Rich and Vicki Fulop, the co-founders of Brooklinen, have a leg up when it comes to understanding who their consumers are and what they really want. Like their core consumer base, they are Millennials who can spend a little more on high-quality products.
That knowledge has helped the husband-and-wife duo build Brooklinen, a Brooklyn, New York-based startup that sells luxury bedding and other home accoutrements like candles and blankets--all for less than $200 and only purchasable online. On Thursday, the company announced it has raised $10 million in series A funding from FirstMark Capital, an investor in Airbnb. Since it's inception in 2014, Brooklinen has generated more than $30 million in sales.
The Fulops, both 31, came up with the idea for Brooklinen after trying to buy a set of sheets they liked at a hotel. The bedding cost about $800, a price way out of their budget. As they searched online for alternatives, they discovered chat forums where other folks faced the same dilemma. The couple soon realized that when it came to bedding, there were only two purchasing options: high-quality and pricey, or low-quality and cheap.
"We were 20-something Millennials who had our own apartment, and no one was making cool and chic bedsheets that were both awesome quality and affordable," says Rich, who is also CEO of Brooklinen. "We knew there were enough people out there looking for the same thing."
Rich and Vicki began building out their startup plan with a rigorous amount of research. They wanted to know exactly who their customers would be, and how to appeal to them. As it turns out, they are Millennials with a steady income who prefer to shop online. Through email campaigns and in-person surveys, the couple asked about 500 of their target consumers what they wanted in bedding and how much they would pay. The two looked into which blogs these people frequented, what magazines they read, and even what coffee shops they visited.
Once they had a physical product and price point, they rented a van and delivered sheets to editors at multiple publications. Each included a handwritten note that asked them to try the products and write an article if they were impressed. The reception was positive, the Fulops say.
Early in Brooklinen's development, the Fulops approached investors that Rich met through connections at New York University Stern School of Business. But they didn't take the idea seriously. To prove the concept, the couple decided to launch a Kickstarter in 2014, with an initial ask of $50,000. Instead, they received $236,888 in preorders.
In 2015, Brooklinen's subway ads filled a station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a well-known hipster haven. Vicki, who had previously worked in public relations, wanted the ads to be creative and show the product in a real way. The advertisements featured people eating, snuggling, and lounging in bed.
The bedding industry may have similar companies fighting for business, but the market is large: The home textiles industry is a $22 billion market, according to Home and Textiles Today. Brooklinen isn't the only startup hawking sheets. Companies like Parachute and Casper also sell luxury bedding within the same price range. However, Parachute offers additional goods like towels and Casper also acts as a mattress company. But Brooklinen considers retailers like Bed Bath and Beyond, Bloomingdale's, and Macy's as their competition.
As business continues to grow, the Fulops make a point to stay connected to their clients. The company continues to collect feedback, suggestions, and complaints to come up with new product ideas and improve existing items.
"We bank everything they are saying and asking for and implement changes quickly," says Vicki, adding that these requests have included "long side" or "short side" tags on sheets or bigger buttons. "Everything our customers say, we really listen to. It's a community-driven brand."