Southern California surfer and bartender Ed McLean just couldn't get into the delicate florals or dismal pinstripes that were thwarting his quest for a cool comforter cover. So the 28-year-old decided to make his own, with an eye-catching, tropical motif to reflect his beach-infused lifestyle. He headed to a fabric store, picked out the coolest Polynesian prints he could find and took them to a tailor, who crafted a more appropriate duvet cover to grace McLean's bachelor pad.
Once McLean's surfing buddy and neighbor Doug Smith, 28, saw the spread, he was motivated to take McLean's idea to the next level. Three units away from receiving his MBA, Smith wrote a business plan and secured a loan for their blossoming idea. Both then threw in their savings to launch Dean Miller Prints LLC (formerly Dean Miller Hawaiian Island Prints, named for a legendary surfer rumored to have slept on a bed of Hawaiian flowers).
Contracting out to a manufacturer who specializes in bedding, Dean Miller produces colorful duvet covers and matching pillowcases (think hula girls, surfboards, hibiscus, Tiki statues and is-land scenes) priced from $151.58 to $201.50 per set. With $110,000 in capital to start, Smith and McLean worked out of their homes, bartending on the side.
Unsure if there was a market for their bedding, the wave riders trekked from surf shop to surf shop until they landed their first accounts. "We knew if people saw the product, they'd go for it," recalls Smith. Now Dean Miller products can be found in 10 locations, including stores in Florida and the Virgin Islands.
Although surfwear giants such as Quiksilver have tested the waters of home décor, these young entrepreneurs don't feel threatened. "The more awareness [of the products], the more our task is simplified," says Smith.
The partners distinguish their line by locating uncommon designs during monthly trips to Hawaii. Generating about $20,000 a month since the company's inception in January 1999, Smith and McClean have moved the business to a Laguna Beach, California, warehouse, and plan to expand the line to include shams, bedskirts and curtains. "Both of us surf, we live in Orange County, we're named after a Hawaiian legend--there is definitely an air of legitimacy to us," says Smith.
Dean Miller Prints LLC, (949) 497-8425, http://www.deanmillerprints.com