Admittedly, "S&Three" isn't as good as "The Pun Turns One," but it's the best I got right now.
By Colin McIntosh, Founder & CEO & Ampersand Aficionado
Oh, 2020. What a peaceful year. In such boring times, it's nice to have a celebration to bring some excitement into all of our lives. Tonight, I'll be raising a glass virtually via Zoom with the S&G team, because... today marks 3 years since the day I founded S&G!
(You can stop reading here if you want. The rest is just the nostalgic ramblings of someone watching their metaphorical child grow up too fast.)
On this day three years ago, October 19, 2017, I was sitting in my lawyer's living room wearing an S&G embroidered bathrobe saying something along the lines of, "No, Mark, I don't think it's a waste of money to incorporate a pun."
How it started:
The Infamous Robe
A week later, I would have lunch with my good friend Paul, who reacted to the news that I was starting S&G with, "What the f– are you talking about?!"
Fun fact: both Mark and Paul would invest :) and I love them for being two of the first ever believers in my vision for a funny, sustainable, premium bedding brand – my "pun-based bedding empire," as I would call it early on. (And still do.)
I miss those days. I miss the blank page. The product roadmapping, the packaging design, the brand identity maps, the manufacturing meetings, the insane photoshoots I talked my friends into, the hijinks, the chaos, the free reign I had to do whatever I wanted as the founder and sole employee.
October 2018. My friend Bobby and I are totally exhausted from shipping preorders all day. We put this picture in our first 4,000 boxes!
And the copy. God how I miss writing all the copy. (I don't write as much anymore because tbh Chris is a lyrical genius.)
S&G gave me a blank check of creativity to do whatever popped into my head at a moment's notice. It let me take my raw energy, my altruism, and my sense of humor, and filter it into distilled happiness in the form of a purple box with bedding inside.
I would tell people we were the "Seinfeld of bedding: a brand about nothing." For Seinfeld fans, you'll get why I wanted that to be our brand: it gave me a blank check to explore whatever I thought was interesting, whenever I wanted, without explanation or relevance to a broader story. The fact that our brand name was a pun based on an idiom that means "just for fun / for no reason" only added to the bit.
Nobody understood what I was working on. Nobody got it. People in my life supported me, absolutely, but they didn't get it, and that was totally ok with me. They didn't need to; S&G was my joke, and I was running with it :)
October 19, 2017. I remember laughing when I incorporated S&G. I thought it was funny that there was now a corporation that was called "Sheets & Giggles." Even if we went out of business the next day, that would forever be in Colorado's books. I even trademarked it (I genuinely hope it got a chuckle out of the USPTO when it came across someone's desk).
Add in a year's worth of 18-hour days, a couple thousand wonderful human beings who crowdfunded us to life, some early investors, and just enough luck. With all those ingredients, just one year later we would ship our very first box on October 1, 2018, to my good friend and college roommate Ben Noble in Columbus, Ohio. I signed his packing slip and shipped it myself (and thousands more to follow), and now here we are two years later with:
- Tens of thousands of happy customers
- Multiple awards under our belt
- $40k donated to COVID relief in Colorado
- $17k donated to koalas in the wake of the Australian wildfires
- Tens of thousands of trees planted (one per order)
- Countless liters of water and insecticides saved vs cotton
- Thousands of 5-star reviews both here and on Amazon
- Stellar, continuous press coverage of our mission and products
Real Simple loves us and we love them
So, tangential – I've got a three-year-old nephew named Roman. He's a great kid (and so is his little sister, Rory!). It's fun to watch him grow up along the same timeline as my company. He's my sister's first kid, and S&G is my first company. He's much more difficult to manage than a burgeoning bedding brand, but I do see some similarities when I watch my sister and her husband raise their kids.
And, yes, I have a small hand in raising said child.
At age 0-1, you're just hanging on for dear life. Everything is new, challenging, bizarre, fun, overwhelming, charming, exciting, worrying, but rewarding. You're sort of just faking it as best you can and hope nobody notices how buried you are (or maybe you hope they do notice, and offer to help). You have some nice moments, and you're reminded often of why you chose to do this thing in the first place.
From 1-2, you start to see things take shape. A personality develops, and it takes on a life of its own. Things are less hectic, but still just as much care and attention are needed to nurture everything along. Every time you hear a noise, you freak out. People pay you compliments, but mostly you just can't believe that this thing exists, that it came from you, it kind of reminds you of yourself, and that people seem to like it. You feel heavy imposter syndrome, pretty much all the time.
From 2-3, the growth is insane. You just sit back and marvel while your infant becomes a toddler in what seems like no time at all. People are talking; you did a great job! You're still worried you're going to screw it up, but things are trending in the right direction and you're starting to feel like you've got the hang of this. Also, because you've hired more people at your company, much like raising a 3-year-old, you're now hearing the word "no" a LOT more often :)
The people at S&G. I love these clowns. Life is too short to work with assholes, and I'm happy to say I don't work with any. Carl busts me up on our Instagram every day; Emily and Melissa get to deal with you fine folks over in customer care (we share funny emails internally, so please be funny when you email us); Sarah is constantly coming up with a new brilliant marketing strategy; Chris could straight up write for SNL (when it was good); Jake is the new guy who doesn't understand what he's gotten himself into yet (and he's going to take our brand to fun new places); and Mike is my rock, holding me and the company together at the seams at times. There are so many other people who have been so important to S&G and what makes us tick: Angela, Nina, Aaron, Ben, Matt, Avinash, Will, Hayley, Natty, Julie, Nancy, Dana, Marly, Clair, Dave, Seth, Bryan, Vlad, Jeremy, Katie – a company is just a collection of people, and we've put together a pretty good circle around this weird little brand of ours.
How it's going
As I look back on 1,000+ days of S&G existing in this world, I can't tell you how thankful I am that we get to do what we do for a living.
We tell jokes, make awesome bed sheets (and comforters, shameless plug), and do a ton of good as a function of doing business.
We've made friends, enemies (we're coming for you, Brooklinen), and neutrals (what turns a man neutral?).
I've interacted with thousands of individual S&G customers and have learned so much about what makes people love our products and our brand, but also about our customers themselves. I've done resume reviews for hundreds of individual customers (weird right?), have personally answered customer phone calls at 2am vs letting them hit our answering machine (888-67-SHEET is our number), and still run our Twitter personally (because my team doesn't care if I goof around on there).
Most people wouldn't guess this for a company at this stage, but frequently, I'm also the guy replying to you in the comments from the S&G facebook or instagram account. That's right, I roasted the sheet out of you.
Anyway, thanks for reading. To everyone who has supported this idea, our brand, and our mission over the years, we so appreciate you. If you're an S&G customer, especially if you're a crowdfunder from way back in the ancient times of May 2018, I love you and appreciate you more than you'll ever know. We literally wouldn't exist without your support and enthusiasm.
I like to say that S&G is a bit that went way too far. With all the growth we've experienced, the past three years have been extremely challenging, humbling, exciting, exhilarating, and sometimes exasperating. But I'd do it again without a second's hesitation.
I'm beyond proud of how my baby is growing up, and hopefully we don't peak in high school.
Cheers to 3 Years!
Me n Harv