SARASOTA, FLA.—Purlin, LLC, maker of recyclable linens for the hospitality industry, has won the Lee School Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Hospitality category. The Lee Business School at UNLV and Ted and Doris Lee Family Foundation created a worldwide $1,000,000 Lee School Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the goal of discovering and funding innovative technologies and solutions that make the food and beverage, hospitality, casino, sports and entertainment and travel industries a safe place for employees and guests in the post pandemic world. Purlin’s prize in the hospitality category is $250,000. There were 250 submissions from 32 states in nine countries.
“When the Lee Prize came along, we decided to get involved,” says Richard Ferrell, President of Purlin, whose company’s recyclable linens were first featured in Green Lodging News in 2018. The winners of the competition were announced virtually on Tuesday.
Ferrell says his company is the only one to offer hypoallergenic sheets with no chemicals. His company’s linens are not laundered; instead, after being used by a guest they are picked up to be 100 percent recycled. Made of high-quality microfibers designed to simulate cotton—the same as those used in products such as baby diapers and athletic wear—the sheets and pillowcases are produced and recycled by companies based in Mexico and North Carolina. Once heated to 500+ degrees Fahrenheit, the linens are liquefied and become the ingredients for making brand new sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers, thus resulting in zero waste.
Business Template That Can be Replicated
Ferrell was about to launch his hospitality business in April but COVID-19 forced him to pivot toward healthcare. The Lee School Prize will help him launch his linens into the Las Vegas market where he plans to create a business template that can be replicated throughout the United States. Purlin will continue to use manufacturing facilities in Mexico and North Carolina until business reaches critical mass—about 50 to 60 percent of the Las Vegas hotel market. Then he can build a recycling facility in the Las Vegas area.
From an operational standpoint there are many advantages for a hotel. The laundering process and related labor is eliminated. So too are the typical costs for linen replacement. Housekeepers need only roll up the linens for bagging for recycling—reducing opportunity for any virus to be spread into the air. After that point, staff no longer need touch the linen.
“We are a great solution for COVID-19. You are sleeping on sheets nobody has slept on,” Ferrell says, adding that his linens have the feel of linens with a thread count of 600 to 800.
Environmentally, linen recycling reduces carbon emissions, chemicals, water, and wastewater treatment. Las Vegas, in recent years, has seen its Lake Mead water supply shrink. Synthetic fibers also are not released into the water supply.
“We want to change forever the way people look at communal-use linens,” Ferrell says.
The winners were chosen by the Lee School Prize Committee, made up of notable industry veterans, and are expected to bring their product or idea to market within twelve months.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.