Softline to Manufacture Medical Masks for Coronavirus (COVID-19) with Love Your Melon Partnership

Love Your Melon Finds Way to Protect Young Cancer Patients From Covid-19

The Minneapolis beanie brand will donate 50,000 masks to children’s hospitals and clinics over the next two weeks.

MARCH 28, 2020ALLISON KAPLAN

While 3M doubles production on N95 surgical masks and manufacturers of everything from computer gear to wood veneers jump into production on the face shields needed by health care providers, Love Your Melon is focusing on the customers at the heart of its mission: children battling cancer. 

The Minneapolis-based knitwear brand, which rose to popularity on its mission of donating beanies to pediatric cancer patients, is making cotton fabric face masks designed to serve as an additional line of defense against Covid-19 for young patients and their parents. The company pledged 50,000 masks over the next two weeks. They will be donated to children’s hospitals, care facilities, and nonprofits around the country that support children with cancer, who are at high risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

Love Your Melon Finds Way to Protect Young Cancer Patients From Covid-19

“As PPG (personal protective gear) is scarce for health care workers, it’s nearly inaccessible for patients. It’s important for us to provide these, not only because of our mission to help children battling cancer but also because we have the capability based on manufacturing products at volume in the U.S.,” LYM co-founder and president Zachary Quinn said. “Our manufacturers are proud to support these efforts and are doing them at cost while employing people who would otherwise be unemployed right now.” 

LYM’s manufacturing partners include Minnesota Knitting Mille, Softline Brand Partners, Maine Heritage Weavers, 212 New York, and several others. 

Over the past two weeks as coronavirus cases have mounted in the U.S., Quinn said the LYM team has been trying to find a way to help. Its current capabilities don’t meet medical-grade requirements. But M Health Fairview suggested patient masks.

“The cotton face masks we’re making are the best we can provide at this time,” Quinn said. Made with tightly woven cotton, the masks are machine washable and reusable. “They’re added protection from droplets and provide comfort and security to kids and families.”

LYM will continue to monitor hospital needs, Quinn said. The company is thinking about ways it could transition into production of items for frontline health care providers.

Along with face masks, LYM is shipping care packages filled with coloring books, LEGOs, and super hero costumes to kids stuck in the hospital at a time when activity centers and playrooms are closed and visitors are limited due to Covid-19. A newly created page on the LYM website features educational programs, apps and resources to keep kids engaged. 

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Softline Acquires J.W. Hulme’s St. Paul Manufacturing Operations

St. PAUL (October 10, 2018) — J.W. Hulme Company announced today that Softline Brand Partners will acquire its St. Paul manufacturing operations. Softline will consolidate the 113-year-old leather-goods company’s manufacturing operations with Softline’s operations in Minneapolis.

As a result of the transaction, J.W. Hulme will transition from in-house manufacturing to sourcing from a variety of high-quality manufacturers, including Softline. Softline plans to acquire equipment and interview all manufacturing operations employees from J.W. Hulme.

Founded in St. Paul in 1905, J.W. Hulme has a rich history of design, craftsmanship and customer service. “This move will ensure that we will be able to continue to deliver on our brand promise of making heirloom-quality leather and canvas goods going forward,” said J.W. Hulme CEO Claire Powell.

Softline’s customers include some of the country’s most recognizable brands, including Room & Board, Love Your Melon, Allen Edmonds, and Red Wing Shoes. The company, headquartered in Minneapolis, has plants in the USA and overseas.

“All of us at Softline Brand Partners have been fans of J.W. Hulme’s products, commitment to quality and long-standing reputation for decades,” said Kellen Groves, COO of Softline Brand Partners. “We are excited to expand our business and team with the talented artisans from J.W. Hulme.”

“We are thrilled to have a partner in Softline that continues to grow its manufacturing operations in the Twin Cities,” said Powell. “J.W. Hulme will maintain the consistency and high quality of its products, ensuring that we continue to meet the standards that our discerning customers have come to expect.”

ABOUT J.W. HULME COMPANY

J.W. Hulme Co., with its rich history, is known for its distinctive design, classic styles and superior craftsmanship of top-quality leather goods and other men’s and women’s accessories since 1905. For more information, visit www.jwhulme.com.

ABOUT SOFTLINE BRAND PARTNERS

Softline Brand Partners is a manufacturing and supply chain company offering full service manufacturing solutions. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Softline’s team is comprised of designers, sourcing specialists, project managers, and production team members. Softline works with the most recognizable brands from startups to Fortune 500s and has manufacturers in the United States and overseas. Learn more about Softline here.

