Challenges

Why This Comforter Startup Had to Make Its Product Less Perfect

When Buffy set out to build a cozy, cooling, eco-friendly comforter, they encountered an unexpected problem in manufacturing -- and had to solve it by making the item less perfect.
Why This Comforter Startup Had to Make Its Product Less Perfect
Image credit: Courtesy of Buffy
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the October 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Leo Wang is a second-­generation bedding maker, raised in a family that has always sold duvets filled with goose or duck down. Wang wanted to make a product that was more eco- and animal-friendly, so late last year, he launched his startup, Buffy, with a single product: a comforter filled with material spun from recycled plastic bottles. It was a success, but Wang wanted to push further and create a plant-based comforter filler. “But there’s no playbook for that,” he says. 

Related: The 3 "R's" That Reveal the Quality of Your Product

He started working with eucalyptus, which he knew would regulate heat; however, his prototypes had a problem. Customers reported that the eucalyptus filler shifted around in the comforter until it was uncomfortably out of place. So Wang reexamined the filler, trying to understand why.

Turning eucalyptus into fabric is complex. The plant must be liquefied, then spun into threads that are as smooth (and slippery) as silk. But as Wang looked closer, he noticed a problem: The process created eucalyptus fibers that were identical in length and width -- unlike animal down or cotton fibers, which are fuzzy, irregular and naturally retain a shape as smaller pieces nestle between larger ones. 

Related: 6 Obstacles to Creative Thinking and How to Overcome Them

“With eucalyptus, because we have to turn it into a liquid solution first, we have manufacturing control over how long and thick the fibers can be,” he says. So Wang and his team started experimenting and arrived at what he calls a mishmash: a diverse tapestry of fibers of different widths and lengths that lock each other in place. 

“It was the key,” he says -- a design not far from his family’s history after all.

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