CUSHION BY DESIGN | Product Development
Almost 20 years ago in Dalton, Ga., Charlie Hubbs founded Cushion by Design, a small manufacturing company making high-end padding to support the carpet industry. As the carpet industry shifted, the company developed a technology to manufacture custom gel foam and filter materials for other manufacturers to use within their products.
Today the company is on its third iteration. Led by Zach Hubbs, Charlie’s son and the company’s COO, Cushion by Design is taking advantage of this proven technology to manufacture and market their own products.
The technology Cushion by Design developed was being applied to open-cell foam material and utilized in numerous product applications, such as gutter foam, fire retardant foam for trains, wheelchair seats, and more. By owning the technology and developing the equipment to produce it, Hubbs began to realize the value his company could provide the end user. To grow the business, however, Hubbs and his team needed to transform their material into a product that was applicable to the consumer market.
At home one night, Hubbs was doing dishes and noticed an unpleasant smell coming from his sponge. The next week, he was in the plant and went to wash up. He saw some of the company’s product next to the sink and used it to scrub the grime off his hands. Hubbs said, “The material worked great. It was at that moment the Peachy Clean® scrubber idea was developed – a non-abrasive, antimicrobial silicone dish scrubber that is porous and does not retain water, therefore allowing no lingering smell.”
As a small family-owned manufacturer, it was important to Hubbs that the product be made in Georgia. Knowing there was much to do before going to market, Hubbs called the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech. Based on prior work with the GaMEP, Hubbs knew that the group would look after his best interest and provide unbiased guidance in moving forward. Bob Wray, a specialist in product design and a project manager for the GaMEP, met with Hubbs and his team.
Over the next few years, Wray, Hubbs, and his team worked on designing and redesigning the product, creating numerous prototypes before developing the final product. In addition, Wray helped Cushion by Design with the strategic planning around the Peachy Clean® scrubber. Hubbs began participating in the Northwest Georgia GaMEP CEO Forum, a confidential roundtable of CEOs in which ideas, issues, and opportunities are discussed – allowing Hubbs to gain insight into the product and process. Craig Cochran, project manager for the GaMEP, performed quality audits and provided recommendations to increase quality control for the Peachy Clean® scrubber.
Since its development, Hubbs and his team have marketed the scrubber through a grass-roots effort. They have relied on a branded website, promotional give aways, partnering at product related events, online marketing efforts, and word of mouth to grow their business.
Today the sponge is being sold on Amazon and in retail stores.
Cushion by Design has:
- Designed, developed, and gone to market with a new, unique product
- Diversified their business and expanded their customer base by addressing the consumer market
- Established a quality control process for Peachy Clean®
- Positioned themselves to expand their business and grow a product line
Hubbs says, “The GaMEP and Georgia Tech are difference makers. Their approach is proactive – their staff comes out to our manufacturing plant. They see what we are doing and link us back to resources that will actually help us.”