No, they didn’t meet in bed! But they did start with a clean sheet and create a business that ended up in everyone’s bedroom. Thanks to husband and wife duo Rich and Vicki Fulop, we can now sleep with peace and comfort at a price that doesn’t make us want to cry.
Rich and Vicki share more than just their last name. Both went to New York University and were laid off from their previous jobs in investment banking and PR. Yet, it is their determination and curiosity towards seeking high quality products that has brought Brooklinen into our homes and onto our beds.
What happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas
“We went to Las Vegas in 2012 and stayed at The Wynn hotel. We loved the sheets in our room and we tried to buy them but they were $800! What was weird is that many people shared the same experience with us.” Having recently moved into their apartment, Rich and Vicki were on the hunt for comfortable and affordable sheets. This led them to stores such as ABC Kitchen, Bed Bath & Beyond among other popular ones but each time, they returned home empty-handed.
Vicki remembers, “there was nothing in the home goods space that was filling the void for us. Everything felt very fussy, there was too much embroidery and patterns and nothing high end that we liked. We wanted something minimalist, something that was beautiful but wasn’t expensive. We knew there was a critical mass looking for the same thing.” Not having the technical background in textiles, Rich and Vicki visited Barnes & Nobles and educated themselves on the correlation between materials and quality of the sheets.
“Most people go to the same stores and get the best products there but they don’t know the brands and what they really want. We wanted to be a lifestyle brand that is cool, accessible and luxurious.”
So, what did they learn from self-paced digging? “Thread count is one of the five criteria that makes up for good sheets. People usually buy the highest thread count and Amazon even sells a 1000 thread count sheet! But there is a “too high” and a “too low” count where you can feel the groves.”
For Brooklinen, the process begins with short and long stable. As the co-founders explained, “long stable can be spun into single ply, while short stable is fiber length of cotton and is not as strong. That’s what makes coarse sheets. Some people use several plies but will multiply and get to 800-1000 thread count. We found an intricate way to use long stable that can be spun into finer and tighter thread.” Their products range from $99 to $120 for the Classic and Luxe Core products (1 flat sheet, 1 fitted sheet and 2 pillowcases). Additional products like duvet can be added with the Hardcore set and Move in bundle, which cost between $500 to $700.
Insider Tips to Sheets Shopping
Besides the actual manufacturing process, customers can also look for the thickness of the sheet which can be measured by square inches. Simply, the landing zone when one goes shopping is Egyptian cotton with singly ply and 250 to 500 true thread count; anything below will be coarse and above will be dense. Plus, matte finish will be cooler and crisper and satin finish will be lustrous, smooth and soft.
“Nobody got it with sheets. It was so unsexy at the time.”
The early seeds of Brooklinen were planted during Rich’s MBA years when he and his friend, Dave Fortune, were talking about not being able to find good sheets. Understanding that everybody is a customer, they realized that it was important to communicate with them at the right time and be relevant. So, with Dave’s expertise in accounting and law and Rich’s in marketing and business development, they decided to fix the market gap. Vicki at the time worked for PR in the beauty industry and came onboard in a limited capacity.
In 2013, the team set out to meet with investors. Rich reminisces, “We got negative feedback from every investor. They thought it wasn’t interesting enough although it was right around the time other direct-to-consumer companies like Warby Parker and Casper came about.” What do you do when sheets hit the fan? (no pun intended). “We knew it would work so we tested the market by harassing customers in stores for one minute surveys. The price point we saw was either $50-$70 or $500-$1,000, nothing in between.”
The Startup Economy
In 2014, the team launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $25,000. Instead, they achieved $250,000! Vicki came on board full time, Dave left the company for personal reasons and Rich was ecstatic as ever. To share the product with influencers, they created a small patch of sheet sets, rented a Zipcar, and delivered them to social influencers with handwritten notes.
Having a super lean business model is a trend that keeps on giving. Similar to other ecommerce brands, Brooklinen has managed to keep their expenses quite low. Operating out of a WeWork office, most employees and sister agencies work on a contractor basis. All deliveries are made via UBERrush or Zipcar. And R&D is done by Rich and Vicki. This flexibility allows Brooklinen to give customers the convenience of buying luxury items at low prices. More importantly, it has helped them increase annual revenues from $2.5 million in 2015 to $15 million in 2016!!!
RADICHE GUIDE on launching a successful Kickstarter campaign:
- Set your target low. People are more likely to contribute if they see something being successful. So instead of going for that big number, go for a smaller number, with that big number in your head.
- Make sure you have 20 people ready to donate when you launch the first day.
- Create a presale campaign that can help pay for inventory before hand.
- Treat it as a regular launch and get PR out there before the campaign goes live; spread the word, create buzz!
If we haven’t convinced you to buy these products yet, here’s something that will: give $15, get $15. Want to get more tips on marriage or business from The Fulops? Email us and we’ll make your sleepy dreams come true.
Photo courtesy of Brooklinen.