Derin Oyekan is co-founder and CMO of REEL, the US-based exclusively bamboo product tissue company. He explains how his personal preferences inspired his business strategy.
Obviously I’m biased, but at home I exclusively use tissue and towel products made by REEL, the 100% bamboo toilet paper company I co-founded in 2019. I also use paper towels for cleaning up big messes such as grease and pet waste. It is a truly multi-functional product!
In terms of my personal product preferences I like sustainable products that don’t feel like a compromise when used. I try to buy sustainable versions of any product whenever I can and I’m constantly working on reducing my carbon footprint as much as possible and finding new ways to do so. But for most products, I do prefer simple, minimalist aesthetics – I am a senior Millennial after all.
This personal belief also lies behind the launch of REEL. Our goal was to build a sustainability-focused, mission-driven company that made it easy for consumers to make simple changes that collectively had a big impact on the environment. Specifically around deforestation. We started with our 100% Bamboo toilet paper, one of the biggest consumer product categories and it’s also an essential item. These are two characteristics that made it very attractive as a product category to go after and it was also ripe for disruption/innovation as it had been stagnant for decades.
We launched our second product, our 100% bamboo paper towel product earlier this year. All of our shipping materials are also biodegradable and we use plastic-free packaging.
The outbreak of Covid-19 created several opportunities for us. The first was in the At-Home market. With demand quickly spiking, we saw rapid growth during the periods of toilet paper shortages at retail stores.
Another was that I, like a lot of people, now have an online subscription for most things. At my home, I don’t really like buying in bulk as I don’t have a lot of storage space, but the convenience of auto-delivery is something I think I’ll be keeping for the foreseeable future. Especially for essential items such as tissue and towel.
For REEL, we are a DTC-first company and so we were well positioned to take advantage of the increases in online subscriptions. There has definitely been a rise in people purchasing products online during the Covid period, and even now I can’t see that changing much. Certainly not in my household!
Longer term, we plan to expand to countries where toilet paper usage is the norm. I believe there is a huge market globally for bamboo tissue products, especially in the western world.
And I’m very excited about the future of the personal-use paper categories. I can’t wait to see what earth-friendly options for toilet paper, paper towels, napkins and facial tissues are available for consumers two to five years from now.