Off the Hook
What: Clothes hangers made of recycled paper with ads on them
Who: JD Schulman of Hanger Network
Where: New York City
When: Started in 2005
Startup costs: In the six figures
They're everywhere. They're in your house, in your closet, in your clothes and in your children's clothes. What are they? Clothes hangers, of course, and one company has taken this everyday product and turned it into an innovative and eco-friendly marketing device.
In 2003, JD Schulman thought it would be a good idea to sell advertising space on wire hangers. Unfortunately, wire hanger manufacturers didn't agree, citing high production costs. So Schulman tried something else. "I was at home, trying to open a pack of soda cans," he says. "It was my 'aha' moment." At that moment, he decided to make hangers out of material similar to the soda cans' cardboard packaging.
What Schulman came up with was the EcoHanger, a hanger made entirely out of recycled, heavy-duty coated paperboard. The EcoHanger comes in different sizes for male and female clothing and is distributed to approximately 35,000 dry cleaners nationwide. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the EcoHanger doubles as a marketing platform for big-name companies such as Dunkin' Donuts, L'Oréal and Revlon, who can advertise their logos, coupons or even product samples on the hanger. The best part for dry cleaners is that the hangers are paid for by the advertisers and distributed for free.
Using his own funds, Schulman produced a model of the product and approached different packaging firms to see if they could help him build a prototype. The prototype helped him bring in outside investors, and he incorporated his business in 2005."It's been fun looking at something so simple that we all have in our homes and turning it into a really interesting product," Schulman says. With 2007 sales projected in the multimillions, it looks like these new hangers will hang around for a while.