If inventing the perfect bath towel sounds like an unlikely line of work, Lindsey Johnson understands.
The Buckhead resident felt the same way several years ago when her Savannah friend Liz Eichholz proposed starting up a towel business today known as Weezie.
“I’ll be honest. I’m naturally a skeptic,” says Johnson. “I’m a pretty big pessimist and Liz is a pretty big optimist.”
But a little research and her business school training quickly had Johnson realizing that the towel market is a surprising pain to navigate, full of complicated jargon, unreliable brand names, hundreds of choices, and widely varying prices that often don’t equate with quality. “Every time I talked about it, there was no one who loved their towels,” she recalls. “It’s overwhelming and it really shouldn’t be.”
Three years ago, the pair started Weezie, an online towel-and-robe business. It’s doing well enough for a pop-up store that launched Oct. 13 in the Andrews Square shopping center at 56 East Andrews Drive in the West Village. Set to run through January, the shop could spawn a permanent location if the Weezie model of affordable-but-luxury towels sells the way they hope.
Johnson is a native of Tuxedo Park who now lives near Atlanta Memorial Park. When the towel talk began, she was in New York City attending Columbia Business School and working in investments in early-stage businesses. Meanwhile, Eichholz — a Texas native and UGA grad — was trying to buy some towels through her wedding registry and was quickly perplexed by the confusing market and long delays in custom embroidery. Eichholz reached out to Johnson to say that finding a good towel was a good business opportunity.
“She actually sort of derailed me from what I thought was going to be my career path doing venture capital,” says Johnson. She realized that Eichholz had identified a “consumer pain point” that, despite towels being in everyone’s home, no one had solved.
“There was no product that stood for super high luxury and quality at a price point that was attainable,” Johnson said.
She decided she was all in, with herself as CEO and Eichholz as creative director. But how does one go about inventing a better towel? It wasn’t easy and took two years of development. Johnson says step one was simply buying tons of towels and experimenting with them.
“I was actually getting out of a bath over and over” and timing various towels’ water absorption, said Johnson. Blind tests of towels to determine which were the softest was another experiment.
On a school break, Johnson traveled to Germany to a textile trade show with over 80,000 vendors, examining fabrics and seeking the right towel-maker. “To be honest, we were met with a lot of skepticism. We didn’t even have a company name at that point,” she said. But it worked out, and the pair were able to locate a factory in Japan capable of producing the mix of absorbency and softness they were seeking.
As for that company name, they chose “Weezie” in part as a nickname for Liz or Eloise, which are names in their families, and partly because it rhymes with “easy.” Johnson says they “wanted the name to speak to something that was approachable, friendly — your friend whose door is always open.”
The company launched in October 2018. It was ahead of the pandemic challenge as an online business organized remotely, with Eichholz in Savannah and Johnson back in Atlanta, and an operations center in Austell. Along the way, both co-founders had children while finding time to grow the business and still meet regularly in person.
The business is doing well enough for the foray into the pop-up space, dubbed the Weezie Gift Market. Besides a showroom for the company’s own towels and robes, it includes a variety of gift and design items from other brands, from table linens to board games. It’s also hosting such events as design consultants and floral arrangement lessons. With the pandemic in mind, the shop has a big backup inventory of towels and robes so customers can try out fresh and clean versions before buying products that will be shipped.
“We’ve really had the success we’ve had because of the way we’ve listened to customers,” says Johnson, and they’ll follow that same guidance in deciding whether Weezie will go brick-and-mortar for the long term.
For more information, see weezietowels.com.