Taking a foldable suitcase from shark bait to success

Luke Torrance
Earl Jacobs (left) with Lori Greiner of Shark Tank and Biaggi CEO Stephen Hersh. (Courtesy of Biaggi's Facebook page)

Before the world saw it on “Shark Tank,” Earl Jacobs saw it in Las Vegas.

Jacobs, a new resident of Roslyn and member of the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce, was attending a trade show for the Travel Goods Association in 2014 when he saw the Biaggi Zipsak, a suitcase that could fold up.

I saw the product on the day they launched and I was very impressed with the design and the technology,” Jacobs recalled. “It was the world’s first and only four-wheel foldable luggage.”

It was an opportune time for Jacobs to get involved with the company. Biaggi CEO Stephen Hersh said the company was struggling when he met Jacobs.

“I had originally founded it with two different people but they had left,” Hersh said, adding that the young company was having trouble with production. “Jacobs had a background in the industry, which made him a good fit.”

Originally from the United Kingdom, Jacobs has spent years working in the luggage industry, a career path he said he got into by accident.

“I first got involved manufacturing eyewear and watches and jewelry, and one customer asked if I could do luggage,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Sure, no problem,’ and then I went from there.”

Jacobs joined Biaggi in October 2014. Hersh said that the company “basically reopened under a new entity.”

“We changed our strategy, our production, we got rid of things that weren’t selling,” Hersh said. “We changed a lot of things.”

Jacobs said that following these changes, he believed that Biaggi would have eventually become a successful brand. But that process was accelerated when Hersh appeared on the ABC program “Shark Tank” in December 2014.

After presenting bags from the Zipsak line, he received offers from Daymond John and Lori Greiner but decided to go with the latter’s offer of $500,000 for a 33 percent stake in the company due to Greiner’s connections with QVC and other shopping channels.

“It was tremendous,” Jacobs said. “We struck a deal with Lori and she opened a lot of doors for us. She is a dynamic figure and a lovely lady who gave us the ability to take the brand directly to the public.”

In 2014, Biaggi’s revenue was $40,000. The next year it was $3 million. The publicity from “Shark Tank” led to the product being featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and on television shows like “The View” and “The Today Show.”

“Going on ‘Shark Tank’ was kind of like a relaunch for us,” Hersh said. “It put us on the map and put some juice behind our product.”

In addition to the company website, Biaggi products can be purchased on Amazon and at Macy’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Jacobs said the next step is to continue to grow the brand worldwide.

While the company looks to expand around the globe, Jacobs has put down roots on the North Shore. He and his wife move to the United States two years ago. He said he just put down a payment on a home in Roslyn after renting for a couple of years.

“We like Long Island and this area in particular,” he said. “It is a beautiful little village.”

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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