The story starts with McIntosh watching a movie -- oddly enough, the Jonah Hill-Miles Teller-starring War Dogs-- and coming away with an idea for a bedding company.
"I got so frustrated with Miles Teller's character that he had to burn all those bedsheets out of the back of a pickup truck because he couldn't sell them to retirement communities that I paused the movie and wrote a business plan for a bedsheets company that night," he laughs. "I thought, 'What's a funny name for a bedsheets company?' then snapped my fingers and Sheets & Giggles was born."
After he was laid off from a wearable tech startup a few months later, he revisited the plan and officially started the business due to what he saw as a big opportunity in sheets. "It's a massive commodities market, it's highly fragmented, and there's no loyalty or brand differentiation," says McIntosh. "There weren't any good sustainable options, and everything's mostly physical retail, so you could really make some noise online."
After identifying lyocell as the most sustainable fabric for the job, McIntosh funded the first product launch with an Indiegogo campaign in May 2018.
Lyocell, made from eucalyptus fiber, is naturally soft, smooth, hypoallergenic, and zero-static. McIntosh pitches his company's sheets: "They're naturally softer than cotton. They have a lower coefficient of friction, so they're going to be smoother to the touch. They are more moisture-wicking. The cellular technology of the lyocell will wick away, evenly spread, and evaporate the moisture your body produces through sweat, so you'll never wake up in a pool of sweat like other sheets. They're really a dream for hot sleepers. More generally, they're temperature-regulating, so they're all-season sheets, so you don't really need to change them in the winter or the summer."
Sheets & Giggles also makes comforters with lyocell covers. The fill, previously half lyocell and half recycled polyester, is now biodegradable, says McIntosh. CiCLO "is an ingredient you put in the polyester during the fiber process that actually will let it biodegrade in about three and a half years in a landfill."
The company will eclipse $10 million in revenue in 2021, says McIntosh. Sheets & Giggles "reached eight figures in revenue in less than three years since shipping its first box," he says. "We shipped our first box October 1, 2018, and we actually hit a $1 million sales month in November 2020."
Where Sheets & Giggles manufactures
Sheets & Giggles contracts with four factories -- three in India and one in Bahrain -- to manufacture its products. "India's our core location," says McIntosh. "Our partners have been manufacturing for 60, 70 years now in India."
Each product can involve the work of as many as 40 employees at notably large facilities, he adds. "One of our factories has 80 acres of machinery. It's a massive factory. Our project is a small percentage of what they do, but it's an outsized percentage of their product."
While lyocell originated in the U.S., no company has ever mass-produced it here. "You have to take wood pulp, you have to turn it into a fiber through the lyocell process with a solvent into ultra-soft lyocell fabric," says McIntosh, "It would easily be in the millions or tens of millions of dollars to set up a lyocell production plant here in the States for the raw fiber. Then you've got to have your looms and your staff and everything else."
India, however, has the textile and cut-and-sew infrastructure and expertise that Sheets & Giggles needs: "Our fiber is much more delicate than a cotton, so you have a lot more breakage, you have a lot more fabric rejection, you have a lot more quality assurance catches."
To launch production, he continues, "I flew to India myself. I oversaw production for a couple weeks and it was really great to learn along with them what was working and what wasn't. Now, it's been a really great three years of learning, and the whole team is intact here and in India. We've really got great expertise in this now."
McIntosh says it was fortuitous to diversify into Bahrain before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We made that decision before COVD -- which was really smart -- to diversify our geographic supply chain risk," he explains.
The Bahraini plant started shipping Sheets & Giggles products in mid-2020, right around when one of the core Indian facilities shut down for three months.
In terms of supply chain, the eucalyptus is grown largely in India at farms with NGO oversight to ensure renewable forestry and fair labor practices, and a pair of 3PL operations in Utah and Kentucky fulfill orders.
No matter where Sheets & Giggles manufactures, McIntosh is quick to point out that 75 percent of the company's spending is in the U.S. "We're an American brand," he says. "I always get frustrated by people who don't understand that manufacturing is only one part of a company's cost structure."
Sheets & Giggles will release a sustainable mattress in April 2022, along with pillows and a zero-plastic mattress protector. "This is something we've been building towards for quite a while that I'm quite excited about," says McIntosh. "The mattress industry has been a bit of a letdown for me. The improvements in technologies that have made beds more comfortable, more cooling, soft on one side and firm on the other -- don't disturb your partner. There are so many really cool advancements over the past half-decade to decade in this industry, but the place that it's lagged behind has been sustainability."
Case in point: "There are so many oil-based synthetics being used in this industry, because it's cheap and it's quick and you can fold it up and put it in a box and ship it for $25 across the country."
In lieu of foam and oil-based synthetics, Sheets & Giggles will upend the status quo by using lyocell wrapped around a recycled steel coil and natural latex, and shipping in a box with plant-based plastic packaging. "Aside from the recycled steel coil, it'll be fully biodegradable," says McIntosh.
The company is currently vetting domestic mattress manufacturers. "We're down to two final partners now," says McIntosh. "I have a prototype in my guest room and prototype in my master bedroom, and we're basically deciding right now who we're going to go with."
McIntosh says Sheets & Giggles' products are designed to work together. "It's going to be really fun to tell people, 'If you love our sheets but are still sweating underneath you at night, it's probably because you're sleeping on a foam mattress. There's this plastic underneath you that's trapping all this heat, and no matter what sheet you use, you're still going to sweat on your back.'"