Eliana is a woman who does it all. When she’s not looking after her three children, she’s focusing on the business she self-started during the pandemic. De Novo® is a revolution to the lint-rolling world. The main thing that sets them apart is that their lint brushes are self-cleaning, meaning gone are the days of having to hide them in a drawer and go to the hardware store for a replacement. This also makes them a great sustainable alternative.
Others have taken note too. De Novo® lint brushes have been featured on Univision, are part of FabFitFun’s marketplace, and can be found in small boutique stores all around the United States. A great success for a company that started in the midst of a pandemic.
But how did it get here? We sat down with Eliana, founder and CEO, to talk about her products and how, through ecommerce platform Shopify, she was able to build a brand from the ground up, and how you can too.
“I take my customers on a journey – tell them a story. I let them know they’re buying a product from this business, but behind this business is a person… and that person is me”
- Industry: Ecommerce
- Company Founded: 2021
- Business To Date Profits: $140,000
- Website Built With: Shopify
- Education: International Media and Communication BA, Social Science MSS
- Article Highlight: You need to love your product or you’ll never get anywhere
“My name is Eliana Bergman, I sell self-cleaning lint brushes through an ecommerce platform and my company is called De Novo®.
I initially started my business in February 2021, right in the middle of the pandemic. I started it from home and built the website and the brand mostly in the waiting room of the Child Development Center where my son would go for various therapies
I mostly do B2B, meaning most of my sales come directly from other retailers, but I do generate organic sales on the website as well. Over time, we have brought in around $140,000.
Initially, it was very little sales, but lately, it’s around 2,000 [products sold] on a monthly basis. This year has been very good but it still fluctuates depending on the month.”
“De Novo®’s mission is to provide consumers with the option to generate less waste in the world by selling reusable, self-cleaning and fashionable lint brushes. Instead of the discardable sticky sheets and constantly producing more trash, it’s just one product that will last you many years and you don’t have to constantly be producing trash or purchase refills.
In my household I mostly use it for pet hair. Our medium-sized schnauzer, Maya, sheds a lot twice a year, so these brushes certainly get put to the test. But you don’t have to have a pet to find these brushes useful. My mom, who has no pets, uses them after the dryer to remove the lint off her clothing. We also have a fair share of clients in northern states and Canada, who find our products helpful in the colder months when they wear sweaters and scarves which leave lint on finer textiles.
I personally use my De Novo® Back-To-Basics two-to-three times a day on my sofa and then the little De Novo® On-The-Go I keep in my purse so I have it when I’m out and about.”
“Since delivering my second child, I had been experiencing a whole lot of hair loss. Aside from our dog Maya, we also had a cat who sheds a whole lot. So we had all this hair from everyone everywhere. As a stay-at-home mom, I spent all day at home and needed to find a solution to this problem. It was also appealing to have a job that I could do remotely so that I wouldn’t need to be pulled away from my family. You might think that having three kids and pets is enough, but I’m just one of those people that can’t really sit still and do nothing, so I decided to go for it and give entrepreneurship a try.
I also felt like there was plenty of opportunity with these products. The reusable lint brushes you find in stores today are all black or white with red bristles, which is just ugly. And the traditional lint rollers with sticky sheets produce so much trash.
I wanted something nicer but also effective. I wanted a product I could have on my coffee table or hanging with my winter coats and feel comfortable leaving it there because it is stylish. De Novo® lint brushes are always on my coffee table. I can easily pick it up and clean the couch and I just put it back and it looks nice. The traditional sticky sheet lint roller is not something you keep out, because it just doesn’t look nice.
This brand came to fruition as a combination of everything. It was my own hair loss. My pets were shedding like crazy. The amount of trash produced by sticky sheets, how ugly your typical lint roller is, and ultimately, my own desire to make a difference.”
“This brand came into fruition as a combination of everything. It was my own hair loss. My pets were shedding like crazy. The amount of trashed produced by sticky sheets, how ugly your typical lint roller is, and ultimately, my own desire to make a difference.”
“The product designs are created by a Chinese manufacturer and De Novo® is the brand. I contacted a broker in China who helped me get in touch with the manufacturer.
