Incontinence issues are never fun, and traditional incontinence undergarments often prioritize utility over style and comfortability, but Willow is a new startup that changes that by prioritizing style, comfort, value, and accessibility. The company produces extremely thin but super absorbent, odor-protected underwear, and everything is disposable. The brand is committed to privacy and delivers shipments directly to a customer’s doorsteps, so there is no need for an embarrassing trip to the drug store. Customers get their first box for free and are able to choose how often they want to receive shipments.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO Will Herlands about using technology to create an important and accessible product for an underserved market.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Willow has raised a Seed round of $2.5M from investors led by FirstMark Capital, Two River, and Wildcat Capital Management.
Tell us about the product or service that Willow offers.
Willow provides stylish affordable incontinence underwear that offers comfort, confidence, and leak-free protection, delivered discreetly to your door at a fraction of the price.
What inspired you to start Willow?
In 2017, the Hubble team and I saw that the incontinence market was an obvious place where massive improvements could be made both to the existing products and the uncomfortable shopping experience. We were inspired to apply the successful Hubble business model to a product geared towards the oft-overlooked Baby Boomer and Gen X groups.
Are those most likely to need Willow technologically savvy and comfortable enough to use your online offering?
We believe the stereotype of technologically challenged older generations is woefully outdated. 70% of Americans over the age of 50 own a smartphone while 90% own a laptop or desktop. Baby boomers spend more online than millennials, while Gen X is the most active online shoppers.
How is Willow different?
Current options on the market are either expensive or bulky and generally lacking in style. Additionally, most of these products are purchased in stores. Willow underwear is extremely thin while continuing to provide maximum absorbance and superior odor protection. It’s very “breathable” and wicks liquid away from skin, just like sportswear.
What market does Willow target and how big is it?
The US incontinence market is $4B.
What’s your business model?
Willow provides underwear as a direct-to-consumer subscription service. Customers can sign up to try their first free box for just the cost of shipping and choose how often they want underwear shipments based on their lifestyle needs.
What was the funding process like?
We worked with the Hubble investors from the start of the company. They have been fantastic partners and we were fortunate to be able to raise directly from them.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Since our demographic has not been traditionally targeted by direct-to-consumer brands we worked a lot to ensure that we had well-proven models for how the business model would apply to this new demographic.
The quality of our product and the specificity of our execution strategy.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re focused on learning from our customers and want to make sure we are delivering the best product experience on our initial offering. As part of this process, we are exploring additional market opportunities to serve our customers.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Focus on your customers. They know the products better even than you do.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’re working to continue providing a beautiful customer experience and raise the bar for incontinence care.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?