The Daily Quarterly: Tell us about Sheets & Giggles quickly…
Colin McIntosh: Based in Denver, Sheets & Giggles is introducing the world to eco-friendly, insanely soft, ultra-breathable bed sheets made out of eucalyptus tree bark. Our sheets use far less water and energy than cotton sheets, and we use no insecticides or pesticides. We also like puns.
TDQ: How did you find yourself in the bed sheet business?
CM: I’ve always been passionate about puns, sleeping, and sustainability (maybe even in that order). I wanted to start my own physical product company that was made from sustainable resources, and I owned SheetsGiggles.com (I own a lot of pun-based domains), so I thought late one night, “Why not bed sheets?” and got going. I did the market research, decided we could build a meaningfully different brand with better products, and then incorporated a company and trademarked a pun (my proudest achievement). Since our launch on May 1, we’ve received 5,000 preorders in just a few months! Public reception has been overwhelming. We ship all preorders out in this month, which is hard to believe!
TDQ: Who are your influences?
CM: Honestly, I’m very influenced by anyone that has started their own company, whether they failed or succeeded. I don’t read many startup blogs or startup books because I don’t think there are a lot of secrets out there that can help you crack the code to success, but I do love talking to as many founders as I can. You learn so much when you say yes to tons of events and random coffee meetings; I love venting about business problems over beers.
TDQ: What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
CM: First, build a business model. Then, design a minimum viable product (or even just content around the product concept) that fits within that business model. Then, test the market’s reaction to that product within that model by driving traffic to a landing page with pre-launch email capture as the call to action. Does it work? Do people want this? If yes, start sprinting – early feedback from your email signups should also inform product development.
If no, no problem – you should’ve only spent a few thousand dollars max at this point, and you can refine the product and the model in tandem with each other until you crack the code (or you can move on quickly). So many founders do things the opposite way: they see a problem, spend tons of time and money building a “solution,” and then try to build a business around that solution, only to find that the market doesn’t want it (or at least, they don’t want the specific thing they built).
TDQ: What is the worst advice you have ever gotten?
CM: To buy Groupon’s IPO. Wow, seven years later and I’m still salty about that. Also, people told me not to go into bedding… and Sheets & Giggles ended up having the largest crowdfunding event ever on Indiegogo for bed sheets!TDQ: I honestly never heard of using eucalyptus to make sheets before. Is this the direction bedding is heading in the future?
CM: I think so; it has to. I think all fabric will migrate to sustainable sources, and Lyocell from eucalyptus (which is our fabric) is widely considered one of the most sustainable methods of fabric production in the world. As long as the products are just as soft, just as durable, and just as affordable as similarly high-end cotton (and they are), it really makes no sense to continue buying sheets made from one of the dirtiest crops in the world (cotton). I think millennials’ buying habits will anchor on sustainability as they age, and companies will have to adjust and move to products that cause as little environmental impact as possible.
TDQ: How important was it for you to start a business that is sustainable and allows you to give back to the environment?
CM: Very. I’ve always been passionate about the environment – I won my 5th grade election for “Director of Environment” and got recyclable bins placed in my elementary school cafeteria… so this has been a long time coming.
TDQ: What advice would you give to an entrepreneur trying to get into an already-established industry?
CM: Differentiate on brand, customer service, and product to the extent that you can. Zig where everyone else is zagging. Think of one customer niche in one channel that you feel confident about, and then go dominate that demographic in that channel. From there, you can scale up, but stay focused and prove out your business model first before you go crazy and try to target everyone everywhere.
TDQ: What sort of free gift can we get with our order when we find the Easter eggs on the website?
CM: We don’t like ruining the surprise, but our first free gift is a eucalyptus fabric eye mask that we make out of any leftover fabric from our manufacturing process. That way, we can reduce byproducts as much as possible while giving people something useful as a thank-you for reading all of our inane jokes on our website (the Easter eggs are out there, folks).TDQ: Where do you see yourself and Sheets & Giggles in five years?
CM: I’m picturing a Lord of the Rings-esque charge on the very last Bed Bath & Beyond. Aside from reaching millions of people with super high-end products at a good price, I’d love to contribute to three things: the demise of cotton as the major fiber in fabrics; the retraction of physical retail (they mark up this category by 30 – 50%); and reforestation in the US and around the world. For every single order on SheetsGiggles.com, we plant a tree somewhere in the world that needs reforestation, starting in Colorado and California. We’ve already planted thousands of trees on behalf of our community, and we want to look up from our desks one day and say, “Holy sheet, we’ve planted over a million trees.”