Salt Lake City, Utah
Blister wool and apparel
Disney says he first used loose, lanolin-rich wool on his blisters during his hiking honeymoon in New Zealand. "I'm very well-versed in the sports medical side and when our guys just kept talking about this product and I was kinda like, 'If it is so great, why haven't we heard about it?'"
They got some blister wool. "Personally, I didn't think we were going to use it. Sure enough, a few days into our trip, even with well-seasoned feet," says Disney. "I wound up having some blister issues and I was like: 'Oh, I'll give this stuff a try.' I was dumbfounded.
The result: "We kind of had that aha moment of like, 'Wow, not only does this work, it works extremely well.'"
Disney explains that the loose wool works for blisters the same way it works for garments like base layers and socks. "It's really great at moving and transporting moisture away from the skin and getting it off," he says, "but also adds some cushioning for relief."
The couple launched Wūru Wool with the idea of bringing the idea of blister wool to the United States. They began importing New Zealand and Australian wool and quickly garnered favorable reviews from Popular Mechanics, Outside, Footwear News, and other publications, selling it both direct-to-consumer (DTC) and through brick-and-mortar retailers.
That was in 2018. In 2019, the company launched a line of U.S.-made apparel, which Disney exclaims: "was not what we expected to do." Through a connection they started talking with an apparel designer who helped Wūru accelerate their timeline significantly.
"We were expecting it to kind of be in our three- to five-year plan," Disney says. "It was one of those things where she was able to cut down so many of the barriers of entry that within six months we had patterns and tech packs, all approved, and they were starting to cut and sew our apparel. It really just made a real, extremely daunting task that we personally had zero prior experiences with really a seamless process." All Wūru apparel is now manufactured in Los Angeles.
While the blister wool is found in stores, Disney says that the apparel is currently only available direct-to-consumer. "We are really happy with the way that things are going. We love being able to have the touch points and feedback directly from the customer. I feel that when we can have those direct relationships, we can make a better product," he explains.
Disney isn't opposed to entering brick-and-mortar stores. "The big barriers are, I think, would be the margins that brick and mortar would have to see some sacrifice because we can offer a product currently that is using the best fabrics that we can find globally and manufactured in the US at a substantial cost savings to the consumer." To go into stores, he worries, means Wūru would have to increase its pricing "drastically" to reach the margins needed.
Currently, Disney is Wūru's only full-time employee, but he anticipates hiring between five and 10 employees in Salt Lake City. "I see us potentially seeing some growth on the design side, both from an apparel standpoint and from a marketing standpoint. We're going to have needs for full-time warehouse oversight here in the not too distant future."
Since most of Wūru's products are DTC, the company's reaching consumers through word of mouth and Disney recently signed up with a new PR firm. "We are also working closely with a few different guides and other influencers," he says. "One of the things I think has definitely resonated is that our brand is willing to look at and do things a little bit differently."
For instance, the company is introducing Nuyarn into its line of apparel. It's a relatively new way of creating wool-based yarns and fabrics that have more technical properties than other methods of wool-based clothes. Disney claims Wūru will be the first company to make Nuyarn garments in the US, with fabric that's made in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
The company is using its fabric first in its Everyday Merino Zip-Up, which launched on Kickstarter in 2020; orders are being fulfilled in summer 2021. Wūru will launch 13 more products with Nuyarn, replacing some of its existing products with the newer fabrics.
Disney forecasts sales will grow by as much as 3X in 2021 and 2022. "I feel very confident that we will be able to continue the momentum moving forward," he asserts.
Challenges: "One of our biggest challenges is we are purposefully not taking private equity money," says Disney. "Trying to grow organically and trying to balance inventory and manage supply chain in a growing company without taking large outside cash is always challenging. But we feel that if we can do it without outside influence that we can make a better product."
Opportunities: "Apparel is definitely one of our main focuses -- I think that is an area that we can continue to really grow our footprint," Disney says. "We're working on a wool puffy that could launch [on] Kickstarter this upcoming winter that would not be Nuyarn and we are continuing work across the board to make sure that we are using the absolute best fabrics."
Needs: "Some of our needs going forward are definitely going to be continuing to grow our staff, being able to provide exemplary customer service, and sticking to providing the specialty retail experience from an e-commerce brand," Disney says. "Warehouse space is definitely going to be something that we are going to continue to be looking at, and that could even wind up being kind of a multi-use space where it's part retail."