You may have noticed a proliferation of direct-to-consumer (D2C as it is called in industry lingo) bedding brands popping up recently. Companies like Boll and Branch, Parachute, Brooklinen, Riley and Snowe are following a new model, by starting out as digitally native brands, born online, making (mostly) white basics. The reason for this sudden rush to upend the white market? Venture capitalists are hot on the space and have put a lot of funding behind the aforementioned brands because shopping patterns and needs have evolved and e-commerce cuts a clear path to the consumer, day or night, with no inventory restraints, seasonality cycling or markdown fatigue, with manufacturing transparency and big potential upside. This new(er) model cuts out the middleman, and thus, the retail markups and upcharges for shelf space, advertising and marketing spend that legacy brands have used to sell their products wholesale or retail. By selling direct to you online, brands can offer what is considered a luxury product, for less. It is happening in other industries, especially fashion (think Warby Parker, Everlane, Cuyana, Allbirds and others).
The newest D2C entrant in the towel market is Weezie. I talked to the founders recently, and here is their take. Started by two friends with different skills, one with a business background and the other creative, the duo set out to make pretty, design-forward towels from organic cotton and sell them directly to clients. Based in Savannah, and named after Lindsey’s grandmother, Weezie, short for Louise, the brand made its online debut earlier this month. I connected with Liz Eichholz and Lindsey Johnson to talk about how they got started. Their take on terry seems to say, “white towels do not have to be boring! Banish the boring, and bring beauty to the bath.”
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Why did you choose to make towels?
Towels are a product that you use every single day – and if you are like us, you sometimes spend more time in your towel than you would like to admit! Even when you aren’t using them, they are on display in your bathroom. Given the amount of time spent using or looking at them, your towels should bring you joy! When we realized we hated our towels and couldn’t find a satisfactory replacement, we decided to launch Weezie. While we are starting with bath towels, we have big plans to expand into other categories that will help elevate your bathroom and your towel time. Stay tuned for some big announcements.
What did you learn during the process about what you wanted, didn’t want and the category as a whole?
We knew we wanted to start a company that solved all of the problems we, and the consumers we spoke with had with their towels. This was a laundry list of specifications… soft, but not too soft), absorbent but quick drying, aesthetically pleasing, low-linting, durable... the list goes on! We were surprised that despite the number of towels on the market, no one brand was solving all of our problems.
How long did the entire process take from the idea being born to having the first finished samples in your hands?
We first came up with the idea in the Spring of 2017, but didn’t start working on it until June of that year when Lindsey took a “Launch your Startup” class at Columbia Business School taught by Betsy Morgan (who continues to be a mentor). We split the homework all summer and after giving a successful pitch to venture capitalists at the end of the summer, we decided to work on the idea full-time. Liz quit her job that November and Lindsey quit her in-semester internships and the company officially launched about 1 year later.
How are your towels different?
The price of our towels is more approachable relative to other luxury brands, but Weezie’s value proposition goes well beyond price. Our customers primarily care about three things, in this order: softness, absorbency, and aesthetics. The problem is that oftentimes towels that are soft are not absorbent, and towels that are absorbent aren’t soft. We sought to maximize softness and absorbency, limit shedding, and to elevate the design of the towel so that our customers would be just as happy to use the towel as they are to display it in their bathrooms. What we settled on was a fluffy, plush, low-linting towel that can absorb over 50% more water than the average towel. In addition to the rounded edges, all towels have a piped border that you can choose the color of. This was important because we knew we wanted to offer crisp, white towels, but with a subtle pop of color. They also have a hanging hook, which makes drying much easier. Lastly, we offer embroidery allowing each consumer to add their own personal touch to their towels. It has been so fun to see what people have come up with!
Your towels are made in Portugal, finished in Savannah. Did you look at manufacturing in other countries and why was Portugal the best spot?
We met with factories from all over the world when sourcing our product. We chose our factory for a few reasons, but first and foremost we chose them for the quality of the product. After hundreds of hours of research, focus grouping and product testing, skimping on quality was not an option! We knew what we wanted, which made those initial conversations with factories much easier. Secondly, it was important to us that our factory was OEKO-TEX certified. This means that the towels are not made with any harmful chemicals. You would be surprised at how many factories do not have this distinction.
When it comes to cost, how the pricing different?
Companies typically offer the consumer 3 options - good, better and best - at three different price points. Unfortunately, price doesn’t always indicate quality, and it is hard for a consumer to sift through all of the options. Weezie only offers “best,” and our pricing is lower relative to other luxury brands.