Liz Eicholz and Lindsey Johnson
What do you get when two best friends with backgrounds in finance/ops and creative design come together to make affordable luxury towels for men and women everywhere? A fierce team that's taking over all things bath-related. This month, we're delighted to feature Liz Eicholz and Lindsey Johnson, cofounders of Weezie Towels, as our October Mujeres. They chat with us about their business hopes and dreams, what it's like to work with your best friend, and how they unwind on Friday nights.
Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you launched Weezie and how you decided that you two would be complementary forces in launching Weezie. Liz, why was Lindsey the person that came to mind?
Lindsey: Prior to launching Weezie, I worked in a variety of finance roles at Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, and most recently a hedge fund. Along the way I became fascinated by early stage consumer businesses and began angel investing in the space. I went to Columbia Business School with the plan of going into consumer Venture Capital before Liz approached me with the idea for Weezie.
Liz: My background is in graphic design. I’ve spent my career working on in-house creative teams, first at an e-commerce company, Uncommon Goods, and most recently at Bustle, where I was their first creative director. While at UncommonGoods, I was bit by the entrepreneurial bug and launched my first company, Temperowe.com, which sold embroidered silk sleep masks.
Before being co-founders, Lindsey and I were friends! We’ve known each other for 12 years and were in each other’s weddings. The partnership with Lindsey was so seamless that I almost have a hard time remembering the specifics! As she started at Columbia, she started to toy with the idea of not only investing in companies, but also launching one herself. She was always someone I bounced ideas off of (in business and life) and we started talking about my frustrating experience buying towels off my wedding registry. We wondered if we should create the towel company I felt like I was looking for, but not finding. It’s one of those things that started snow-balling from there and soon became an idea we couldn’t ignore. We started interviewing friends and family (and really, anyone that would listen) about their own towels and realized a lot of people did not love their towels or the towel buying experience.
Fast forward to today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be running this business together! We each possess unique yet complementary skill sets - I’m focused on creative, while she leans into areas like finance and operations. The balance allows us to work so well together, and we learn a lot from each other each and every day.
You both met years ago and became friends before cofounders - an amazing attribute to have as a co-founding team! What do you think are your competitive advantages being friends and what are the hard parts about working with a friend?
We are so fortunate in that the competitive advantages truly outweigh the challenges! We know each other really well, understand how the other communicates, and are able to have quick, productive conversations. The challenges come in that in can often be hard to “shut down” when we’re together - we’ve found ourselves at bachelorette parties and weddings working on Weezie!
You’ve really emphasized that your product is differentiated by its quality, experience, and customization. How are you messaging this? How are people finding out about your brand?
Weezie seeks to modernize luxury by making it more approachable, friendly and easy. We believe life is meant to be enjoyed and want everyone to appreciate the simple moments in life—like wrapping up in a fresh, plush towel. We’ve adopted #enjoythestay as our brand hashtag to emphasize this very point. We message this to our customers at all touchpoints with the brand, be it through our physical product, social media, email, or directly through our Customer Experience team.
Our customers have been our biggest advocates - and we are so appreciative! When she finds something she loves, she is quick to tell her friends and family, or even better yet gift the product directly.
You both did a great job of doing tons of research and focus groups and sourcing towels that were absorbent, soft, etc. What were the top two issues people complained about when asked about their towels?
We spent over a year surveying, interviewing and focus grouping hundreds of potential customers before we launched Weezie and the message was loud and clear: people hated their towels! We quickly found that people cared most about softness, absorbency, and aesthetics, in that order. More often than not, a soft, fluffy towel came at the expense of absorbency, or vice versa - an absorbent towel was way too heavy! There really wasn’t that “one perfect towel” on the market, and people were struggling to find a towel that checked all three boxes.
We also heard a ton of complaints about makeup stains – and so our famous makeup towels were born! We love nothing more than creating a solution and having fun with it in the process, which is why we added the eyelash embroidery, “stain me,” and hearts.
Where are your operations housed? How do you juggle being a team that’s in two locations?
Our warehouse and Operations team are located in Savannah, Georgia, with Liz, while Lindsey and other members of our Corporate team are located in New York. Between Slack, email, and video conference, we’re in near constant communication with one another. Our teams are highly engaged and connected, whether a few desks or states away. We’re also frequently traveling between the two locations -- and we love a good team happy hour to celebrate being together when we are!
How big is your team today?
Our team has almost doubled over the past few months and continues to grow! In addition to us, we have 8 team members tackling Operations, Customer Service, Creative, and Product Development. We’re excited about continuing to grow our team in 2020 (PS - we’re hiring - check out our careers page here!)
