Sunday 25 March 2018

Irish group seeks to clean up with 'green' single-use gym towel

Dundalk business sets sights on €3m cash injection

EASYDRY: Anne Butterly
EASYDRY: Anne Butterly
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

A Dundalk-based company producing a single-use towel made from wood pulp is seeking to raise €3m to expand into gyms.

Anne Butterly (42) is the brains behind Easydry, a disposable towel used in hair salons around the world. She founded the business in 2005, after a career sourcing raw materials for Irish businesses from Asia.

Its products are now bought by customers in 22 countries including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Middle East.

"The idea first occurred to me when I was spending time with a friend who was colouring her hair at home. She was using a plastic bag and a stained towel on her shoulders to protect her clothing.

"I just thought 'there must be some alternative'. I started researching and developed a prototype made from wood pulp with manufacturers in Asia. Wood pulp is a great option because it absorbs moisture into the centre of the fabric as opposed to sitting on the top like a cotton towel. It also biodegrades in 12 weeks in compost conditions."

Though Butterly intended to sell to consumers, it became apparent that the best place to start was in hair salons. "That's how you gain traction with consumers; all of the major consumer brands have salon lines."

Salon customers want clean, fresh towels above all else, she said. "Often you will sit down in a really nice salon and be handed a towel stained from previous dye jobs. It's just not good enough."

Irish salons that use the product include House of Colour and the L'Oreal and Wella academies. Peter Marks, its largest potential customer, does not use the product as it has its own group laundry facility.

Easydry entered the gym sector earlier this year. Its range includes a shower towel and a towel for cleaning gym equipment.

"Very few people actually bring a towel onto the gym floor in Ireland whereas in the UK and Australia you won't get onto a gym floor without it," she said. "It's really important to clean gym machines after you use them for hygiene reasons, but it's horrible to have to bring the towel home after. That's where we come in."

It has also developed a range for the medical sector and is looking for a global distributor.

Turnover is €1.5m. The company raised €1m five years ago and is now beginning a new funding round, looking to raise up to €3m.

"The hardest part has been changing the way people think, getting salons to make the switch from cotton towels to something totally different. It's a new generation textile."

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