Clayton Griffith wants to solve your toilet paper problems.
Or more accurately, for the price of $19.99 a month, he wants to help roommates secure a never-ending supply of toilet paper and paper towels.
Griffith, 29, is the co-founder of Roomie Service, an Austin startup that launched last month. His co-founder is Nick Moore, 27, a University of Texas MBA student. The two former roommates are familiar with the frustration of an empty toilet paper roll. “We shared a bathroom,” Griffith said.
Roomie Service mails its subscribers a box of Charmin brand toilet paper rolls and two rolls of paper towels every month. Though anyone in the United States can sign up for the service, Griffith said they plan to target University of Texas students. Why Charmin? “It’s something a mother would like in terms of quality,” Griffith said.
Before you start laughing, understand that subscription box services have breathed new life into the retail e-commerce industry. There are hundreds of monthly subscription services in almost every retail category imaginable, from clothing to wine and even dog toys. And yes, there are even “time of the month” boxes for women on their periods. In Austin there’s a company called Cratejoy whose business model is to just help other e-commerce startups create their own monthly box subscription services. (And Roomie Service happens to be one of their customers.)
But Roomie Service also faces some serious competitors in the form of well-funded grocery delivery services, such as Instacart and Amazon Prime that already have the name recognition and the ability to bring toilet paper to your doorstep.
Griffith says the service is different because there is nothing that caters to the specific hygiene and housecleaning needs of college students or young adults. And he said that 10 percent of his profits will go to Austin Pets Alive, a local nonprofit.
The genesis for Roomie Service stemmed from when he lived with male roommates, Griffith said, and “these college guys or post-college guys were always running into this issue of having a dirty apartment,” including constantly running out of toilet paper. The bigger issue, Griffith said, was this sparked disagreement between roommates about whose turn it was to buy shared household items like toilet paper.
Griffith said he has no investors and is paying the company’s startup costs himself. With fewer than 100 subscribers now, Griffith said the plan is to aim for 1,000 this year. The idea is to eventually expand beyond toilet paper, he said, with such items as air fresheners and garbage bags.
Squeezing profit out of Roomie Service will be his biggest challenge, Griffith said. “We are actually working at a no-margin operation right now,” he said. “Shipping fees with toilet paper is actually pretty high.”