Heated gloves. Elastic wallets. Futons that double as play forts. What do these products have in common? In addition to being beautifully designed, they've all seen enough customer demand to land the companies that make them on this year's Inc. 5000, Inc.'s list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Here are nine of the coolest, warmest, and smartest products from this year's honorees.
Like a lot of college students, David Baron bought a futon for his dorm room. And, like a lot of college students, he soon discovered that a futon frame is a pain to put together and makes sitting utterly uncomfortable. So Baron spent the next three years designing a reconfigurable, assembly-free frame. Eventually, it dawned on him -- he wasn't making furniture for the university demographic at all. "I realized," Baron says, "that I was making the couch my mom wouldn't have told me not to jump on as a kid." Today, his Hillsborough, North Carolina, company produces the machine-washable Nugget, which, for $229 to $259, comes in four pieces that can be pulled apart and reconstructed into forts, stages, obstacles, or whatever else the imagination dictates. Assembly not required, but it is highly encouraged.
In 2017, when drinkware maker BrüMate launched its Hopsulator Slim--a $25 stainless steel insulator for slender, 12-ounce beer cans--their drink cozy was niche play. Then, sales of skinny-canned hard seltzer took off, and so did Slims. BrüMate sold more than a million of them, and the product spent four weeks atop Amazon's home category before stock temporarily ran out in May. The Hopsulator is a standout in a line of BrüMate goods designed to keep your alcohol cold. The Denver-based company also sells coolers for beer, wine, champagne--even highballs and martinis. "These aren't just gimmicky products you buy for someone who likes beer," says 25-year-old founder Dylan Jacob. "They truly serve a purpose." BrüMate is on track to surpass $100 million in sales this year. Cheers to that.
Making Money Stretch
When Colby Bauer lost his wallet soon after graduating college, he decided he didn't want to replace it with something bulky, but the only minimalist options he could find online were monochromatic and boring. He and his co-founder (and now-wife) McKenzie bought some elastic, which they emblazoned with a poop emoji and then fashioned into a card holder. The couple thought they might be onto something. So they raised $8,000 on Kickstarter and bought a printer, and then started sewing stretchy wallets and hawking them at farmers' markets, where they could barely keep up with demand. "We sold out of our home for far longer than we should have," McKenzie admits. "The idea of putting production and shipment into the hands of other people was pretty scary." But they did, and it's paid off: Thread Wallets earned $8 million in revenue last year and it's on pace to surpass $10 million in 2020.
How do you make a product that customers are sure to love? Give them what they ask for. That's the approach Yedi co-founders Matt Revich and Bobby Djavaheri took when they designed the Evolution, an air fryer that incorporates five years' worth of feedback and requests. "We've dealt with thousands and thousands of customers," says Revich. "So we know what they want. As a result, our air fryer game has evolved." The stainless steel device has a ceramic-coated interior and comes with the five accessories customers most commonly requested: a pizza pan, dehydration racks, a wire rack with skewers, steaming papers, and a divider that allows for cooking multiple meals at once. Yedi, which made $6.9 million in 2019, sells other small appliances on its website, including pressure cookers and sous vides.
Sprinly's food is plant-based, but co-founders Ray Lui and Mary McCann craft their subscription-service menu with a wide audience in mind. "We try to make meals that vegetarians and vegans will enjoy, but that are also approachable for the omnivore diet," says Lui. That includes Burmese lemongrass noodles with jade pearl ramen and a Mediterranean veggie crumble in a coconut milk-based tzatziki sauce. Lui and McCann spent Sprinly's early days renting restaurant kitchens after hours to experiment with recipes. It paid off: The Cleveland-based company became profitable in just four months. The organic, gluten-free meals are delivered weekly, with plans ranging from $109 to $289.
Back in 2012, Ashley Merrill's around-the-house wardrobe usually consisted of her husband's old clothes--or, as she calls them, "gnarly hand-me-downs that I wouldn't be caught dead wearing in public." With the Netflixes and Doordashes of the world on the rise, Merrill foresaw a world in which people spent more time at home. She began designing sleepwear and selling it out of her home. Soon after, she quit her job in media to take pajamas on full-time. Lunya's garments lean heavily on natural materials to combine comfort with functionality, like a $250 robe that sports deep pockets and extra absorbent material around the neck. As a digital-first loungewear company, Lunya has thrived as millions of people have been forced to work from home: It expects to double its revenue in 2020. "Our products meet the bar of something you can sleep in," Merrill says, "but are styled so you feel like you're at your best."
Walking around on frigid winter days wouldn't be so bad if you could constantly clutch a warm mug of cocoa. A far more practical solution: Ororo's $200 heated gloves. Popular with skiers, snowboarders, and cheering sports fans, Ororo gloves contain tiny, lithium-ion batteries that power up to seven hours of warmth, and thin carbon-fiber wires that ensure fingertips aren't neglected. Based in Las Vegas, Ororo winterwear was born of disappointment. Founder Mark Hu spent $700 on a heated jacket and was unimpressed with its look and functionality. So the former software engineer created his own tech-driven line of heated jackets, fleeces, vests, hoodies, socks, and gloves. Each item undergoes extensive testing to ensure weatherproofing. "These products," Hu says, "combine apparel design, heat technology, and battery systems, so it's a challenge to get them right."
Sixteen billion single-use coffee cups get thrown out each year. Enter Stojo's reusable, dishwasher-safe cup. The 16-ounce version costs $20 and collapses into a leak-proof, two-inch-tall disc that can be carried in your pocket or bag. It's dishwasher- and microwave-safe, BPA-free, and made of food-grade silicone. Stojo's emphasis on attractive, eco-friendly design has helped it muscle into retailers, from Starbucks to Whole Foods to Urban Outfitters. "People want to be more sustainable, but it's often not easy enough for them to do so," says co-founder Jurrien Swarts, who hopes to make Stojo the go-to for reusable alternatives. "If you can make it fun and convenient, you're bound to get the people who are sitting on the fence." Stojo launched a collapsible water bottle in 2019. Coming soon: Salad bowls.
Ian Dorsey was working a cushy finance job in 2014 when he bought his friend Neil Fredrick a homebrewing kit as a birthday present. You know how one beer can lead to a few? The two tried brewing together, and a hobby quickly became an obsession. Their operation outgrew a kitchen and then a garage before landing in a proper warehouse. Today, the Westbrook, Maine-based Mast Landing Brewing Company pours beers with names like Little Choppy and Neon Sails in its taproom and also sells to retailers in 15 states. An in-house design team creates labels with a distinctly colorful style. "We want people to look fast and say, 'That's a Mast Landing beer,'" says Dorsey. "And we know that once they have one, they'll be back for more."