Our Start-up of the Week is Rise & Fall, a London-based online store for ethically and sustainably produced sheets.
“We’re about creating bedding and homewares products that perform incredibly, look fantastic, are ethically sourced and don’t cost a fortune,” explained Jed Coleman, co-founder of Rise & Fall.
Rise & Fall is the brainchild of two New Zealand-born, UK-based entrepreneurs, Coleman and Will Coulton.
The founders invested a lot of time to personally visit and audit different manufacturers around the world, and selected a partner to work with in southern India that runs entirely on wind energy, recycles 99pc of its water, and offers free education and upskilling to its predominantly female workforce.
Rise & Fall replaces the plastic packaging that others use with recycled and reusable materials. £3 from each sale goes directly to Centrepoint, the youth homeless charity that helps thousands of people every year who are sleeping rough.
“Our initial products are sheets, part of the home linens market, which is worth $1bn in the UK, $10bn in Europe and $12.5bn in the US.
“The broader homewares market is larger again,” Coleman said.
“I started my career as an international disputes lawyer, putting in the long hours in New York City and London,” Coleman explained. “That was sucking my will to live so I co-founded a successful London restaurant and coffee business, Caravan Restaurants and Caravan Coffee Roasters.
“I am also co-founder of another start-up – Curve.life – that is building a self-help education product for cancer patients and their families.
“My co-founder Will Coulton’s story is not dissimilar – he trained as a lawyer and worked in management consulting in the city before seeing the light and diving into entrepreneurship. Rise & Fall is his first venture.”
The founders have invested thousands of hours of R&D into developing the most comfortable bedsheets possible.
“Once you cut through the marketing nonsense, you realise that there are only a handful of factors that determine whether a sheet is going to perform well (ie give you the best night’s sleep).
“One of those factors is cotton quality. In general terms, cotton is graded on the length its fibres (called ‘staple’), with there being three broad groupings: short staple, long staple and extra-long staple. The longer the staple the better, as it means fewer ties in the yarn and therefore a smoother and softer feel.
“Most others use short or long staple but our sheets are made entirely from extra-long staple. The other factors are more technical and we don’t want to bore your readers.
“The ultimate goal is to offer a broad array of extremely high-quality homeware products, all sourced ethically and sold at reasonable prices.”
Putting start-up jitters to bed
Coleman said that things are going well for Rise & Fall. “We launched in June 2018 with a basic website and then spent the next four months testing. We then relaunched with a better website and proper photography in November 2018.
“The product has been very well received – all of our reviews are 5-star and we were rated the best sheets in the UK by IndyBest. We are now fundraising.”
Rise and shine
Coleman said that there were many challenges along the way. “Where to begin? Neither of us are from marketing backgrounds and so it has been a steep learning curve.
“In our – albeit limited – experience, far too many marketers are siloed in one or a few particular areas, making it difficult to get first-rate advice on the broader picture. The problem is often compounded for small companies with limited budgets as they can’t spend enough to get the data they need to make better decisions, leading to a chicken-and-egg-type situation.”
Coleman’s advice for other start-up founders is aimed at putting the critics and other adversaries to bed.
Quoting Latin, he said: “Illegitimi non carborundum [‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’].”
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