Leesa Sleep Raises $23 Million in Funding (via CNBC)

Softline is proud to manufacture for Leesa Sleep because they are a consistent innovator and give back to the communities in which they operate. We have worked closely with Leesa for several years on various projects and are excited to see they are expanding their operation.

(Story By Lora Kolodny via CNBC)

Health and safety regulations across the U.S. require families to provide clean beds for each of their kids. If they can’t afford the beds, they risk losing kids to foster care.

A “bed-in-a-box” startup called Leesa Sleep wants to stop that from ever happening.

As a registered B-Corp., Leesa donates one mattress for every ten it sells to a family or individual in need, and plants a tree for every mattress it sells.

The startup’s social minded approach to the mattress and bedding industry has attracted a new $23 million venture investment from big names in the world of social ventures, including Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle, and TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie. Replogle will also serve as chairman of the board at Leesa.

“The U.S. mattress industry is over $14 billion per annum with room for several winners,” Replogle told CNBC. “To grow in the next stage, the company will have to use sleep science and design to drive for better sleep. That’s table stakes. But it helps that their core mission and brand resonates with consumers who shop beyond price.”

According to Leesa co-founder and CEO David Wolfe, the startup plans to use its new funding for hiring, and to develop new sleep products including mattresses, pillows and proprietary materials that go into them.

While many “direct-to-consumer” brands sell their wares strictly via their own websites and showrooms, Leesa sells through its own site, a couple of “experimental” stores, and via Amazon.com as well as the wedding registry site Zola. Leesa is considering relationships with brick-and-mortar retailers as well.

Wolfe told CNBC that his company has focused on profitability per transaction, rather than profitability over the “lifetime” of a customer relationship. Prior to raising the new round of venture funding, Leesa was profitable.

The startup, which is based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and manufactures its beds in the U.S., employs about 70 full-time today, and expects to hit $150 million in sales this year, its third full year in business. It generated $80 million in revenue last year.

Wolfe said that employees love working for Leesa in part because of its health benefits. Predictably, every new hire gets a new mattress from the company, and hopefully that helps them sleep better and perform better at work, Wolfe said. But Leesa also has a gym and personal trainers on-site daily to help employees get fit, which should also help them sleep better.

How Love Your Melon Scaled To $40 Million Selling U.S.-Manufactured Clothes

Softline loves seeing our partners in the news! Congratulations to Zach, Brian, and the whole Love Your Melon crew on their success. We enjoy being a Love Your Melon manufacturer and are excited to continue supporting their mission however we can.

(By Elizabeth Macbride via Forbes)

Soon after Brian Keller and Zachary Quinn founded their $20 million company, Love Your Melon, Quinn had a conversation with his parents that helped create the company’s identity.

The duo already knew they wanted to create a company with a mission, supporting kids battling cancer. They knew they had a winning idea: Within hours of putting a post about what had been a business school project on their personal Facebook page, they had 400 likes, and they’d sold out of a batch of hats in two days. For every beanie they sold, they gave one to a child battling cancer. Then, they were looking to scale.

“We were looking for the manufacturing, I found samples made out of China,” Quinn says. At a family dinner, he remembered: “My parents were like, ‘You can’t make that outside the country!’”

Raised to be an activist child of two small business owners, Quinn changed direction.

Minnesota-based Love Your Melon, which now in addition to beanies makes scarves, mittens, caps and T-shirts, among other things — is about delivering a product, and about creating a community. In Facebook and other social media, Love Your Melon found the perfect advertising vehicle. Its typical return on a Facebook ad is seven – for every $100 it spends, it sees $700 in orders.

“We consider ourselves as having grown with social media,” Quinn says. He added, “As more people were getting on the platform, our ability to advertise grew.”

Love Your Melon started sourcing its manufacturing in Portland, eventually built capacity in Minnesota and now works with about 40 different suppliers, including Minneapolis-based Softline Brand Partners and Minnesota Knitting Mills in St. Paul. Community became a key part of the company’s identity and its branding, much of which it does on Facebook and other social media.

Of course, companies with the best branding have always created communities – but listening to Quinn talk about Love Your Melon’s identity and its use of Facebook made me realize how much easier and faster doing so is with social media. Love Your Melon – a consumer product company – was able to scale nationally in less than five years.

