, $35 in Bremerton, $45 in Poulsbo and $55 to Bainbridge Island locations. There is a minimum of a three-day rental, and discounts are available for long term rentals of from eight to 24 days.
The cribs they offer are full-size, wooden cribs that fold so they can be transported by van.
“That’s especially important for families like ours,” Vicky said. “Our youngest son won’t go to sleep in a Pack and Play (a playpen like crib). He just cries. So we need a crib wherever we go.”
The company was started in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about two years ago by Kerri Couillard. Couillard has many baby items and her husband suggested that they sell them on Craigslist. But she was reluctant to get rid of them because they carried sentimental value.
Couillard is a computer programmer and made a website to offer her items for rent. Within 72 hours, she had an order for $300 in rentals. It inspired her to start a new company, at first called Santa Fe Baby, and now called Babierge.
To date, the company is in 16 U.S. markets, and will be in 20 by Thanksgiving and more before Christmas. More than 7,000 pieces of gear have been rented as of mid-October, most delivered to hotels, homes and vacation rentals. Company officials said traveling families make up about 65 percent of the business and local grandparents hosting their grandchildren for visits make up the other 35 percent.
While the Lucas’s business is just getting underway, they say they’ve had inquiries from grandparents planning for the holidays, and vacation rentals in the Gig Harbor and Tacoma areas. They have a spare bedroom in their home where they keep the baby equipment, all of which is guaranteed and cleaned and sanitized between rentals.
“We think the holiday season will be big for us,” she said. “We’re just now getting our name out there.”
Another use they are pursuing is the foster care system.
“We are reaching out to foster parents in local area, especially those that take emergency placements,” Vicky said. “We have heard many anecdotes of foster parents receiving a few hours’ notice to foster a baby and having no equipment such as a crib, high chair, baby toys on hand. We will make every effort to make ourselves available on very short notice for these circumstances.”
Vicky is a physical therapist and works a few days a week. Chris is a respiratory therapist and works full time at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton. Having Babierge allows them to supplement their family income in a way that is convenient for them.
Vicky grew up on Bainbridge Island and graduated from Bainbridge High School in 2002. She went to college in California where she met Chris. They moved to be closer to her family and settled in Tacoma in 2009 while Chris went to school. They then moved to Port Orchard and found it to be “the perfect little city. It’s rural, but if you want to, you can get to a big city easily,” Vicky said.
To find out more, go to www.babierge.com/vickychris36, or call 206-755-4907.