Alittle over a year ago I introduced a fabric company that is revolutionizingthe hospitality fabric industry. ValleyForge Fabrics, oncea small mom-and-pop business, now sells more decorative upholstery fabrics tothe hospitality industry than any other company in the world. I recently got achance to catch up with Valley Forge’s leadership when I held an executivebriefing webinar on the secrets of Valley Forge’s success, and you can reviewthe presentation by clicking here. What I learned was fascinating: over thepast year the company has seen its green initiatives evolve into a breakthroughnew product with the potential to deliver a disruptive competitive advantage.Read on to see how Valley Forge is harnessing the true potential of ethonomics.
Not only isValley Forge the leader in its market, but it is also focused on making sureits products and processes are green. This focus on sustainability is more thanjust lip service – it is a directive from upper management and a mission of theentire company.
Valley Forgehas made an effort to recycle everything it can. It is the first to produce afabric made entirely of post consumer waste (e.g., used paper and cotton).It encourages other ways to recycle by staff to bring in wine corks on Mondays,offering a place for employees to bring in their old pairs of Croc shoes,reducing its carbon footprint and cutting back on the amount of trash itproduces. These might seem like small steps, but Valley Forge has also takensome huge leaps.
Forinstance, Valley Forge has developed a program to reuse hospitality bedding.Most of the time when a hotel is done with its sheets (usually because they arestarting to slightly fray after so many washes), it just throws them away.That’s hundreds of millions of pounds of sheets heading into landfills. SoValley Forge has set up a program in which it picks up old bedding (after ithas been washed one last time) and then delivers those sheets to homelessshelters or rehabilitation centers within 200 miles of that particular hotel.
Beyondrecycling, Valley Forge has spent the last two years developing a new line ofsheets made with a renewable resource. First it looked at cotton, but after alot of research, it realized that cotton makes up 2 percent of theworld’s crops and uses 25 percent of the world’s pesticides. So right awayValley Forge’s management knew that wasn’t the environmental solution it waslooking for.
Then managementfocused on bamboo. But again, they were disappointed to learn that it takesbetween 11 and 13 chemical processes to convert bamboo into a fiber that can beused to make a yard of fabric. All of those chemicals changed the product sodrastically that it really wasn’t an environmentally sound investment.
Finally, thecompany settled on working with eucalyptus. You see, eucalyptus pulp can becreated into a fiber by combining it with only one organic solvent. The productis called Tencel, and it seemed like the answer to Valley Forge’s prayers.
However, itwasn’t that simple. Hospitality bedding has to go through heavy, industrialwashing, and the Tencel wasn’t strong enough. So after more than a year ofworking with Lenzing, an Austrian company that makes Tencel, the two companiesdeveloped Tencel Plus. This “plus” version of Tencel was strong enough to copewith industrial washers and soft enough to satisfy the most luxurious hotels.
And sinceValley Forge was the partner that helped develop the Tencel Plus, it worked outa world-wide exclusive deal with Lenzing.
So nowValley Forge has created sheets made with Tencel Plus that not only feel greatbut also take advantage of the natural benefits of eucalyptus. Eucalyptus isalmost like a bug repellent, and therefore it reduces dust mites in thebed. It also wicks away moisture and heat from the body, and so it coolsindividuals down while they sleep.
People lovethe idea of wrapping themselves in eucalyptus as they sleep. The factthat it reduces dust mites and provides a cooler sleep are extra benefits. Buteucalyptus is also a very smooth fiber, so Valley Forge’s 200-thread-countsheets actually feel like 350-thread-count cotton, and their 300 thread countfeels like a 500 or 600 thread count.
So focusedon a mission to be more green, Valley Forge not only developed a new productthat is better than anything else out there, but it also has the exclusive rightsto use that product. That is the definition of ethonomics.
Ask yourselfthe questions below to see how you can follow your dream to create somethingthat your competitors cannot compete with.
1. What do I really wantto do?
2. How can it benefitsociety?
3. Who can I partner withto develop this new product or service?
4. Is there a way to set up exclusivity to benefit my bottom line?