How Three Entrepreneurs’ Dream of Better Rest Launched A Linen Empire

Meet a BC business run by three co-founders helping their community get the best rest possible. Wilet is a home essentials brand originally founded in 2018 as Flax Sleep, though the company went through a rebranding process in 2023. Today, Wilet and its trio of co-founders – Anna, Oana, and Vivian – sell high-quality linen bedding.

Small Business BC spoke with Vivian McCormick to learn more about what it was like to start a business with two other co-founders and her biggest takeaways on entrepreneurship.

From Burnout to Bedding

Wilet is the first business for all three co-founders. As for Vivian, she originally worked as a lawyer and practiced for more than ten years in Vancouver. She worked with the Business Development Bank of Canada, helping and supporting small to medium-sized businesses. Although she had already been consulting with other entrepreneurs, especially about operations, financing, and growing businesses – she had yet to start her own.

“When the three of us came together, I was thinking, it’d be great to see a business from beginning to end and understand truly what the pain points are for other entrepreneurs that I’ve been advising,” said Vivian.

Wilet’s three co-founders have always been friends first. Each of them had their own experience with burnout, experiences which led them to a desire to prioritize sleep and rest. Anna especially wanted to get 100% linen bedding to help with temperature regulation while she slept. It was hard, if not impossible, to find the pure linen bedding that would fit their needs.

Linen is a natural fibre made from the flax plant. It’s a temperature-regulating fabric that can keep you cool if you sleep hot and keep you warm if you sleep cold. It’s breathable, anti-microbial, and snuggly.

“Linen works with whoever is getting into bed. That’s why linen was so important for us,” said Vivian. “The three of us decided on the business one day and started drawing out plans and just snowballed from there,” she said.

“We did this all off the side of our desks at the beginning on nights and weekends,” she said. “Having three people to be able to divide the large list of things you needed to do, that’s why we got there as fast as we did,” said Vivian.

Seven months after first talking about getting into business together, the co-founders launched Wilet.

A woman pulls up a grey linen bedsheet.

Starting a Business Together

One of their first steps as a team was downloading a business plan template to get started. They decided to have an e-commerce company that would sell linen directly to consumers. They sketched out their target demographic and got to work on securing their product, scouring suppliers until they found a family-run factory in Shenzhen.

“The first thing we did after getting samples was book plane tickets so we can actually go and visit the supplier,” said Vivian. “It was really important to go and see where things were being made, how the working conditions were, and talk to the owners,” she said.

After the factory visit, they got to work on a website and branding, and the business was launched.

Business Challenges and Opportunities

Vivian said that unpredictability, especially in the last three years, has been the biggest challenge that Wilet has faced.

“In the time we’ve been in business, we have seen some very wild shifts,” said Vivian. “In everything: consumer spending, the economy, the pandemic – but all of those pieces have really made this a challenging business to plan the trajectory of,” she said.

For example, in 2020, the company skyrocketed and experienced rapid growth. Although this was a great opportunity, it was also a challenge “because you have to figure out how to grow something rapidly without breaking it,” explains Vivian. “And then when things are scaled back, you have to figure out how to right-size the business properly without breaking it.”

Growing a Space for Entrepreneur Communities

Wilet has grown from fulfilling orders out of Vivian’s living room to a 4,500-square-foot space in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood. “We still do all of our own order fulfillment, and that has been the way we maintain our enhanced customer experience. And so I am proud of what we’ve grown into,” said Vivian.

Today, the space is large enough that they can share it with growing entrepreneurs. There’s also a showroom where they can host community events, pop-ups, and more. “That has been one of the best parts of starting a business,” said Vivian. “Now, it’s more about how do we help other entrepreneurs,” she said.

Wilet has a strong commitment to collaboration, networking, and supporting other entrepreneurs. Their involvement extends beyond events as they consistently share experiences and provide guidance.

“When we first started, there were so many people who we were connected with who had digital marketing experience or finance experience, and they were so open with their time,” said Vivian.

“A lot of what we’ve learned, we learned so much faster than if we just tried to figure it out ourselves. We’ve turned around and given that back,” she said.

Customers as Community

In addition to fostering the entrepreneur community, Wilet has its own customer community that it’s deeply committed to.

“Our customer community is something that we’ve really fostered over the last six years,” said Vivian.
“We have a repeat purchase rate of over 50% now…people are coming back and buying for their families,” said Vivian.

“That’s because we’ve really fostered the brand itself and what we stand for,” she said. “We recognize names when we see their orders come through, we know they bought from us 15 times, that is unheard of in a lot of industries, and I think it’s because we treated everybody like community and not just like a transaction.”

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