Wicked Sheets in the News
Photo Credit: Tim Harris
Wicked Sheets founder and CEO Alli Truttmann rents a 1,500-square-foot fulfillment center in New Albany.
Alli Truttmann was talking about ways to ease her night sweats when she noticed a family member’s shirt as he walked by. The Nike Dri-fit golf shirt fabric caught her eye, and she joked that she would make it into sheets.
Truttmann and her family quickly realized she was on to something.
It has been more than five years since she realized that fabric, a silk-weight polyester, was not only the key to a cool and dry night’s sleep, but also the start of her business, Wicked Sheets LLC.
The product is simple: bed sheets that wick moisture away from the body.
And since that discovery, Truttmann, 30, has grown the company from cutting the fabric herself to budding business partnerships with long-term health care facilities.
How it works
The fabric is silky on the outside and porous on the inside, so it traps the moisture and sends it to the dry parts of the bed. But the sweat doesn’t find its way to the mattress pad or mattress, she said.
“It basically is evaporating as you are sweating on to it,” Truttmann said.
The sheets don’t have a thread count because of the poly fibers, but they’re comparable to a 600- or 700-thread count, according to the online description.
Current products include bed and crib sheets and pillowcases. Truttmann also has filed a patent for a functional bedding system, which is a cooling fabric that is two degrees Celsius cooler to the touch, she said.
Wicked Sheets begin at $55 and are available online at Wicked Sheet’s website, Amazon.com and Brookstone.com. Mattress pads and comforters are in the research and development stage, and Truttmann also plans a baby line that will include a Wicked Wrap for mothers.
“We’re going to stick with that same branding, but expand it to other sleep markets,” she said.
Relating to the Consumer
Truttmann, who was a Business First Forty Under 40 honoree in 2013, started the company with $10,000, bootstrapping her own money and raising funds from her family and friends.
Now she rents a 1,500-square-foot portion of a warehouse and packaging center in New Albany and contracts with a fulfillment center in Cincinnati to cut and sew the sheets.
Truttmann’s background is in psychology and personal training. Prior to Wicked Sheets, she was an autism intervention specialist and had started fitness programs for kids with ADHD, autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
She can reassure customers about the product because she, too, suffers from night sweats, known as idiopathic hyperhidrosis. The condition is “miserable,” she said, and she thought it would go away when she stopped playing soccer for Bellarmine University.
“You wake, and you’re angry because you’re up, you’re frustrated because you have to change your sheets all the time, (and) you feel bad about yourself because it’s just not a very fun thing to go through.”
She realized that others besides athletes also sweat at night, including women experiencing menopause, hospital patients who are confined to their beds and people with PTSD, for example.
Truttmann essentially solved her own problem and turned it into a business, which is what attracted investor Michael Browning.
“I’m really intrigued by products that are based on a current need that a customer has and expresses online via search,” said Browning, who owns the Jeffersonville-based banking software company Onovative LLC.
Browning and Tony Schy, who runs the entrepreneurial hub Velocity Indiana, invested in Truttmann’s company after selling their health insurance auditing firm Chapman Kelley Inc. in 2010. They met Truttmann when she won $5,000 from the Venture Connectors’ Venture Sharks competition in 2012.
They each own 20 percent of the company, and Truttmann said they’ve invested time and capital totaling $50,000.
Health Care Industry
As Wicked Sheets moves into the health care industry and into business-to-business markets, Truttmann expects revenue to grow.
Wicked Sheets had $150,000 in revenue in 2012, but she declined to disclose the 2013 figure.
She said sales were up 600 percent in some months from 2012 to 2013.
Truttmann realized she could reach out to hospitals after she had her fabric tested at Textest, a textile and materials testing laboratory in Alabama.
The product received good results: Tests found that Wicked Sheets wicks away six times more moisture than cotton, and four times faster.
Textest, part of Johnston Textiles Inc., compared the Wicked Sheets fabric to cotton, and Truttmann said she spent between $2,500 and $5,000 on testing.
“That was something that just made us understand that this is a far superior product than what people are sleeping on now if they have issues with heat or night sweats,” Truttmann said.
She’s currently in discussions with national long-term care facilities about pilot programs in 20 to 30 states to get the sheets onto beds.
Possible clientele includes people with wounds who are immobilized, such as veterans. The folds in cotton trap moisture, Truttmann said, which creates potentially troublesome friction.
Because Wicked Sheets don’t trap moisture, she said, they can “create an ideal sleep environment for prevention of bedsores.”
“Getting some validation in the health care industry has been huge,” she said.
Diving into Entrepreneurship isn’t Easy
Truttmann has learned a lot since she first published ads on Craigslist looking to hire people to sew.
For example, when she was working out of her apartment, cutting fabric and driving it to someone to sew, her first business partner, Don Mucci, advised her to find a fulfillment center.
“The problem was — and this is one of these clichés — I was working in the company, not on the company,” she said.
One of her cautionary tales highlights the importance of having a signed contract when dealing with vendors.
She learned that the hard way when she received damaged fabric that wasn’t made in the United States, as her vendor promised, and she couldn’t do anything about it. She had no contract.
Another piece of advice: File patents early. She didn’t file a patent for the sheets within a year of selling the product, missing the deadline. She called it a “rookie mistake.”
“I learn something new every single day about this industry,” she said.
“The whole entrepreneurial world is a learning curve. I think you’re on it the whole time.”