What are your 1 and 3 year goals for the business?
Our big picture goals for Weezie are truly the same every year - continue to delight our customers with the highest quality, luxury products and service that help them #enjoythestay on the daily. We want everyday to feel like a special occasion for our customers and hope that we continue to reach more and more people each year! We have some really exciting new products in our roadmap and some really big dreams that we hope to make a reality!
Do you ever think you’ll do brick and mortar? Why or why not?
It’s definitely something we’re closely evaluating. We love the idea of bringing #enjoythestay to life, and feel there are so many unique opportunities to engage with our customers face to face. Stay tuned...
What do you have in the pipeline for new product development/styles/designs?
We have so many fun things in the works! In July, we launched our newest product category: Women’s Robes. The robes feature our same soft, fluffy pile and feature beautiful detailing inside and out, like our signature piping, hanging hook and optional embroidery.
We are also focusing on expanding our towel selections by introducing a new stitched edge and new color options over the next several months. We feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface. 2020 is going to be a big year for Weezie, and we’re so excited!
You recently described how the customers influenced your product development (e.g., you launched pink piping because so many customers asked for it). What other examples of customer input have guided your product development post-launch?
So much of our product development post-launch has been based on customer feedback. For example, our customers’ input led us to a shorter terry on our beach towel to lend the same fluffy towel feel, without being too heavy. It’s a balance between giving customers what they’re asking for and introducing new things we dream up on our own that we know our customers will love – like the short robe. We can’t give away all of our secrets, but we’re working hard to deliver on some of our most frequently requested products next year...
Weezie seeks to modernize luxury by making it more approachable, friendly and easy. We believe life is meant to be enjoyed and want everyone to appreciate the simple moments in life. We’ve adopted #enjoythestay as our brand hashtag to emphasize this very point.
How do you both spend a typical Friday night?
After a long week of work, you can find us both unwinding with a cocktail in hand (martini for Lindsey, paloma or margarita for Liz!) We both enjoy spending time with our friends and families and relaxing a bit! It’s so important to keep that balance, especially in these early stages!
What has been the biggest surprise since launching a business? Were there any initial blocks that you encountered that were particularly challenging but that, in hindsight, were actually great teaching moments?
Lindsey: I am an obsessive planner and unfortunately, that is just not feasible in startup life where every day is a surprise! I have (kind of) learned to take each day as it comes and embrace the unknown. On the business side, one of the bigger challenges we have faced is setting up our supply chain. Custom embroidery is a meticulous craft and we learned early on why so few players are able to do it at scale. We tried to outsource this at first, and it was a major disaster! In hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise and major teaching moment for us - when you promise luxury to your customers, quality control is key and I am so glad we now do this all in house.
Liz: The biggest challenge has been starting a company at the exact same time I had my first child. I am still learning how to juggle it all! On the flip side, it’s really helped me keep everything in perspective at work and be insanely efficient with my time. I think the biggest reward will (hopefully) be building something my daughter can be proud of and learn from!
Last meal on earth, what would you eat?
Liz: The Bee Sting Pizza from Robertas in Brooklyn!
Lindsey: Rubirosa pizza in NYC!
What is a great book you recently read and would recommend?
Liz: Work book: The Freedom to Focus – it’s amazing for anyone completely autonomous over their schedule. Leisure read: Just finished Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming. I would definitely recommend. Her life and experience as first lady is fascinating!
Lindsey: I devoured Shoe Dog -- such an incredible story of the hard work and determination it took to build one of the world’s most recognizable brands.
How do you style your Mi Golondrina pieces?
Liz: I LIVE in my Mi Golondrina midi dress. I love throwing on a patterned belt to give it a funky contrast along with big earrings, and wrap up sandals.
Lindsey: I love how versatile everything is! Either with flats and simple jewelry for a weeknight or wedges and statement jewelry for a weekend night out.
What style of Weezie towel is in your home bathroom right now?
Liz: I have navy piping with no monogram in my bathroom, pink piping with Perry embroidery in my daughter’s, and light blue in our powder bath! I also now have a bathrobe hanging in each bath -- wrapping up in our new bathrobes post bath is the definition of luxe.
Lindsey: When we first launched the business, I went with white piping with no monogram for a clean look, which I’ll soon be replacing with our newest stitched edge style, which launched in September! I also have light blue piping in our guest bath with the word “guest” embroidered in River, and of course I have stocked both bathrooms full of makeup towels!