LOWELL — There are many ways in which traveling can be a pain. From getting airline tickets and booking hotel rooms to renting automobiles, arranging a trip can be costly and time-consuming.
And then there’s one thing for which even the Digital Age offers no help: luggage. To get from A to B, travelers must transport their cargo themselves — unless they hire somebody to do it for them.
Demetra Papas, a former Chelmsford teacher who holds a degree in chemistry, thinks she has found an easier way, after finding that her shoulder bag would slip off while she was strolling her luggage.
“I had trouble carrying a heavy shoulder bag,” she said, noting that while suitcases were packed with clothing and other essentials, it was the shoulder bag that contained such items as tickets and passport — things needed while en route to her destination.
“My shoulder would hurt, and trying to balance the the shoulder bag on my suitcase never worked well,” said Papas.
About a year ago, she developed the Demi Hugger — a strap made from a sturdy neoprene material that enables the product to fasten bags to luggage and strollers. Its name is taken from Papas’ nickname, “Demi.”
Papas experimented with several combinations of fabrics and designs while consulting with travelers and manufacturers. She said that although the fabric is made overseas, she uses a contract manufacturer in western Massachusetts to make the product.
The Demi Hugger works this way:
* Extend the retractable handle of your rolling suitcase
* Slide the Demi Hugger sleeve opening over the retractable handle (can work either horizontally or vertically
* Place your bag on top of the suitcase
* Wrap the bag with the Demi Hugger and secure with the hook tab.
Papas admits to making mistakes along the way to commercialization, including having instructions posted inside the label, where they are not visible to the consumer.
The Demi Hugger can keep items such as pillows and stuffed animals attached to luggage thus allowing travelers an extra free hand.
“Silly me,” she said. She also found roadblocks when working with cable-television show QVC, which wanted to sell the product for less than its current $29.95 price, as well as claim a cut of the sales. ”I’m not going to get rich doing this, but of course I need to make money,” said Papas, who said she is close to securing an agreement with Amazon.
Until then, the Demi Hugger can be purchased online at demihugger.com or at various craft fairs Papas visits. Papas also secured the services of marketing consultant Susu Wong, of Tomo360. Wong said the two women hit it off at a Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce mixer.
“I could see the potential of the product, and her enthusiasm to succeed,” said Wong, who also assists Papas with her social-media strategy (a Kickstarter campaign is planned, so as to gain funding for different colors, designs and fabric).
“It’s just getting to that next level that’s so hard,” said Papas, who estimates she has sold about 100 Demi Huggers thus far.
The product has earned some enthusiastic reviews on Papas’ website. One doctor is quoted as saying a recent trip to South America was easier because the Demi Hugger “came in handy with my additional luggage safely strapped to my carry-on handle.”
Papas hopes many more compliments are to come, although none is expected to top that of her husband.
The Demi Hugger retails for $29.95 at www.demihugger.com. Proprietor Demetra Papas hopes to soon have it available on Amazon. SUN / BOB WHITAKER
“He likes to say that no matter what, he is the original ‘Demi Hugger’,” she said.
Visit demihugger.com/about-demi-hugger/ for information