At four years old, Tom Worcester lost 70 per cent of his hearing due to a pre-existing condition and an unfortunate accident with the kitchen table. Growing up, his life was filled by stifled sounds emphasised by obstructive hearing aids. It wasn’t until his senior year of high school at Ultra Music Festival in Miami where he finally found peace for the first time in his life, not distracted by the judgement of others or by the devices in his ears. While deciphering lyrics had always been a challenge, Tom could instantly feel the drop of the Ultra main stage bass sending shock waves through his entire body. There wasn’t only something to hear - there was something to feel too. Now the founder of Lunchbox, Tom has set his sights on paying back the festival community for everything it's done for him.
Festivals can be life-affirming, even life-changing, experiences filled with great people, music and enough fun to fill a lifetime with nostalgia. But they’re not always perfect. Weather can put a damper on things, pickpockets come prepared to swipe valuables, and packing and lugging around your belongings can be stressful. While the the former may be in the hands of the gods, Lunchbox is aiming to solve the latter two issues by creating the perfect festival bag.
Designed alongside the team that helped build Burton’s Ski&Snowboard bag range after conducting extensive market research, Lunchbox is the last festival bag you’ll ever need to buy. It has a bunch of features to protect you from pickpockets, including inward facing pockets that can’t be accessed while the bag is on your back, and a cut resistant ballistic nylon material. It’s water resistant too, meaning your valuables will stay dry, and features a wire pathway out to connect a battery pack to the front-strap or front-facing phone holder pouch so you’re juiced up all weekend long. The patented EasyFill water bladder inside has been re-engineered to reduces your time refilling spent at water stations by up to 70%, and keeps you hydrated all festival long. We’ve been assured that the bag will also look great for your Instagram shots, with a smart black design that is customisable with a range of colourful skins and compatible with EL ‘Lightshow’ wires so you stand out in the crowd. You can find out more on Lunchbox’s Kickstarter page, and secure the bag for yourself by making a pledge before the campaign ends January 15th.
We spoke to Tom Worcester to find out more.
What inspired you to want to design the perfect festival bag?
We needed to come up with a better cure-all medicine for a lot of the problems plaguing festivals. The whole thing began at Ultra 2018. The water lines were an hour long, I saw four or five people get their bags taken at the gate (including me), and two friends were pick pocketed. It's not just theft, it's theft from vulnerable people who may be disoriented or need to find a lost friend. That's a very terrifying experience for a lot of people, so that's what we're trying to stop.
I was really bothered by this; it kept me up at night. I had to do something, right? So I wrote out a script of questions and interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people about their festival experiences, habits, and needs and really gained an understanding of what people wanted. We realised that people wanted to be safe, they wanted to get back to the music as quickly as possible, and they wanted to look good on Instagram, obviously. With those considerations we started to build, looking at 19 different production partners and going through seven rounds of prototyping. I was in New York hacking together a canvas prototype for this bag in April and we had our first live prototypes in the field by June. We used the festival schedule as a way to show the developed product to more people and ask, what more do you want? As it got better we realised that we weren't just solving the two or three problems we had originally set out to, we were able to solve much more and really make the whole product a valuable addition to the entire festival experience.
The Lunchbox is the first anti-theft festival hydration bag that has everything you'll ever need, and keeps you secure and comfortable all day. The final result is something we're incredibly proud of. We want to help people dance safer, rave happier, and have a better overall festival experience. The best part? We feel like we're fulfilling a debt and giving back to the space that's given us so much - it’s getting to realize a passion of ours. That doesn't just stop at the product. The idea of the Lunchbox is helping people do what they love and bring communities together in the safest way possible.
How did the idea develop? What has gone into the research?