Founded in 2012, the company expects to more than double its revenue this year to $45 million, and to expand from 18 to 24 employees. It spends $3-5 million a year on Facebook; it also is able, through social media, to tap a network of 14,000 ambassadors — who are compensated with Love Your Melon gear and event opportunities — on college campuses. As volunteers, they deliver hats to kids battling cancer and who are obviously great customers too.

Facebook remains the heart of the social media strategy. During October through March, it spends $20,000 a day on Facebook, and it’s not unusual to spend a few thousand dollars boosting a post. As Facebook as grown as a channel for news, Quinn said, it’s become more difficult for product marketers to be seen: It is a pay to play platform. “We have something like 650,000 followers,” Quinn said. “If we don’t boost a post, we’ll get no more than 1,000 views.”

It has had success on Lookalike Audiences, which Facebook introduced last year: If they have a source audience, businesses can upload a list of emails, which Facebook uses to target different, but similar users. Love Your Melon’s sweet spots are college age females, 18-24, and mothers 35-55.

Its most successful posts have been those that celebrated the company’s milestones, like the day it finished delivering hats to every child battling cancer. After that, it switched to a model of donating 50% of net profits to organizations including CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Be The Match, Make-A-Wish America, Ronald McDonald House Charities.Love Your Melon’s community apparently appreciate’s irony. Its most successful Facebook post ever was when it bought its first billboard. “Which is really odd,” Quinn said. “What was a standard ad on the side of the highway, was most effective on social media.”

Here are six tips for scaling a company using Facebook:

Pay attention to ROI: In order to produce the highest ROI we use different strategies across different types of ads. When prospecting, we use canvas and video ads in order to educate and engage the user.  Then we are able to create audiences based on anyone engaging with the Canvas or video to retarget them in the future with types of ads that convert at a higher rate,” said Brian Keller, Love Your Melon’s co-founder. He added that dynamic product ads have had a return on ad spend of 8.2 times over the last 6 months. “We also serve website link, carousel, and collection ads to our retargeting audiences because they convert the highest once a user has been introduced to our brand and knows the story. These types of ads being served to our retargeting audiences have seen a return on ad spend of 8X and during the holiday season, up to 11X.”

Be authentic: regardless of how many advertising dollars you have to spend, the aim isn’t to sell a product, it’s to establish a relationship with your community. The irony is that when you shift your focus away from selling, you will sell more. “Everything we post needs to be happening then, needs to be relevant to our community,” Quinn says. Its biggest advertising hits are milestone posts – for instance, when the company successfully gave a beanie to every kid battling cancer.

Keep it simple: The company rarely tinkers too much. “If we’re setting an audience for a boosted post, it’s people who like our page or who are their friends,” Quinn says. Similarly, it rarely tinkers with the audience information it gives Facebook for Lookalike Audiences.

Create good content: “Quality eats everything else, especially in this day and age,” Quinn says. “They see so much, and their attention spans are so short.” If you don’t invest in quality, you might as well flush your money down the tube. “We do five photoshoots a week all around the country, which turns into content for social media and advertising.” A third of the employees work on the manufacturing; a third work on operations, and a third work in marketing – which is mostly the content creation.

Experiment and shift, constantly: Consumer tastes change. For a time, Quinn says, click-bait articles were the most effective strategy, though he added that Love Your Melon didn’t use them. High-quality photographs have been powerful for a while; now, Love Your Melon is shifting resources to video. “We’ve found the most effective is six-second videos,” Quinn said. But the secret isn’t any specific medium; it’s being in tune to your customers’ tastes. So the content Love Your Melon creates might be about an event at a local restaurant, or a post about one of its college ambassadors on a trip.

Do it yourself: Quinn advises against hiring a marketing agency. In the rapidly changing world of social media, “nobody knowns what they’re doing,” he said. It takes more time to coordinate an outside agency than it’s worth; his inside team which is immersed in the company’s culture can do the same work by experimenting.

And maybe, listen to your parents:  “Mine are the most supportive any entrepreneur could want,” Quinn said. This year, in part because his parents had always talked about the Aspen Ideas Festival, Love Your Melon was a sponsor. Quinn spoke on a panel about U.S. manufacturing. His parents, who are restaurateurs in St. Paul, are joining him in Aspen for the second half of the week. “My parents go to work every day still, and they are almost 70,” Quinn said. “You will find them in Café Latte and Bread and Chocolate. My dad will be bussing tables and my mother will be tweaking recipes.”