Today we’d like to introduce you to Danny Meurer.
Danny, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m originally from North Hollywood, and my mom moved down to Laguna Beach when I was in college. I got a job at the Montage Laguna Beach as a cabana boy for a summer when I was 19, and I worked with towels all day. It’s a product that I’d never given a second thought to, but rolling them out and picking them up all day I started to notice differences between them in softness, thickness, and design. It wasn’t something I gave much thought to at the time, but that experience ended up being influential in starting my business eight years later.
After college, I worked for a few years as a strategy consultant first in Washington, DC and then moved with the same company to Southeast Asia for two years to help open its new Asia office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My job entailed helping US companies develop new products and services and enter new markets.
In 2014, I tried to buy my sister a beach towel for Christmas and couldn’t find anything that would’ve made a good gift. The options were either Disney Princess towels for $10 or a $70 towel at a luxury retailer that wasn’t actually that plush or well-designed. At the same time, I had decided to get an MBA and had quit my job to backpack through Asia for four months before school started. I had read stories about new direct-to-consumer start-ups like Warby Parker and others and thought I’d take a chance to see if I could create a better beach towel than what was out there.
I spoke to more than 20 manufacturers and chose one to create a unique take on the classic cabana design that had one “party stripe.” We ordered 600 towels initially and sold out of them in less than three weeks without doing any marketing. Since then, we’ve expanded into a bunch of new textile products and have grown distribution to include Bloomingdales nationwide, in addition to Zola, Wayfair, and Houzz. We’ve sold more than 50,000 units to-date, but it isn’t a full-time job for me yet.
After business school, I got a traditional job so I could use some of my income from my primary job to help grow the business and, at the same time, hired some great people to help me manage and grow the business while I work on it during nights and weekends after work.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been high highs and low lows with the business. The first challenge has been the difficulty of launching new products and managing the right amount of inventory for those products.
It’s hard to predict how many people will buy a new product and manufacturers have high minimums, so you often need to buy 1,000+ units to place an order. This combination has led to some big mistakes on our end where we’ve made a bet on the wrong product and have been stuck with some inventory we’ve had to sell below our cost.
Beyond that, the time involved in running the business has been a challenge, especially having another job. Arranging shipments from abroad, doing periodic accounting, paying vendors, managing inventory, all take a ton of time, and it can mean canceled plans on weekends when work for the textile business has to get done.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Laguna Beach Textile Company – what should we know?
We’re direct to consumer, digitally native textile brand. We’re most well-known for our cabana beach towels, but we also make bath towels, picnic blankets, Mexican blankets, microfiber towels and our most recent addition, yoga mat towels made of recycled Kodak film and a PurThread technology that is naturally antibacterial and minimizes odors. Our goal is to bring classic California beach style and premium, resort-style quality to every home and beach.
We’re differentiated from other companies in the same space in that rather than investing in marketing via social media, our strategy is to win customers through word-of-mouth by offering a luxury product at a much lower price than they’ll pay at a luxury retailer and passing on the savings of what we would have spent on paid marketing, to our customers. That means thicker and softer towels, higher quality thread, better designs, and lower prices.
So far the strategy has worked, and that’s one of the things I’m most proud of as a company. It feels great to create products that people like, and that become a part of their lives, if even in a small way. Customers have loved our products, and we repeatedly hear from them that they plan to buy more products from us. We began to be carried by Bloomingdales through word-of-mouth – one of the buyers had seen our towel and reached out to us to carry it.
The other thing I’m proud of is that as a business, we’ve taken steps to have a positive impact on the environment and community. We donate annually to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a local Laguna Beach rehabilitation center for seals and sea lions and donate to the Rainforest Trust, a 4-star rated charity which purchases and protects rainforest land, a leading cause of climate change and therefore, ocean acidification.
For every 20 customer orders, we donate to protect one acre of rainforest. We’re also in the final stages of rolling out a unique textile recycling program.
How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc.?
It’s trite, but I feel successful if I’ve given something my best effort and if I’m continuously improving over time. With this business, outward success can also be measured in growth, profitability and customer satisfaction. Even when I fail in something, if I’ve put forth my best effort, and I fail, I’m still satisfied.
Maybe it wasn’t the right thing to choose to do, maybe I didn’t have the natural ability to pull it off, but I’m content with failure, and I will have learned something from it. For example, if we launch a new product and I feel like I did everything I could, and it just didn’t catch on, I might’ve made the wrong decision, but mistakes happen, and I’ll be better for going through that failure.
Along the same lines as doing my best, I want to constantly improve over time, even if day-by-day that improvement is miniscule. Running a consumer product business, I can look at sales and customer reviews as an indicator of success, but the challenge is that often those are lagging indicators of how good of a job I did over the previous months or even years. It’s hard, but I try to continually evaluate how I’m doing to see the small signs of improvement even when it takes time to see outward results.
- Cabana Beach Towel: $39
- Picnic Blanket: $45
- Mexican Blanket: $35
- Round Beach Towel: $49
- Yoga Mat Towel: $39
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org