Bedding business sizes up

QuickZip sheets do away with the normal fitted sheet. Photos courtesy of QuickZip.

QuickZip sheets do away with the normal fitted sheet. Photos courtesy of QuickZip.

Elizabeth Sopher’s zippered sheets have outgrown the crib.

The Denver entrepreneur – who invented QuickZip Sheets more than a decade ago to make changing a child’s bed easier – is releasing adult-sized versions with a line of fitted sheets for queen- and king-sized beds. The company, armed with some fresh investment capital, is also working on waterproof designs for the healthcare industry that might launch early next year.

“We are moving beyond the baby market,” Sopher said.

QuickZip Sheets are fitted sheets that don’t look like oversized shower caps. Instead of an elastic band that puts parents in a mattress battle, a zipper keeps the sheet in place. The product has two parts: a base sheet that covers the bottom and the sides of the mattress, and a top sheet that zips onto the base for easy removal. Only the top sheet requires regular washing.

The adult sheets, expected to be released in October, won’t have some of the safety features that the children’s sheets have, such as a cover to tuck the zipper out of reach of little hands. But they will function in a similar way.

“The fabric will be nicer, and the location of the zipper will be slightly different and easier for adults to access,” Sopher said.

Sopher dreamed up the idea for zippered sheets as she was building a nursery for her child 15 years ago.

“I got the (crib) bumpers set up, and I thought, ‘How do you change the sheet?’” she said. “Wasn’t there an easier way?”

She worked with a seamstress to create a prototype and tested it at a baby product trade show. The idea caught on, and the sheets made it into the One Step Ahead catalog, which sells children’s products. She made her first sale at the end of 2002 while working as an environmental scientist.

The sheets appeared in several parenting publications and media outlets, and Sopher expanded the line from crib-size to twin and full sizes as sales increased.  She also began selling them on Amazon, which now accounts for about half of her sales, she said.

“Building customer loyalty got us to move to the bigger sizes and push into some of these other stores,” Sopher said.

Buy Buy Baby, a baby store owned by Bed Bath & Beyond, agreed to sell the sheets in 42 of its stores last year. With that deal bagged, Sopher quit her environmental job to focus exclusively on her startup. The sheets are now sold at those stores, QuickZip’s website, Amazon and other small retailers.

This year, the company raised $1 million in capital and debt financing from friends and family for marketing and new product development.

The business hasn’t broken even yet, but Sopher said she hopes the new products will make it profitable next year.

“When the adult products come in, we’ll expect some good returns,” she said. “I think (the product) is really getting better penetration in the baby market where we’ve maximized our success, but we’re working on getting the message and the marketing and the distribution correct for the adult sheets.”

By the end of next year, Sopher said she expects to expand the line to include waterproof sheets and other products to make changing beds easier on healthcare workers.

“We’ve always known there were other applications for this,” she said. “We’re adjusting, and I think we would really hope to have some distribution in the medical area, whether that is home health or long-term care.”

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