Danielle Candela, the founder of luxury Hamptons delivery service Tote Taxi, talks building her business and chasing her dreams.
Tote Taxi founder Danielle Candela with her company’s beautifully branded Mercedes Sprinter van
As you can probably imagine, the items that Tote Taxi founder Danielle Candela has been asked to transport run the gamut from rare (a gold-leaf Picasso) to ridiculous. “Someone once asked me to take their nanny,” she says with a laugh. But strange requests aside, the entrepreneur has managed to create a seamless, white-glove service that locals love and rely on for all their delivery needs between NYC and the Hamptons. Here, the stylish Southampton Village resident shares more about what’s ahead for this haute courier.
Tell me a little bit about where your entrepreneurial spirit comes from and what inspired you to start the business. I think a lot of it came when I was young. I was a competitive figure skater; I started skating when I was 6. And then I did really well—I represented the U.S. in Switzerland when I was 11, and I moved to Delaware and was home-schooled and training with Olympians. And I think that is the biggest thing that’s led me to where I am now because I’ve always been really ambitious and always really open at a young age to taking risks and following my dream and just doing it.
I didn’t end up, obviously, being a competitive figure skater as a career—I came back to New York and went to college in Manhattan and lived in Manhattan for another 10 years. ... That’s really where the business came from because I was living in the city and then heading out to the Hamptons every weekend, and I was schlepping all my luggage all the time and I was like, ‘This sucks! Why isn’t there a service that can take my luggage from Manhattan to the Hamptons?’ There wasn’t, and so then I created it.
How did you bring your idea to fruition? Right off the bat, I had won a Hamptons Shark Tank competition in 2017. I won $15,000; Kathleen King of Tate’s was one of the judges. That was really what I needed to be like, ‘Yes, this is a real thing. There’s no turning back now. People believe in it, they see it.’ And then right after that, I got introduced to someone at BLADE and I was like, ‘I know you have problems with luggage.’ I knew that that was an issue for them, that not everything fit on the helicopters, and I went to them and I was like, ‘Look, I’m providing a solution for your passengers and for your employees. Give me a shot.’ And with months of being really tenacious and begging them to work with me, they finally gave me my shot.
How does Tote Taxi create an elevated experience? We have excellent customer service and we really strive to make it as simple and easy for the client as possible. We work with so many great partners like Imagine It Done. We always encourage [clients] to use Imagine It Done, which is a packing and organizing company, so that everything is organized for them from start to finish. ... And I have to say, the drivers that are working with me have worked with me from the beginning, and I think that’s something that really makes us different because they’ve driven the van when there’s been four suitcases in it, and now they’re driving the van when you can’t fit anything else in it. The company has been able to grow—we haven’t done a lot of advertising; it’s really been word-of-mouth and referrals because we do such a good job, and I think that’s because everyone who’s on the team genuinely really cares.
And then we also do this glam bag that I love; this year we’re doing 300 glam bags that we deliver to our clients in the Hamptons. ... It’s important that we’re not just a delivery service—that this is a brand and a lifestyle and is a Hamptons brand. We know our customers and that these products really align with their day-to-day.
“I couldn’t even drive the van when I first got it, and now you will see me in it all the time driving it,” says Candela. “Because there was no experience in the beginning, I just knew that I had to provide the best customer service possible.”
What type of client is requesting your services? It’s a wide range of people, and it’s a lot of families. There are lots of different aspects of the business and we do different types of deliveries. We do a standard delivery for BLADE where it’s one or two suitcases—someone flying from Manhattan to the Hamptons, they’re just going for the weekend. ... And then we do a lot of Mini Moves, and Mini Moves are families, usually with two kids under the age of 6, and they have so much stuff.
How has operating during the pandemic been for you? There were definitely a lot of hard conversations with the team about what we were going to do and what we felt comfortable doing, because my people, that’s what comes first. But we were able to navigate it. We lost a lot of our airport business with BLADE, but the year before, that’s what took up 90% of my time. So losing that business was a blessing in disguise for me because I really could focus on our core clients coming directly to Tote Taxi, which was a lot of those Mini Moves. And since everyone was vacating Manhattan and not sure when they were coming back, our Mini Move business skyrocketed. ... And now this year, everything we built in 2020 with the Mini Move has just continued to grow, and all the airport business that we lost is back.
What’s next for Tote Taxi? We just soft launched some storage options—it’s like mini storage so that we don’t have to necessarily transport all [of our clients’] things back into the city. We found during the pandemic that a lot of people are renting multiple houses throughout the season; they’re not necessarily staying in that same house Memorial Day through Labor Day. So there’s that short lag of time, like a four-day span, where they go back to the city because the next rental house isn’t ready, and then we’ll store their items for those four days. So expanding that storage aspect of the business is really, I think, our next move.
I launched the business in 2018 and I had no experience in logistics at all. ... I just knew that I had to provide the best customer service possible. Now we’re kind of looking back on what we’ve done and how we can really elevate the experience and start making it even easier for our clients— using more technology, educating our team more, and really building a foundation and roots in the community so that this is something that can scale.
Photography by: Photo by Heather Huie
Styling and clothes by Ari’s Closet
Hair and makeup by Hamptons Mobile Beauty