A startup with strong ties to the University of Oregon that’s already been on a growth trajectory, got a big lift earlier this year after a chance in the national spotlight.
Defunkify, which gets the stink out of your laundry with better, safer detergent, has its roots in the lab of Jim Hutchison, a UO chemist and senior associate vice president at the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. His lab focuses on green chemistry, and the Defunkify laundry products use only sustainable ingredients to eliminate odors down to the level of individual fibers.
The Defunkify brand launched in 2017 and is an offshoot of Hutchison’s company Dune Sciences. From its Eugene headquarters, Defunkify has quietly experienced strong growth ever since. In roughly two years, its products have made their way onto the shelves of 2,000 grocery stores around the country, including Safeway and Sprouts.
But the company received further attention with a turn on the Home Shopping Network (HSN).
Defunkify Chief Marketing Officer Eddie Rosenberg, who represents another tie between the company and the UO, got to present to HSN’s viewers the benefits of Defunkify in a live, eight-minute segment. Rosenberg earned his MBA from the Lundquist College of Business in 2017 and joined Defunkify immediately after.
“We were really excited for the opportunity to share Defunkify on national TV—mostly because everybody here loves this brand and believes in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” said Rosenberg.
The HSN appearance is a testimony to Defunkify’s tenacity and innovative products. Rosenberg cultivated the relationship over a year before finally getting the green light to go live on HSN.
“A key reason why HSN ultimately said yes was because their team tested our products, and asked their friends to test it, too,” Rosenberg said. “And they concluded that Defunkify works better than anything they’ve tried in this category.”
In addition to the national exposure and sales from the show, being featured on HSN has opened up additional doors as the startup continues to expand its reach.
“It has had a big impact, particularly in terms of brand validation,” Rosenberg said. “Today, when we walk into meetings, it offers us a tremendous amount of credibility.”
It’s also propelled Defunkify to become one of the fastest-growing companies in the cleaning products category, according to industry data.
“We can certainly attribute that to being on HSN, the boost in awareness, and demand for odor-removing products that actually work,” Rosenberg said.
The growth in sales has allowed Defunkify to hire two new employees in the past two months, bringing its total to seven full-time staffers. Hutchison remains connected to the company as a formulation adviser.
“We get those moments of amazing success and validation, and our team, we don’t stop on those,” Rosenberg said. “It’s ‘what can we do next, how can we keep improving.’ That cycle is continually engaging and exciting.”
Throughout the journey, Rosenberg has drawn on the courses and experience he gained while working toward his MBA. He drew on the numerous pitches he made to classmates, faculty, and influential visitor (including venture capitalists). Plus, the expertise he was—and still is—able to tap from faculty, alumni, and fellow students has been invaluable.
“I have 10 people from the program I consider lifelong friends that I get in touch with weekly,” he said. “That ecosystem of bouncing off ideas and getting help is so alive.”
“I’m so happy I chose the UO to get my MBA,” he added. “This brand-building adventure wouldn’t be happening without that decision to come here.”
—Jim Murez, UO Communications