I had to ensure that I was not hiring just anyone to produce these products. It was also really important for me to do a social compliance audit and make sure they actually take care of their own team because that’s important to me. We also did a manufacturer audit and a raw material test before we started production. I recommend that you test your products. If you want to be a brand, you need to buy them, test them, see if you like them, test the market out, and then evaluate to make sure you feel there is enough potential for growth with the brand you create.
You don’t want to be just producing just another piece of trash. You’re producing something that has quality and you need to know what is in your products and where it’s coming from and that this factory is treating their employees correctly.
Once you’ve tested everything and you’ve done all of your compliance, then I do think it’s important to trademark. There are so many products out there right now and so many people trying to make a quick buck. You don’t want your hard work to be capitalized on by someone else
It took about a year from start to finish to trademark De Novo® and it wasn’t so bad. I opted to hire a lawyer to help me do it, which was helpful as there was a bit of back and forth following the initial application. Now I have this trademark for 10 years and it’s my brand and it feels really nice to know that I have that protection.
If it does expand and it does grow, I’ll do the same thing for the European market, but I’m not really there yet, so we’ll see.”
“I have worked since I was about 15 in various retail shops. Following my Masters, I started my career at the National Hispanic Leadership Institute (NHLI), a small nonprofit in Washington DC that promotes Latina leadership. From there, I went on to work in communications and marketing in a range of different sectors – from transportation to the wine industry.
My background has helped tremendously in building the company. Because even though I don’t have a business background, my understanding of and experience in marketing and communications has helped me position De Novo® and its products. Being able to market the brand has been crucial. The way it will grow is through sales and marketing.
Currently, I do Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, as well as email marketing, which is huge. I take my customers on a journey, telling a story and letting them know that they’re buying these products from this business – but behind the business is a real person. And that person is me.
I think that human connection is really important. You miss it so much these days. You just buy a product and you don’t even think about the fact that people are behind this product. And that human connection is really important because it creates customer loyalty. You’re going to come back and say oh you know what, you gotta buy the brushes from Eliana, you gotta go there because she’s a real person. She sells these great brushes, and you’ll feel like you know me and that’s really important to me.
I started the business during the pandemic and everything felt so quiet everywhere. I got opportunities very easily. So we were on Univision, which is a national TV network in the USA for the Hispanic market. All it took was two weeks and the products were listed. I don’t think that would have happened in a normal time period, but I think it was quite difficult to get people to move. Everyone and everything was paralyzed during the pandemic.”
“I wanted something nicer that was also effective. I wanted a product I could have on my coffee table or hanging with my winter coats and feel comfortable leaving it there because it is stylish. De Novo® lint brushes are always on my coffee table.”
“Yeah, it’s hard. I have three kids, and my youngest just turned six months old. I feel like I’m a juggler but I enjoy it so much. It’s something that I love. I really love the flexibility that being a business owner gives me. I’m able to work from home and I’m able to be with my kids. I’ll take care of my baby and breastfeed while I send emails.
On a usual day, I’ll wake up at four to five, and during that time period is when I’m emailing or speaking with the manufacturers in China. I want to catch them before their day closes.
Then my kids will be awake and I send them off to school right around 9:00.
I do more work until they come home from school, and then I’m with my kids. Then in the evening, I do more work. So it’s a full cycle and around 9:00 pm I’ll go to sleep.
I did everything myself for a while. I recently hired a young woman from Canada to help me out with social media. She also does my photography and my posts on Facebook and Instagram.”
“It’s great to have a goal in mind. My goal from the beginning was to work with FabFitFun. When that partnership became a reality it was surreal. I sell on their marketplace and it goes very well on a monthly basis, so it’s nice. Their partnership has been very important to me.
With FabFitFun, you get a mystery box of products quarterly, and it is such a cool idea to introduce consumers to products. I am such a big fan of what FabFitFun does and how it allows consumers to test out products without having to pay full price. Last fall, I was given the opportunity to showcase one of our brushes to potentially be added to one of their future boxes, and I was over the moon by the opportunity. I worked for about six months trying to ensure we were ready to submit the products to FabFitFun. I did this while pregnant and I actually worked while in labor. I’m crazy.
