Direct-to-consumer cleaning products startup Truman’s has closed a seed round of $5 million led by European consumer products giant Henkel, the maker of legacy cleaning brands like All, Dial, Purex and Snuggle.
Other investors in the round include Uncommon Denominator, Starting Line and BFG Partners, all of whom bring a different strategic expertise to the table, according to co-founder and CMO Alex Reed.
This funding comes only six months after Truman’s launched its initial subscription service for non-toxic, environmentally-friendly cleaning concentrates.
Reed and co-founding CEO Jon Bostock hope the service can capture some of the $10 billion spray cleaner market in the U.S., where consumers report close to zero brand preference.
By providing users with refillable bottles and shipping only the concentrate — which makes up only 2 percent of a traditional spray cleaner to its 98 percent water — Truman’s lowers shipping fees, packaging, and waste. One comparison suggests that one semi-truck of Truman’s concentrate is the equivalent of 30 trucks of traditional cleaners.
The Lexington, Kentucky-based company offer both subscription and a la carte ordering through their e-commerce site. Reed notes that customer growth continues to pick up on both sides as they build a community of dedicated users.
The site currently displays over 600 reviews averaging 4.8 out of five stars. Though it’s still early, Reed says they’re seeing solid customer retention rates.
“One of the brands I admire is Glossier,” Reed tells Hypepotamus. “That is a company that grew tremendously because of their feverish customer base — they love it. That’s a model that direct-to-consumer brands can really take note of.”
New investor Uncommon Denominator has that needed experience in the direct-to-consumer products space, with portfolio companies like Boxed and Dollar Shave Club (acquired by Unilever). BFG Partners specializes in the food industry, which Reed calls a “hyper-competitive space from which we can learn a lot,” and Starting Line is a newer investment firm with “really innovative, fresh thinkers.”
“We felt like between their experiences, backgrounds and locations we had a really good fit. You can get capital a number of different ways, but we wanted to have folks that were going to bring more value than just the check they’re writing.”
As far as Henkel, Reed says that when they were first approached by the CPG giant, the startup turned down the meeting.
“We did not have any interest on partnering with a strategic at this point in our company, so we actually declined the meeting two or three times,” he says.
After digging in further with the Henkel corporate venture team, they were swayed by a shared vision.
“They recognized all of the obstacles in this industry that we thought were obvious. Their pitch to us was, help us re-invent ourselves — we’ll provide resources, but by and large, we’ll get out of your way.”
“Convenience and sustainability are top-of-mind for an increasing number of today’s consumers, and we continuously advance our portfolio while addressing these topics,” said Robert Günther, Corporate Director of Henkel Ventures, in a statement. “Specifically, when it comes to packaging, we pursue ambitious targets to reduce plastic waste and to contribute to a circular economy.”
Truman’s will use the capital to not only boost customer acquisition and growth, but to explore new product offerings.
“We understand that what we’ve done thus far has really just been a drop in the bucket,” says Reed.