Digital turned reality

Texas-based Bumble launches Houston meet-up hubs for safe and productive interactions

BumbleSpot launched in Houston at all three Nourish Juice Bar locations. Courtesy of Nourish

Turning digital connections into real-life associations can be a little nerve wracking, no matter the context. Austin-based Bumble, a dating app that's expanded to become a networking resource, is trying to make that first face-to-face meeting a little safer and smoother.

"The idea for BumbleSpot is to create a network of physical locations across the US and Canada that support our mission to end misogyny and empower women in their relationships across all aspects of life," Andee Olson, director of partnerships at Bumble, says in a press release.

Over 80 BumbleSpots have been named — with more promised to announce over the next year. While Houston wasn't among the roll-out cities, it officially has three BumbleSpots to choose from, as all three Nourish Juice Bar locations have signed on as partners.

Jessica Huffman opened the first Nourish Juice Bar in the summer of 2015 in Montrose, and her Rice Village and Heights locations followed suit. She says when Bumble reached out to her, she jumped onboard since she has mutual friends with Bumble's founder and CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd.

To be a BumbleSpot, the establishment must agree to uphold the mission and values of Bumble, which prioritizes safety, kindness, respect, equality, accountability, and growth, according to a Bumble spokesperson.

Huffman says Nourish is perfect for Bumble with its focus on healthy foods and a friendly environment.

"When you're in Nourish, you're probably going to see me or my brother or one of our employees who's worked there for a while," Huffman says. "We talk to everyone all the time and always try to make people feel comfortable."

A spokesperson says more Houston partners are coming, as local business have expressed interest following the launch of BumbleSpot.

Bumble premiered in 2014 as a female-first dating app, and moved its headquarters to Austin in 2017. In March of 2016, it launched BumbleBFF focused on creating friendships. Then, just a few months later, it launched BumbleBizz focusing on making business connections.

In August, the company launched Bumble Fund — an early-stage investment fund focused on female-led companies. The fund's first five benefactors were named as BeautyCon, Cleo Capital, Female Founders Fund, Mahmee, and Sofia Los Angeles.

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Building Houston

 
 

A Houston founder and small-space expert founded TAXA Outdoors to create better campers than what was in the market. Now, amid the pandemic, he's seen sales skyrocket. Photo courtesy of TAXA Outdoors

In 2014 Garrett Finney, a former senior architect at the Habitability Design Center at NASA, brought his expertise in what he describes as "advocating for human presence living in a machine" to the outdoors market.

After being less-than enchanted by the current RV and camper offerings, the Houstonian developed a new series of adventure vehicles that could safely and effectively get its users off-grid — even if still Earth-bound — under the company he dubbed TAXA Outdoors.

The vehicles would follow much of the same standards that Finney worked under at NASA, in which every scenario and square inch would be closely considered in the smartly designed spaces. And rather that designing the habitats for style alone, function and storage space for essential gear took precedence. According to Finney, the habitat was to be considered a form of useful adventure equipment in its own right.

"Ceilings should be useful. They're not just for putting lights on," he says. "Even when there's gravity that's true."

Today TAXA offers four models of what they call "mobile human habitats" that can be towed behind a vehicle and sleep three to four adults, ranging from about $11,000 to $50,000 in price.

TAXA's mobile human habitats range in size and price. Photo courtesy of TAXA Outdoors

And amid the pandemic — where people were looking for a safe way to escape their homes and get outside — the TAXA habitats were flying off the shelves, attracting buyers in Texas, but mainly those in Colorado, California, and other nature-filled areas.

"January, was looking really good — like the break out year. And then the pandemic was a huge red flag all around the world," Finney says. "[But] we and all our potential customers realized that going camping was the bet. They were with their family, they were getting outside, they were achieving sanity having fun and creating memories."

According to TAXA President Divya Brown, the company produced a record 430 habitats in 2020. But it still wasn't enough to match the number of orders coming in.

"We had we had almost a year and a half worth of backlog at the old facility, which we've never experienced before," Brown says.

To keep up with demand, the company moved into a 70,000-square-foot space off of U.S. 290 that now allows multiple operations lines, as well as a showroom for their vehicles and enough room for their staff, which tripled in size from 25 to 75 employees since the onset of the pandemic.

The first priority at the new facility is to make up the backlog they took on in 2020. Next they hope to produce more than 1,000 habitats by the end of 2021 and 3,000 in the coming years.

"It's a pretty significant jump for us," Brown says. "We really believe there's a huge market for this."

With the new facility, the TAXA team hopes to catch up with the explosive sales growth. Photo courtesy of TAXA Outdoors

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