However, after everything was said and done, they did not select De Novo® to be in one of their upcoming boxes. This was a giant fall for me but it was also a big learning experience at the same time. Though the door is closed for me this time, going through the requirements has been a great experience and it has made us better for any future opportunity that might come along.”
“If you’re gonna do ecommerce, you need to have a Shopify website.”
“If you take out your sticky sheet roller, you’re gonna use at least three or four sheets. And if you’re like me, you don’t actually go and buy the replacement for the sticky sheet. You just go out and you buy a new roller. Also, everything is in a box or it’s wrapped in plastic. It’s like plastic upon plastic upon plastic. And this is a requirement for many retailers. It’s all trash.
To me, product display is important, but we need to get to a new way of displaying products to reduce excess waste. Even though De Novo® is a very small business, this is still a core value of the company. All our products come in a linen bag, and that bag is recyclable and reusable, and while the product itself is not built on sustainable resources (yet), it does provide a more sustainable solution.
In a perfect world, I would love for these products to be produced sustainably from recycled plastics because I don’t want to waste any additional material. I’m trying to figure out what would be the best way to use recycled plastic to create a brush because that would be more of a niche item. It would be something that would make my product one hundred percent sustainable, and that would be great.
I want to be able to get to the point where we are selling brushes made from recycled plastics that you can recycle again, which can in turn be made into another brush. So it would be a perfect cycle. That’s where I would like to take it. That is my goal and dream for the future.”
- If you want more tips on how to make your online business more sustainable, why not try our 3 Ways to Make Your Site More Eco-Friendly article?
- Or, for sustainable packaging-specific advice, check out our 10 Sustainable Packaging Tips for Your Online Store
“If you’re gonna do ecommerce, you need to have a Shopify website. It’s easy because everybody integrates with it. I have my warehouse with my products and orders to fulfill them to customers and each step is done by Shopify. So it’s like a process where I don’t even have to do anything.
The app AfterShip on Shopify has been such a huge help because it allows customers to easily track their own packages. I used to get so many emails from people who didn’t know how to track their packages, but those emails basically do not come anymore. With AftersShip, all you do is go to the website and you can track your order and you know exactly when it will be delivered.
The AfterShip return app is also great because customers can start their own return process and then I just click approve and Shopify sends them a shipping label and that’s all it is.
That’s why Shopify has been an important partner for me. My biggest goal is to continue with business development. Since I mostly sell directly to retailers, my day-to-day is less busy and I don’t have too many direct-to-consumer interactions. My website is a platform for people and companies to be able to see the products and get to know the company a little bit more. If you want to dive in deep to get to know me better, you should sign up for our newsletter.
If I were to start the process from the beginning again, I think I would initially just start with a Shopify free template. I would also download the apps that I already know work. Because I had to go through and download so many different kinds of apps with Shopify, I had to weed out the ones that made my website very slow. I even hired a consultant to go in and delete some of this additional code because they couldn’t find all of it. So there were some lessons learned.
I did buy one of their templates because I wanted the website to look a little bit different than their free options. The building was a learning experience – a bit of a plug-and-play. I don’t have a background in web design but I found it relatively easy. Plus, they have very good customer support.
From a user perspective, I would have preferred a platform that I can easily turn on and off [the] features when I want it, instead of relying on third-party apps. I think that Shopify should try to consider doing things more in-house.”
“The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career and through De Novo is to not be held back by fear. That’s the biggest lesson. Fear cripples and makes you feel small in this environment. Being an entrepreneur, having a small business – it’s so easy to be afraid of sending that email and to lose a little bit of money.
But you just have to not give up. And it’s a lot easier now. There are so many opportunities within ecommerce that you don’t even need to have products. You can easily just create a website and a whole ecommerce business and someone else will ship it out [your products] for you. Even Amazon is allowing you to publish your own books. For an additional cash flow or even just a hobby, it’s worth it to just see what happens.
Feelings of fear and giving up will stop eventually, they aren’t permanent. So just move forward and don’t be afraid.”