Mary-Anne Sarao is the co-owner of BoomCase, a vintage suitcase sound system and a family business she runs with her husband, who founded the company. She has a background in fine art and has a love for all things vintage.
Mary-Anne currently resides in Sacramento where her growing family enjoys finding new delicious places to eat, traveling, treasure hunting, making art, being creative and of course listening to amazing sounding music through her BoomCase. Check out more on Mary-Anne and the BoomCase at TheBoomCase.com and follow her on Instagram @AnnexBoomcase.
What is the Boomcase and how did you guys get the idea to create one?
A BoomCase is a vintage suitcase sound system. My husband Dominic, his brother JP, and our small team, and I take vintage suitcases, retrofit them with modern audio technology and handcraft them into these amazing sound systems.
Dominic and I, have always enjoyed going to thrift stores, vintage stores and antique fairs. He and his brother have been making sound systems since high school, but it was after seeing these antique items that Dominic got the idea to make a BoomCase. He wanted to have a sound system that sounded good and that he could take with him, and so we made one. We then went out to Dolores Park in San Francisco ( where we lived at the time) to have a picnic and people came up to us asking about it, and it just went from there. Sound and portability was two of Dominic’s goals. Then, my role was coming in and making it look beautiful and cleaning it up.
What’s were you doing before starting BoomCase, and what is your role at the company now?
I have a BS in Art/ Art education. Before we started BoomCase in 2009, I was painting and making jewelry. I was selling my art online and as a street vendor in San Francisco. The BoomCase business was this pleasant surprise to us and once we had an online store it just blew up. So I had to juggle many roles in the beginning trying to figure everything out business-wise and organizing. Now I handle all retail/customer relations along with graphic design. I have worked retail most my life so that came in handy when designing promotional materials, for print and online advertising, and packaging for our retailers.
Seems like you have a lot of celebrities using BoomCases, but how did you get there?
A huge Tech blog wrote about us and after that just rode the wave. It just took off from the
internet-–people were emailing us, wanting them, so made an online store. We would put one up and it would be instantly sold. We were like “Whoa, people are actually want to buy this.” I feel like we’ve just been very blessed that people really like our product. Also a lot of magazines have featured us, one being Rolling Stone for their Holiday Gift Guide. I think the very first big celebrity was Tom Hanks.
Wow, how did he find it?
Actually his son, I think, was the one who saw us on that tech blog. We even got to deliver it to him at
his film company. We went to his office and was like “BoomCase delivery!” His secretary was like, “Oh, they’re so amazing!” We could see Tom Hanks upstairs, but we didn’t ask to meet him. So, we dropped it off and left. But then she called us back and asked us, “Oh, Tom Hanks wants to meet you guys!” which was so nice! We went back and we got to hang out with him for a little bit while listening to music on his new BoomCase! Just a couple months ago he got his BoomCase updated. It’s good to see he’s still using it.
What a great story! Do you hand-deliver all your cases or just that one?
No. I guess it depends. Sometimes we deliver them to people who are local, Sacramento or Bay Area. One of the big deliveries that we landed was to the Nike Jordan Brand, during the All-Star game in New Orleans last year. We met some great people that worked there and we got to go to the Jordan Party! We met some of the All Star players and chatted with them about their BoomCase. Blake Griffin said that he immediately started playing music on his BoomCase and the team loved it. We even got to go to Sky Walker Ranch to deliver a BoomCase there. This business has definitely taken us to some amazing places.
Who else has a Boomcase?
Chris Martin, the singer from Coldplay. He just ordered another BoomCase. The awesome people at Citibank who have been a great supporter of our work gave him his first BoomCase. They sponsor a lot of concerts and gift BoomCases to many of their musical guests. They gave one to Coldplay. Maroon 5 and the Black Keys. Then the guy from Dead Prez has been really a big supporter of BoomCase, and we’re making a custom one for him. It appeals to a lot of different people’s tastes. It’s a classic look. Each suitcase has their own personality, so I think that’s what attracts people across many music genres. Our friend who is a producer for Disney also gifted one to Cate Blanchett. Dominic actually got to meet her at the Cinderella premier (which Dominic and my son Xyrus loved). She mentioned how it was the most beautiful piece of equipment she’s ever seen and that she loved the sound of it. We really appreciate all of our fans and BoomCase owners. It has really been through them sharing their love of the BoomCase that has helped us grow.
What do you look for in the suitcases?
For me? I like the ones with the shiny, chrome detail. I also like them to look very clean. As for Dominic, he likes it when it looks used, very rough and distressed. Each suitcase really has its own character.
Do you have any plans for making a model at a lower price point that anyone can buy?
We consider our BoomCases to be more like art pieces since they’re all one-of-a-kind and we handcraft them, taking our time to make them sound and look great. So we sell them at a higher price point, even for wholesale. The people who buy from us know this and understand our concept.
But, we are trying to do a serial production. We had one sample that came to us but Dominic didn’t like the way it sounded so we didn’t put it out. We’re still working on something that is at a lower price point that most people can afford.
How has the business or your work changed since you had your son?
Actually I was pregnant when this whole thing started taking off. So we had to learn how to balance family life and work life, which in the beginning was hard because it was just the two of us. People were ordering non-stop and we had to learn how to keep a balance between work and family. It’s is really hard when you have your own business because you’re always thinking about “Oh, this person’s going to email me…” or “What can I do to make it better?” You just have to really be firm and set the times for each.
What is one thing you think that has helped you balance work and life?
Putting your child in school early. Haha. It’s hard…you feel bad that you don’t want your child to be at home with you, but you need to have the time for yourself and the time for your work. I felt like Xyrus was ready to go to school and I was ready for him to go to school, so that helped out a lot with freeing up time for work. Before he was in school, if I had something really important to do, Dominic would watch him, or my mom. Having grandparents and family support is very helpful. It’s a family business so Dominic and I go to trade shows or travel for work together. Sometimes we’re gone for a couple days, so having them around to watch Xyrus really helps out a lot. Sometimes when we travel we bring them with us to watch Xyrus, and that becomes such a great, fun experience for everyone! We love exploring with our family, so any chance we can make that happen, we take the whole family along. So don’t feel bad when you take time for your self or for work–know that it’s all done for the better of your family. I know Xyrus has definitely grown from being around people other than us, especially at school.
What’s a creative activity that you do with your Xyrus?
We paint and build together. In the workshop, we have a little wood box for Xyrus. He hammers nails in there and we have a little screw driver for him to screw nails in also, like he’s making his own BoomCase. That has helped him a lot with his motor skills. He likes the fact that he is doing work just like his dad. We have him join the activity going on in workshop (in the more safe, child-friendly way, of course.)
I take him to art museums; we go on hikes a lot; I teach him about nature; we draw together and make stories as we draw. He has a thing with tattoos and pirate ships right now. It’s all about that balance, knowing that you can still do your work while engaging your child in his own work and creativity. But of course not everything has to be work related–I let him draw tattoos on me and we have drawn millions of pirate ships.