Revival Rugs CEO explains how exponential brand growth and distributed supply chain preserves craft traditions and creators of heritage
After an initial decline in activity in 2020 due to scarcity of inventory amid challenges in the global supply chain, Wake-up mat has increased by 70% year over year (YOY) between then and now. The craft-focused housewares company launched new product categories from bathroom to furniture in 2021 and experienced 100% year-on-year growth between April 2020 and April 2021. CEO and Co-Founder Ben Hyman explains how the company has been able to grow at this rate, how they source their supplies and what the next step is for the brand.
What is your current funding situation and how has it impacted your growth to date?
We raised a small amount of money from friends and family when we launched Revival, but we haven’t raised any venture capital yet. This approach has put us on a path of capital efficiency. We have not had the opportunity to abuse funds or incur significant losses to obtain new clients. In the last quarter, for example, we only spent 10% of our gross sales on direct marketing, which is significantly lower than others in the industry who spend over 20%. As a bootstrap startup, we have also ensured that the growth is sustainable and that we are profitable.
How were you able to sustain this rapid succession of new category launches this year?
We have taken the opposite approach to that of most other DTC companies. The recent playbook has been to focus on a single product in a sleepy category (e.g. glasses, mattresses, sheets), find a factory to make it, raise a bunch of venture capital dollars and invest tons of money to build a top brilliant brand around this product.
We focused a little less on raising capital, spent less on marketing, and put more energy into product development and our supply chain. Our management team is made up of people from the markets where we operate, and we have product designers, offices and warehouses in Istanbul, Casablanca and Delhi. This allows us to gradually expand into complementary product categories with greater ease, and to discover talented manufacturers who are isolated from global markets. Although it has been difficult to set up, in the long run we believe it will allow us to develop heritage industries, including carpets, and reach more people with better products at better prices.
Why launch a swimwear collection now? How has the swim collection been received so far?
The beauty of Revival is that we are a globally distributed, multicultural and international team, which is integrated into the countries where we make things. In every country we operate in, we are exposed to great designers – the best of the best. So while we are building a brand from the rug, we don’t see ourselves as a rug brand.
Rugs are perhaps the most complex textile to make. They are intricate, woven works of art that can take months or even years to complete. Interestingly, the towels themselves were originally developed in Turkey by carpet weavers, who applied their skillful weaving talent to beautify these functional textiles. Given our connection to Turkey and our understanding of textiles, this is a natural progression for us.
We have sold about half of our current inventory. It’s quite interesting to see what people are buying. The Aegean Bath collection allows people to mix and match colors between a classic off-white, a balanced French blue, and a soft pink and pink. We are delighted to see people mix and match, and to confirm our hunch that our client is not afraid of color: the sky color is our best seller!
What does the assessment process look like for new creators?
Knowing where to look starts with an industry assessment. Before we even look for specific manufacturers, we start with specific industries. We usually gravitate towards heritage craft sectors that are displaced (eg rugs, copper items) by cheaper reproductions, and where talented artisans are disappearing. Often limited opportunities lead to the collapse of heritage industries.
Once we have focused on the sector, our team members in the country are looking for local manufacturers. Many of these manufacturers have unique technical talent and skills, but may not have the English communication ability or marketing know-how to effectively list their products, sell in marketplaces like Etsy or 1stDibs, handle logistics, or insure. client service. This is where we come in.
To find designers, a multi-pronged approach allows us to cast a wide net. We visit local markets, research local online sites, work with local governments, operate our own (now extensive) local networks, and attend national trade shows. The best allegory is the music or sports industry, where a record company or talent scout tries to find a talented artist or athlete. Sometimes you find them in remote and unlikely places.
How important are sustainability certifications to your manufacturer validation process?
We first review international certifications (e.g. Fairtrade, GOTS and / or Goodweave certifications) to ensure that facilities meet international standards and that workers are treated and paid fairly.
However, for small family businesses or cooperatives, they may not be able to afford certification from an international organization. In these cases, we take the time to meet with the owners and managers of their facilities to understand their salary structure and hours of work, as well as their core values. What is their origin story? Are their products made in a sustainable way that can be quantified (e.g. energy used, resources saved)? Is there a profession involved in the production of this product, and is this profession generational? These are just a few of the questions on our checklist, which we look at as a team when deciding to work with a manufacturer.
Once the initial questions are answered, we test each product through a thorough sampling process. When we get to a point where we feel good, our team then goes regularly during production to evaluate the process and perform quality control. During COVID, we perform regular video audits using Facetime and Whatsapp.
What does the scale of the relationship look like for the craftsman?
At this point, we have developed smaller suppliers, becoming their exclusive buyer and working with them to grow their businesses. With our Hart rug, for example, we started making it with a talented little weaver and his four team members about three years ago. We met him at a local trade fair and were blown away by his weaving skills. It did not have the scale of other larger operations in India, but the attention to detail and technical capacity was outsized. We took our chances and gave him the support he needed. At this point, he employs nearly 100 weavers to make Hart. Gradually developing the small businesses we work with and seeing our partners thrive is one of the joys of Revival.
What does this mean for customers?
For our customers, this means that we will be releasing many beautifully designed rugs, but also home decorations and furniture to complement these rugs. This means that these products will be ethically made with durable materials and will not exceed your credit card. For our artisan partners, this means access to a whole new market and the ability to grow with us and chart a new course.