Talk about the right product for the right time.
Dude Products, which makes flushable wipes called Dude Wipes, has seen sales surge as consumers hunt for alternatives to toilet paper. The Chicago-based startup expects this year's revenue to double to more than $30 million, says co-founder Ryan Meegan.
The reason is obvious: "The coronavirus and toilet paper shortage have taken things to another stratosphere," he says.
Dude Wipes is the brainchild of lifelong friends and co-founders Meegan, Sean Riley, Brian Wilkin, and Jeff Klimkowski. These guys said they took a liking to using baby wipes in the bathroom, which they say clean better than toilet paper alone. They saw the need and launched the business in 2011, manufacturing at a facility in Arkansas.
As the pandemic led to a rush on toilet paper, the team launched into action. Demand was obvious early on. On a single day in mid-March, they sold 10-times a typical day's worth -- and that was just through the Dude Products website. (Dude Wipes are also sold on Amazon and Target, and in grocery retailers such as Kroger.)
They quickly boosted ad spending on Facebook and Google, a deviation from their Amazon-focused marketing strategy, because costs were dropping fast. They took advantage of falling pay-per-click costs as most advertisers retrenched. Their efforts paid off: In the last two weeks of March, the company surpassed what it booked in revenue on its website last year.
"It's been about pushing the right buttons at the right time," says Meegan. The company's main challenge has been keeping enough inventory because of difficulty getting some needed material. Meegan, Riley, and Wilkin are Dude Products' only full-time employees.
The company also added offerings. On Monday, it launched preorders for its bidet attachment called the Dude Wiper 1000.
Shark Tank's Mark Cuban applauded the co-founders' decision to increase advertising. He invested $300,000 in exchange for 25 percent equity in 2015 after three of the four co-founders appeared on Shark Tank. "They're getting new customers who are becoming acclimated and committed to their brand," Cuban said on April 22 during an "Ask Me Anything" discussion with Inc. "Companies that are advertising now are going to look strong."
To be sure, success during the pandemic, which has crushed so many businesses, is bittersweet, Meegan says. "It's tough to get excited about it when small businesses are struggling," he adds. "We know how lucky we are to be in this niche."