Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine a product or industry that a new e-commerce startup hasn’t tried to remake already, from slippers to mattresses, from luggage to lipstick.
Yet two childhood friends in New York have seemingly struck on a fresh idea: taking on the stodgy and often expensive world of cookware, where one’s options out of college are usually limited to a few pieces of Calphalon or Farberware or, in the best-case scenario, some Le Creuset, the premium French cookware manufacturer founded back in 1925 and known for its vibrant colors, including Marseille, Cerise, and Soleil.
In fact, what the pair are building with their 10-month-old startup, Great Jones, appears to be a Le Creuset for the next generation: a handful of cookware items, including a cast-iron Dutch oven, that come in an array of colorful, if comparatively more muted, tones. Think Broccoli and Mustard.
The cookware is also more affordable than Le Creuset, which charges upward of $300 for a similar Dutch oven, compared with $145 for Great Jones’s new product. Notably, Great Jones’s full collection, which also includes a stainless steel stock pot, a stainless sauce pot, a stainless deep saute and a ceramic nonstick skillet, retails for $395.
Cookware is a smart sector to chase. According to the market consultancy IBIS World, the so-called “kitchen and cookware stores” industry has been growing steadily, reaching revenue of $17 billion last year.
One of the big questions for Great Jones will be whether its offerings hold up, and whether its customers find them compelling enough to recommend to others. After all, the old adage tends to hold up that you get what you pay for. And most new products take off because of favorable word of mouth, not merely because they’re Instagrammable.
Great Jones’s 28-year-old founders — Sierra Tishgart, previously a food editor at New York Magazine, and Maddy Moelis, who worked in customer insights and product management at a variety of e-commerce companies, including Warby Parker and Zola — seem to have thought these things through. Indeed, in a recent Forbes profile, they say they conducted extensive interviews with chefs and cookbook authors in their network in order to establish, for example, how to design a comfortable handle.
They also smartly made certain that their introductory offerings come in a range of metals. As even so-so cooks know, stainless steel is ideal for browning and braising; durable nonstick coatings make preparing delicate foods, including eggs and pancakes, less nightmarish.
In the meantime, Great Jones has easily captured the press’s imagination with what they are cooking up — a sign, perhaps, that the industry is ready for a refresh. In addition to Forbes, Great Jones also received recent coverage in The New York Times and Vogue — valuable real estate that most months-old startups can only dream of landing.
Great Jones has also raised outside funding already, including $2.75 million that it closed on last month led by venture capital firm General Catalyst, with participation from numerous individual investors.
Now the company just needs to convince its target demographic that it should ditch the older, established brands that may not feel particularly modern but are known to be durable, easy to clean, dishwasher safe and not insanely heavy (among the other things that keep people from throwing their pots in the garbage).
Great Jones also has plenty of newer competition to elbow out of the way if it’s going to succeed.
As the Times piece about the company notes, just a few of the other startups that are suddenly chasing the same opportunity include Potluck, a five-month-old, New York-based startup that sells a $270 “essentials bundle” that features 22 pieces, including utensils; Misen, a four-year-old, Brooklyn-based startup that sells cookware and chefs knives; and Milo, a year-old, L.A.-based startup that’s solely focused on Dutch ovens, to start.
According to Crunchbase, Misen has raised $2 million, including through a crowdfunding campaign; Milo has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding.
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