If you lie awake in bed at night, you likely have a million thoughts running through your mind. You may think back on your nightly routine and begin to wonder if you completed a chore, you may read down your grocery list and add new items, or maybe you grab a pen and journal your next big idea.
For 2011 marketing alumna Sierra Wallizer, her big idea was closer than she thought.
Redesign the top bed sheet. A win-win situation for sheet wrestlers and avid bed makers.
“I was re-tucking the bed sheet that always comes untucked during the night and I wondered why this rectangular piece of material had never been rethought – why is this still a problem?” said Wallizer.
As a West Virginia native and a businesswoman in New York City, Wallizer was courageous in the pursuit of her plan.
Wallizer spent a weekend envisioning what this sheet would look like, constructed a top sheet that never comes untucked, failed and tried again. Once she was able to modify the sheet, she was curious who else would be interested. Her first step towards imagining this as a company was creating a Facebook survey where she received 100 total responses with more than 50 percent in agreeance – they would appreciate this sheet.
“It was that validation that made me feel confident in taking the next step,” Wallizer said.
That next step was creating a full-fledged prototype.
“My first design was just a ripped-up sheet pinned together with safety pins and stitches drawn on it with pencil to visualize where I would make a seam or a slit,” she said. “I had my seamstress down the street create a more formal prototype from pictures I had taken and instructions I had written of how I wanted it sewn and tucked.”
A week later, Wallizer had a prototype in hand that she could send to manufacturers. However, like any idea, there were those who did not believe in her product.
While some individuals may settle knowing they were able to create the sheet and stop there when it was time to take the idea further, Wallizer was not giving up.
“Idea to launch took a little over a year and the doors did not open easily,” she said. “It took me longer than I expected to find a manufacturer to make this sheet. I heard 10 nos before I ever heard yes. What I kept running into, besides cost and location of the manufacturer, was that they didn’t have the machinery to easily create my design.”
Where a standard top sheet is a simple rectangular piece of material, Wallizer’s design had seems and slits, and other elastic elements that no standard sheet had before.
“I think having both the knowledge from my marketing and advertising education at West Virginia University, and the nine-year experience of working in NYC, gave me two things: a little bit of a knowhow and a network of people to lean on,” Wallizer said.
The first yes was from a manufacturer in Portugal from an organic, sustainable company.
Wallizer could sleep easily knowing she was not harming the environment in producing the sheets there.
She was on the right track with a team that believed in her and her product.
When it came time to think of a company name for her modern sheet, she gave credit to her college marketing class.
“One thing that stuck out to me from a marketing class I had at WVU was the importance of a brand’s name,” she said. “What I remember is three key factors: keep it short, easy to spell and easy to pronounce.”
Kite Linens is just that and so much more.
“I stopped trying to write down names and, instead, thought about the connection I have with sheets,” Wallizer said. “The first memory that came to my mind was being a child in West Virginia at my grandmother’s house and running through the giant white bed sheets, which I imagined as kites, that were hanging out to dry on her clothesline.”
That’s the moment she realized she had her brand’s name.
“Kite was the word, but it also provided an emotional connection to nostalgia, love, family and happiness that I want to share with others through my brand,” she said. “Sheets are for everyone, so family and being for everyone is a memory and a feeling I want to evoke in people when they think of Kite Linens.”
Kite Linens launched with pre-orders at the end of September and received 60 orders in the first two weeks.
“Based on, again, education and knowledge of how this works, you are going to receive a spike in the beginning because you spent time prior to launching to build awareness, excitement and intrigue about what the product is,” she said. “Plus, I’ve never shared the design of how it stays tucked so that people stay curious and stick around to learn more about my business.”
Wallizer is now working diligently with the marketing and advertising efforts for Kite Linens, so that customers can understand the true value of the sheet.
“People can see that the sheet does not come untucked, but what also makes the sheet unique is that it will never create tension on your toes, there is a slit on the side that allows you to free your feet for that temperature control while you’re sleeping, it is extra-long in length so you can pull the sheet up close to you without untucking, and it also helps keep the fitted sheet in place,” she said. “I’m pivoting the messaging to make sure it’s clear and I am A/B testing what resonates with what audience, as well as running and testing social media ads.”
She is not stopping there.
Wallizer said her dream is to open a manufacturing plant in West Virginia to boost the economy of her home, create jobs and involve students from the University.
Now that she has launched her business, Wallizer can begin to dream of more sheet colors and patterns, as well as brand collaborations.
There are a lot of possibilities ahead, but she admits she would have never gotten here if she would not have taken that first step in creating her idea.
“I never saw myself as being an entrepreneur,” she said. “When I was eight years old, I visited New York City for the first time and I remember telling my mom I wanted to be that businesswoman with a briefcase in the City.
Anything in life is truly possible if you just take the first step. Don’t sit back and analyze for too long because you will not move forward. Take that first step, whatever that may be for you.”
Wallizer grew up in Ridgeley, West Virginia. Today, she currently lives with her husband in New York City where she works in software sales and manages her new company, Kite Linens.