Last week on the blog we introduced Sarah Dooley, and her husband Chad. Sarah is the founder of Marley’s Monsters, and has built the company from the ground up. It started in 2013, in her living room, and has now expanded to selling internationally. Sarah now has over 70 employees, a new retail shop in the heart of Eugene, a wood production shop, a warehouse where cutting, sewing, production, and shipping happens. She is constantly looking for new ways to grow and develop, while having sustainability at the heart of it all.
Sarah has worked hard to build Marley’s Monsters into a company that people want to purchase from, and work for. She cares for her employees and sees the value in the strength of a team.
“The culture at Marley’s Monsters is welcoming and inclusive. We are thoughtful, collaborative and intentional in all that we do. We ensure our employees are treated with kindness and respect, have access to fair compensation and benefits, and their achievements are celebrated. We are a diverse and unique team of makers and every team member contributes in their own special way,” Sarah said.
The company is growing in other ways too. For a long time, sewing production happened in the back of the retail store. But as the company only got larger, and the space seemed smaller and smaller, it was time for a change. In September of 2021, Marley’s Monsters moved the retail shop into Market Alley, a part of 5th Street Public Market in Eugene, Oregon. The move has allowed for collaboration between small businesses, community engagement, and new connections being formed.
Sarah says, “We absolutely love being a part of the 5th Street Market. It’s a landmark in Eugene and the atmosphere is so special and unique. It’s wonderful to have a larger footprint in our community and we aspire to be one of the great companies that began their journey there, like Cafe Yumm. Although we were sad to separate our production from retail, the business model just wasn’t working anymore. We’re learning a lot about retail and are already thinking about where we’ll go next!
Making a huge business move during a pandemic is certainly not for the faint of heart. But, with some creativity and resilience, the pandemic has actually given way to new products and options for sustainability. For example, when the pandemic first began and everyone was in quarantine, there was a major toilet paper shortage. So with the growing popularity of bidets, some conversation and test products, Marley’s Monsters released Toilet UNpaper®, the washable and reusable alternative to traditional toilet paper.
“First of all the pandemic affected our product line,” Sarah said. “We started making masks and launched Toilet UNpaper® in early 2020. It’s taught us to adapt and be flexible. There was so much change during the last couple years, and we had to keep up with all of the rules and regulations. We opened and closed our store, moved warehouses multiple times to accommodate spacing requirements, and created additional shifts. At one point we were sewing out of three different facilities and even had a night shift to keep our staff safe and separated and to allow for more flexible schedules while everyone’s lives changed so drastically. It was hard to keep up with all the changes, but I’d say we grew a ton and could take on pretty much anything now!”
Of course, staffing was not the only issue to arise during the pandemic. Anyone with a business knows about the endless supply chain issues and the rising cost of materials and shipping, and the delay in receiving inventory. However, Sarah chose to see this challenge as an opportunity to be creative, design new products and processes, and find a work around.
“This has all taught us that there is not just one way to do things or make things. There are many factors to determine the price of a product, so sometimes we can improve a process or try a new tool to balance out the higher cost of material. Fabric inventory was insane when everyone started making masks. Some fabrics were delayed 6-12 months. But we did what we could, designed new things out of fabrics we could get and got creative.”
As things start to resemble “normalcy” again there is still plenty of work to be done. Whether it’s educating and advocating for the environment, testing a product, or picking out fabrics, Sarah wants to be in the room. There’s endless ways to promote sustainability, and the future of Marley’s Monsters is so bright, it’s blinding. So follow along as we continue to drop new collections, limited editions, and fun new ways you can invest in the planet.
Sarah says, “I’ve always let our customers and the company lead, so I’m excited to be there to see where it goes naturally. However, I’m just excited to keep designing and coming up with more solutions for reducing waste. I’m excited for the day when it’s more normal to use UNpaper® Towels than it is to use paper towels in the everyday household.”