Meet VOOMcart Founders, Erin Binnie and Tori Wright
Transforming communities one step at a time with a personal shopping cart engineered for active people.
A member of the Toronto media recently called them the “Mothers of Invention”. Erin Binnie and Tori Wright have known each other for decades. But it was their joint belief that women suffered from empty-stroller syndrome after having to give up the walkable lifestyle that a stroller provided, that drove them to develop the VOOMcart. And once they decided to hit go, there was nothing that would stop them.
Q: What was the driving force behind the creation of VOOMcart?
Tori Wright (TW), Co-founder and Director of Business Development: Our own desperate need to get out of our cars!
Erin Binne (EB) Co-founder and CEO: All three of us [referring to themselves and collectively with co-founder and Design Advisor Jimmy Rogers} live in walkable urban neighbourhoods and we needed a better way to transport stuff while running errands in our neighbourhoods. We needed to be able to carry heavier items without having to use our cars.
TW: When we had younger kids we became accustomed to the stroller lifestyle. Being outside, walking all day and loading up with groceries along the way. It was pure bliss and when our kids outgrew their strollers we were back in our cars, burning fuel instead of energy.
EB: There was nothing in the market that was designed for us. So we created the ultimate personal shopping cart.
TW: (Laughing) We were too cool, stylish, and fast for anything that the market had to offer.
Q: Who is VOOMcart manufactured for?
TW: It was incredible, when we dug deeper into whether there was a market for VOOMcart, we discovered that walkability was actually an industry - and real estate developers were quickly trying to build for the demand and create walkable urban places. We saw an opportunity to fill a need in a massively growing market of people that were paying premiums to live where they could shop without the use of the car.
EB: That’s where the idea of “walk your shop” came into being. We think that active urbanites who possess a sense of style could improve the way that they navigate their daily activities with VOOMcart.
TW: That’s right. From our own experience, we knew that despite how convenient it was to walk to the shops, there was still nothing out there to make walking AND shopping a joyful thing to do. We were back in our cars to pick up groceries and it was painful.
Q: How do you envision the future with VOOMcart?
EB: The thing about VOOMcart that is so vital is that it allows us to re-engineer walking as a form of transportation back into our daily lives. Since the introduction of the automobile, society has moved away from walking as a way to accomplish daily activities. Walking builds community connections, supports local businesses, and is vital to our overall physical and mental well being.
TW: When we created VOOMcart we saw so much more than a product or thing. We envisioned a lifestyle, one that inspired people to get outside more, connect, and get exercise. When we had our strollers our cars would sit idle for days and there was something meaningful to both of us about that. It made us feel good that we were giving back to ourselves and helping create happier more sustainable cities at the same time.
EB: We know that VOOMcart has a place in cities everywhere in the world. Walkability is a huge social movement -- people enjoy the idea of living where they can get errands done without the use of a car, and we can make that idea a reality for people. We will continue to innovate -- our first generation VOOMcart is just a start. We have so many ideas!
Q: Can you talk about what the public’s reactions are when you take VOOMcart out on the street to do your shopping and errands?
TW: It is so fun because I get a lot of different reactions when I’m out cruising around with my VOOMcart. The liquor store seems to be the place of real envy because it’s always a heavy shop and in my neighbourhood it’s not the easiest place to park. Mostly, seeing the VOOMcart comes with a lot of questions! Where did you get that? Oh cool ! You mean you invented it? How much are they? And the best was, I love it and I want to talk about investing in your company.
EB: People react with true appreciation. And there is always a series of questions. The sales pitch doesn’t come from us. VOOMcart does that all on its own.
Q: Obviously during the pandemic you have been faced with some major hurdles. What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
TW: Yes, I wouldn’t exactly recommend launching a new product in the face of a pandemic but we already had so much momentum that we couldn’t put the brakes on.
EB: We are still in this covid marathon. Currently we just cleared our last hurdle in the form of an international shipping crisis. Our first generation VOOMcarts have just arrived on a container from overseas. Shipping prices tripled during the pandemic and we were unable to get access to a container for weeks. There has been nothing easy about the journey to bring VOOMcart to life but we welcome the challenges. We truly feel that we are on a mission to create something that can improve people’s lives. We are bringing active transportation to cities across the world.
Q: How did you two team up?
EB: Tori and I are lifelong friends. We had kids at the same time and live in the same neighbourhood. Because we were living parallel lives, we enjoyed many outings together with our kids - getting things done while walking with our strollers without ever needing our cars. Suddenly, when our kids outgrew their strollers our ability to connect with each other and our neighbourhoods through walking and shopping was gone. We both identified that what we were missing in our lives was a way to power walk while multitasking. So we put our heads together and started working. We approached Jimmy Rogers, an old friend from university, and he felt the same way. The world needed a well designed mini-vehicle, a stroller without the kids. He had actually been using an empty stroller to grocery shop!
TW: Teaming up was kind of our birthright; our parents were best friends and we grew up together as sisters in Kingston. Our mothers started an accessories boutique in the downtown market that was ahead of its time, and our fathers used to take us on big family trips together. We stayed close when university took us on separate paths and afterwards when Erin went to San Francisco for a few years. When Erin finally moved home with her young family I was so happy to score them a place a couple of blocks away from me and so it began again. Dinners together with our kids at least three times a week, same kids hockey league, and family ski trips.