“This is nuts!” Nicole Carrillo thought when her custom-designed selection of $9.99 tea towels started selling out day after day at her Savannah, GA-based store, Kitchens On The Square. At that point in time, Fall 2013, Carrillo was selling roughly 800 of the tea towels a month in her store, just a fraction of the sales volume that the towels — now known as LOL Made You Smile Towels, or LOL Towels for short — are generating today in gourmet stores nationwide.
The LOL Towel journey began in April 2012 when Carrillo purchased Kitchens On The Square from a previous owner. The store was selling tea towels printed with funny phrases, but Carrillo wasn’t satisfied with the towel quality. Using her artist-husband’s creative hand and a screen printer, Carrillo began producing her own towels in the basement of the store in May 2013, using her own phrases inspired by internet memes and the like.
But then Carrillo began hanging them on shower rings on a repurposed fixture at the front of her store, making the sentiments on the towels easy to read and laugh at, and also easy for customers to hook on their finger and buy.
By Fall, sales had quadrupled.
Carrillo began reaching out to other gourmet insider’s and, inspired by the success in her store, they began carrying the line too. To keep up with the increased orders, Carrillo repurposed a sales associate to be on printing-duty five days a week (“It was her jam,” Carrillo recalled), but demand soon outpaced the ability to produce enough LOL Towels.
At a January market in 2014, Carrillo approached Kathy Phillips, owner and CEO of textiles distributor Primitives by Kathy, who now distributes the line.
Looking into the future, Carrillo only sees the company getting bigger and expanding with new designs and new products that will continue to make consumers smile.