It's a pretty fun process with three stages. I call them Test, Iterate, and Kill or Live. We went out and between the 100+ people we spoke to we discovered a wide range of preferences. We took all of these ideas and put them into this giant basket, picked out the most essential ones to create a theoretical Lunchbox. We’d then pick out of the bucket and test features out on the newest prototype, which started the ‘test’ element of Test, Iterate, Kill or Live. Then we asked people for their thoughts on the newest prototype with the test feature, and so through this process we kept going back to the market and asking what they wanted next. There’s your iteration. We walked around the Firefly campsite with a prototype and asked attendees what they thought and asked them to test it out. Then we went back to design and improved everything. That’s where our features either were ‘killed’ or would ‘live’ to see the next prototype. We also accounted for wider aspects of the industry such as theft rates and the health issue of hydration. We were really trying to be as focused as possible to make sure the Lunchbox is perfect.
Are there other issues beyond theft and hydration that the Lunchbox solves?
The idea of comfort for us doesn't really stop at anti-theft. We want you to have your phone in front of you so you have eyes on it at all times, we want you to stay powered all day so you can find your friends, and capture the moments you care about. We want you to have easy sunglasses access so you can quickly adapt to the weather. Our EL ‘lightshow’ lighting is really helpful for identifying friends in the crowd -- just hold up the bag and tell your group to look for it. The easy water refill cuts down queue times for water lines because each person in the line takes less time to refill. Yet another problem we're really trying to solve is going through festival security. I hate when my bag is getting shaken around or confiscated because of its design or size. When I was at Ultra I had my bag taken with a camera, batteries, an extra lens and water bottle in it, and there I stood barely able to hold all this equipment in my hands wondering what to do. Building one solution to all those problems can have a really positive impact for the community.
How do the values of the Lunchbox family align with the festival community?
My favourite expression right now is this idea of radical self-expression; the ability to go out and so freely be yourself that by default you self-actualise. You become the ‘happiest’ version of yourself. The festival community has this amazing ability to take people to a spiritual peak, and allow people to connect who they are internally to who they are externally, often for the first time. If you’ve never been to a festival this might sound crazy, but music lovers know exactly what I’m talking about. In a world of Instagram, likes, impressions, and filters, people are so unwilling to drop this facade of how they project themselves and be their true selves to the world. A festival was the first time I was able to connect like that, and I have witnessed countless others connect like that in a very similar and deep fashion. We want people to fully focus on those moments, creating an improved experience with room for more of those rich connections. It makes the world a happier place.
What benefits will backers for the Kickstarter receive?
We're basically producing at cost. We’re really trying to give this early to the same community that helped to build the Lunchbox - from our interviewees, our campsite friends at countless festivals, to everyone who’s reached out since. It’s the full package. You get a full bladder, one of our light show wires, EasyFill juice box, a basic black skin and you also get to do a choose-your-own with another design of your choice. That's an excess of $120 in value, and we're basically knocking 35 per cent off that and covering half of the shipping to make the best bag accessible to the market.
We say we're giving back, and we're supporting this with some serious community initiatives. If you submit a police report of your phone getting stolen at a festival in the last 12 months we will knock off 50 per cent of any bag, no questions asked. For every 100 bags we sell, we'll donate one to someone who has submitted a police report. We want to show people there's a better way to avoid this problem at their next fest, and every one after that.
How much will the Lunchbox cost when it comes on the market?
The base model with the bladder and no added skin is going to be around $95. Then the light show wires will be $15, and the skins will be $25 each. With the skins we're going to have exclusive festival skins and artist partnerships with a lot of limited runs.
Do you have any plans for the future of the company and other possible avenues you may explore?
Just like the way we’ve started, it’s all about solving problems. We'd like to have trackers at lost and found on site and help people recover their items by tagging them at the beginning of a festival. We want to operate our own water lines to make them as efficient as possible. We want to takeover these big points of the festival and really improve the whole experience. The bag is the grassroots way of dealing with the problems, but we also want to aid in dealing with those problems from the other side, and offer the Lunchbox water line as the fastest on site or the Lunchbox lost and found where we'll work with the police to coordinate a search and rescue for your lost items.