Textile ecosystem here provides foundation for garment company's hot launch
Jordan Schindler turned a visit to the dermatologist into a line of products with the ability to change an entire industry.
Schindler was a college student in 2011 when his dermatologist recommended washing his pillowcase two or three times a week for clearer skin.
"That wasn't happening," Schindler quips. But the need to change his behavior to get treatment got Schindler thinking about how fabrics and even clothing might be a method for providing health benefits.
The idea launched seven years of developing proprietary technology to embed active ingredients for pain relief and other treatments into clothing to make medicinal application easier and more efficient. Nufabrx commercialized its first products in 2019.
Nufabrx is now the fastest-growing company in the Charlotte Business Journal's Fast 50 Awards program with an average three-year growth rate of 802%.
"We are simplifying health and wellness," says Schindler. "Instead of having to take a pill or apply a cream or a patch, what if you just had to get dressed?"
To find out, Schindler teamed up with scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, to find ways to deliver over-the-counter pain relievers or other products through advanced materials. That research led Schindler to North Carolina's textile innovation network at Catawba Valley Community College, where he could access equipment necessary to develop ways to integrate analgesics, cosmetics and other health supplements into the fibers of yarns used to make fabric.
"We came to North Carolina to be in the heart of textiles," Schindler says. "This is where the ecosystem and talent for that kind of manufacturing exists."
Schindler and his team spent years on research t infuse products into the textile and still ensure the fabric maintained its stretch and comfort. The garments also needed to deliver a controlled dose.
"It took four or five years of development to get it where it would perform like a normal yarn," Schindler says.
Nufabrx was on the shelves of Walmart soon after launching its first products. Target, Walgreens and CVS followed.
The garments look and feel like normal clothing, but the all-day contact with targeted areas of the body delivers medications, vitamins, supplements and cosmetics. The health benefits are effective through 25 washings.
Nufabrx's first products were for pain relief, including socks, ankle sleeves and wrist sleeves to treat such conditions as plantar fasciitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is adding a maternity line that infuses Shea butter to moisturize expanding bellies.
Nufabrx now has 36 full-time employees between its research hub in Conover and yarn manufacturing Asheboro. Garment production is contracted out.
Interview with Jordan Schindler, CEO and founder, Nufabrx
How are you regulated:
J: We are regulated by the FDA. We manufacture all of our products in clean rooms -- probably the only garments that do that. We use the transdermal lab at UNC Charlotte so we can tell how many milligrams the garment is delivering each hour. Shea butter is cosmetic, so it is not regulated.
What other applications are next?
J: We are working on anti-cellulite applications. With cellulite treatments and topical creams, you have to knead out the fat cells. We are doing tight-fitting shapewear garments. We have on for belly fat coming out, and we will go to market with a partner brand. There are so many applications. We are working on a pet bed that kills fleas and ticks. Our challenge is not marketing, it's staying focused. Topical analgesics are a $1 billion market. Moisturizes are a $1 billion market.
What have you learned as an entrepreneur?
J: Every entrepreneur has to be the eternal optimist. Things take way longer and are more expensive, but also more fun and entertaining, than I expected. Every day is a unique challenge. I am fortunate to work with a great team.