It seems like ages ago that people were swarming to the stores, buying up toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Who would have thought that TP would be what people stockpile during a Pandemic? And what were we supposed to do if we ran out?
While most of us were asking ourselves these questions, Marley’s Monsters, one of Eugene’s biggest local textile manufacturers, was flipping the narrative. This innovative company that locally manufactures and sells reusable alternatives to single-use products was zipping through the design thinking process to launch a solution to this worldwide shortage—the Toilet UNpaper® Roll.
The idea had already been hatched by the time COVID-19 hit, although there was a reason it hadn’t been executed. Inspired by one of their best-selling products, UnPaper Towels, this reusable, very personal care product was a bit controversial, albeit sustainable. Washable, reusable sheets of soft 100% cotton flannel in your choice of colors and designs, rolled around a tube to sustainably replace flushable TP.
Seriously, reusable toilet paper? This response is why business owner Sarah Dooley had not acted on the idea before then. But then COVID-19 hit and TP shortages drove the idea back into the spotlight. First, they tested the water, posting a video of a Portlander talking about using cloth for toilet paper. For the company’s eco-friendly market, it was actually received with support.
With newfound courage, 36 hours later they had designed, prototyped, tested, and perfected the product and it was launched. They did get some “Eew, gross” comments, but that did not stop them from selling 3600 rolls! The idea was wholeheartedly embraced. One-third of their orders were from wholesalers of their products.
This product, along with the manufacturing of cloth masks, resulted in an explosion of growth. Marley’s Monsters was able to accommodate an expansion from 40 to 70 employees in a week by spreading them across 3 locations- offering night and weekend shifts to keep their essential workers safely spaced.
Needless to say, it is inspiring to see a local Eugene manufacturing company “roll” with the punches and come out ahead.