One Richland business has figured out a way to inject more fun into travel for kids.
A Richland business has figured out a way to inject more fun into travel for kids
When Wesley and Yen Brown started traveling internationally with their then 8-month-old son, Keanu, they were quick to jump on products to smooth the transition from home to airport to destination.
“We turned to creating something because we weren’t finding what we were looking for,” Wesley said.
“As stressful as it is for parents to travel with children, it’s stressful for the kids too, so we wanted to create something fun, whimsical,” he said.
While at an airport bar in Japan, the couple began sketching on the proverbial napkin a new idea for taking the tedium out of traversing airport terminals: a parent-powered ride-on suitcase designed specifically for kids.
Their Younglingz business was born.
They call the kid-friendly luggage the Lil Flyer.
Intended for kids aged 2 and older, and up to 50 pounds (max total load weight including suitcase contents is 80 pounds), the hard-sided suitcases feature a padded seat, seatbelt and sturdy 360-degree swivel wheels for a smooth ride over most surfaces – even Europe’s cobblestones.
“Designed to replace your stroller while traveling, the vast majority of airlines grant exemptions to strollers. This allows parents to use the Lil Flyer past security and through the airport. Like all strollers, you’ll be given a tag at the gate, before you board the aircraft. Once you land, you’ll collect your Lil Flyer on the jet bridge,” Yen said.
Offering 47 linear inches of storage space and folding handles and footrests, the Lil Flyer is designed to fit in most overhead airplane compartments.
Plus, the designs are meant to excite kids: pink or green motorcycles, green triceratops, pink unicorns, fire trucks.
“Positive warning: you will be the rock star at the airport,” Wesley said.
The Lil Flyer retails for $185 and is sold online at younglingz.com and Amazon. Factory refurbished ones are sold on eBay.
Upon their return from Japan, they turned one of their carry-on suitcases on its side and began drawing out their concept with a marker.
“Safety was the most important thing,” Wesley said. “We wanted our son by our side at all times because, at that time, he was taking his first steps and was all over the place.”
The Browns describe themselves as “serial entrepreneurs.”
Originally from California, the couple owned multiple retail stores, but found that after having Keanu, it wasn’t the lifestyle they wanted for their family.
“We had to create a nursery in one of our retail shops so we could continue to be there seven days a week from 9 a.m. to midnight,” Yen said.
“We moved (to Richland) to escape California in early 2018 … We didn’t want to be tied down to a place seven days a week with a newborn … We really wanted a place where we can call home, have a backyard and let our kid just be a kid,” Wesley said.
They were attracted to Tri-Cities for its family-friendly atmosphere and also for its strategic location for business.
Wesley said he carefully analyzed the routes and shipping times from the Port of Seattle.
“It was an easy investment due to traffic lanes that vein out to the entire country. Tri-Cities is a great hub,” he said.
The first step to bringing their idea to life was to perform a thorough search through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to determine if the concept had already been patented by someone else and if they needed to take out a license on that patent.
After that, they made multiple visits to China in 2019 to explore potential manufacturers, order product samples and fine-tune their design.
“We pushed this thing to the max. We were 18 months into design before release,” he said.
Wesley recalled receiving their first Lil Flyer: “I got up on a ladder and chucked it off to see how it would hold up, because you don’t know what it might go through being handled by TSA and airport workers.”
More fine-tuning of features and testing, including product safety testing in Bothell, followed.
In January 2020, the Lil Flyer was ready.
The Browns attended the Consumer Electronics Show as vendors.
Three months later, the world shut down as the pandemic took hold. Travel ground to a halt.
“By then, we had already manufactured thousands of these,” Wesley said.
The Browns bided their time until November 2020, when they decided to capitalize on Black Friday and the holiday travel season.
“We started getting orders and feedback and people posting online, and by springtime of 2021 – even with full-blown Covid still going on – we started seeing people travel again and orders coming in,” Yen said.
The ensuing travel boom bolstered business, enabling the family to run Younglingz as a full-time job. They have sold several thousand Lil Flyers.
“We joke that we are semi-retired,” Yen said. “We are mostly able to work from home, aside from receiving shipments.”
They personally go through each box before it’s shipped for quality control and include a “thank-you envelope with stickers, etc.,” Yen said, adding that Keanu likes to help with the envelopes.
“Every single Lil Flyer that’s shipped out has been touched by one of us and personally taken to UPS,” Wesley said.
Keanu takes pride in being a part of the family enterprise.
“We really wanted Keanu to learn the value of a dollar,” Yen said. “When Keanu wants to take a trip, he asks how many suitcases we will have to sell.”
For the record, his ride of choice is the triceratops.
“Our main salesman is our 5-year-old son,” Wesley said.
As Younglingz continues to grow, the Browns are feeling the constraints of their small warehouse at the Richland Airport and hope to find a larger space in the near future.
In addition to more designs, they are also planning to roll out stickers for more customization options.
“It’s rewarding to see our product being used and helping … This was the greatest thing for us, and now we get to give that to other families,” Yen said.
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