David Bursteen and Ines Brigman have spent the past 18 months trying to get their Legends Home Bedding products on the shelves of Walmart U.S. stores. Armed with passion for their work this duo bootstrapped their enterprise in early 2012 first pitching their licensed Elvis inspired bedding to Wal-Mart in a letter addressed to “Dear Buyer.”
“I am persistent and so I waited a couple of weeks and reached out to Wal-Mart again and was told they didn’t feel the product was right for them at the time. But, they encouraged us to enter the ‘Get on the Shelf’ contest. We had no idea what that was, and when we looked it up we had just 48 hours before the contest deadline July 31,” Bursteen said during his recent visit to Bentonville.
The duo said they looked high and low to find someone who was willing to help with them with a presentation entry to “Get on the Shelf” on a consignment basis.
“We found this guy who did it for $84 upfront with promise of a bigger payment if we won the whole contest, never really believing we would win,” Brigman said.
They stayed up for two straight days working on a slide show presentation, because they didn’t have time to coordinate a video commercial.
Legend’s Home Bedding, was able to tap into the Elvis fan base for vote support and not only entered Walmart.com’s “Get on the Shelf” competition, but they also won it. Bursteen and Brigman’s licensed Elvis inspired bedding was one of two grand prize winners in the 2013 contest.
“During the ‘Get on the Shelf’ contest we contacted the Elvis Presley Foundation and asked if they would help us spread the word. When our bedding popped up on their Facebook page it got 68,000 likes and 4,500 comments in 24 hours,” Bursteen said.
Brigman said they continue to use their Facebook page to stay in touch with fans and test new design ideas.
The bedding, made in the U.S., is sold on Walmart.com as well as virtual competitor sites Amazon and Ebay and the company just signed a deal with Bed, Bath, Beyond. While the duo is excited about the growth of their online sales, they still want to get the product inside Walmart Supercenters which brought Bursteen and Brigman to Bentonville on March 20 to meet with a team of six Wal-Mart buyers for home bedding.
“When we met with the Walmart.com buyers it felt like we were walking on the red carpet having just won the online competition. The buyers in Bentonville were harder to read, though very attentive during our presentation,” Bursteen said.
He added that there is not a category for licensed adult bedding, but there is demand for the product and built-in fan bases with American legends such as Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. When asked what Bursteen’s next step would be, he joked that the duo planned to stay in town until they got a purchase order. However, he said getting on the retailer’s physical shelf is a great deal more tedious than selling through Walmart.com.
“We are up for the challenge and look forward to our next communication from Wal-Mart,” Bursteen said.
LICENSING THE KING
Bursteen, a collector of Elvis memorabilia, sought to get a license for Elvis inspired bedding in late 2012. It took a little more convincing for Brigman, who just more recently become an Elvis fan.
“We were sitting around one day (September 2012) talking about the possibilities if we could get the licensing. I thought it’s probably very expensive or it’s not even available. He sends a quick email to Elvis Presley Enterprises asking if the home bedding licensing is available. Within five minutes he got a one-word ‘YES’ reply,” Brigman said.
Bursteen said he told them he would do his best to get the product in Wal-Mart Stores, because outside of music, the retailer has not carried Elvis licensed merchandise. They secured the license in late 2012 with a small investment upfront and royalties on merchandise sold.
“There are no companies doing licensed adult bedding. It goes against the grain. We know there is demand for the product, but no one has been willing to take the chance, until now. It’s like an intersection with three gas stations, we have opted to put a hand car wash on the other corner,” Bursteen said.
He compared his swim upstream to something Wal-Mart did 30 years ago, when they introduced Sam’s Club. He said back in the day no one thought women would shop a wholesale club like Sam’s or Costco because the packaging is too big and bulky, merchandise is displayed on pallets and there is no service with bagging or carry out.
“We don’t think you have to be a kid to enjoy licensed bedding and our growing business is proof,” Bursteen said.
The tandem said they are excited about the possibilities of licensing more legends and expanding their bedding line. Four months ago Elvis Presley Enterprises was sold to Authentic Brands Group out of New York.
“Ironically they own a brand called Marilyn Monroe,” Bursteen said. “If we can perform with Elvis, the next logical license would be Marilyn.”
Brigman said the company has committed to manufacture the bedding in the USA, although the fabric is imported from China. This allows the “Made in the USA” tag, which Wal-Mart also prefers.
“Making the products here involves lots of suppliers for us. It seems there is not a turnkey operation for bedding, which adds to the overall cost. We do believe it’s worth the extra effort,” she said.
The couple told the local buyers they had big plans to help cross-merchandise the product once it gets into the stores, displaying Elvis’ music with the coordinating bedding, that is song inspired, such as the “You are Always on My Mind” collection.
“This year is the 60th anniversary of Rock & Roll and we would like to bring Elvis to life inside Wal-Mart Stores across the country. We would bring in Elvis impersonators to perform and take photos paying tribute to the King of Rock & Roll. We think Wal-Mart is a great venue for this type of celebration as Wal-Mart shoppers and Elvis fans are two demographics the closely overlap,” Bursteen said.
Startups are nothing new for Bursteen who said he’s spent his entire career working for startups and dabbling in entrepreneurship. Legends Home Bedding is his first attempt to found and run a company with the help of his two partners.
“The sky is the limit. We are finding out that there is always room for good ideas and those passionate enough to see them through. I would tell other potential suppliers to go for it. If you have a product ready to sell and have found a need, then go for it,” Bursteen said.
The couple said they dumped their savings into making the product as soon as they realized that it would sell. When the time came to test that theory with Get-on-the-Shelf, they were able to deliver the product buyers wanted without long lead times.
“Having the product ready to go is huge because consumers don’t want to plunk down $100 for something they have to wait 100 days to get. There were some really good products that competed against us in the ‘Get it on the Shelf’ contest, but they were concepts only, still several months away from production,” Bursteen said.