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Soft Sell

How two brothers with an idea for a better tissue got in the game with the big boys--and didn't get flushed.

Everywhere we went, people told us it couldn't be done-- and that if it could be done, it would've been done by now," says Willy Paterson-Brown, 33. But Paterson-Brown and his brother, Tim, 38, weren't discouraged by the naysayers. The Scottish-born entrepreneurs attacked the task ahead of them with the underdog fervor of David challenging Goliath--carving out a place for their upstart company among the tissue industry's biggest players.

Seattle-based Linters Inc., the company the brothers founded in 1994, is the maker of Purely Cotton, the world's first and only 100 percent cotton tissue products. The bottom line? Last year's limited regional distribution of Purely Cotton products brought in sales of $14 million, and the brothers estimate that the deployment of national distribution later this year will triple their company's annual sales.

Willy and Tim could sense from the beginning that they had a winner. After all, America is crazy about cotton, from wearing it to sleeping on it. And why wouldn't health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers take just as keenly to the use of a less-abrasive renewable resource in their facial tissues and toilet paper? And here's the kicker--it's not toilet paper at all. Goodbye, wood pulp: Says Willy, "The beauty of the raw material of cotton is it's just so much better for the skin."

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This article was originally published in the March 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Soft Sell.

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