Was the last time you plunged your toilet a joyful experience? If the answer to that question is no, I’m willing to bet your bathroom isn’t home to a Staff plunger.
Staff, founded by Charlie Weisman in the midst of the pandemic, is the mega-viral plunger-and-other-everyday-home-item brand seeking to infuse moments of joy into your everyday life through touchpoints in your kitchen, your closet, and your bathroom. (Wash hands between uses, please.)
If you’re looking to infuse a little oomph into your home, Charlie Weisman’s your founder. In this edition of Quality Makers, he shares his personal connection to the plunger that kicked this journey off, the brands he’s crushing on, and his vision for expansion beyond plungers, toilet cleaners, hangers, and oven mitts.
Take a plunge into the wonderful world of Staff with Charlie Weisman…
What’s your story? How did you end up founding Staff?
CW: “My background is in advertising – the intersection of business and creativity is something I’ve always enjoyed exploring. I spent about a decade working there, although I did have a stint as a Guinness World Records judge (I worked with brands to help them organize record breaking attempts).
I founded Staff with the mission to make each day brighter. We do that by reimagining household essentials with bold colors, unique materials, and characters that are eager to help. During lockdown in New York (where everyone’s plunger is just sitting next to their toilet because there’s no storage), my overactive imagination was wondering how to liven up my space – and I figured why not start by going in the opposite direction on a product that’s designed to blend into the background?
On top of that, my grandfather was actually a plumber. But, I wasn’t really trying to start a plunger company, so we’ve focused on all of the items throughout our houses that we use everyday that are functional and serve a purpose but aren’t elevated or fun. We launched with the plunger and were so excited by everybody’s reaction to it. From there, it really took off and went from this side project learning experience to my full-time gig.”
I remember suddenly seeing the plunger everywhere during Covid. Was it just a super viral product from the jump? How did you get it in front of so many people?
CW: “This thing has been bootstrapped, so a lot of it was just organic. I think it caught a lot of attention due to the novelty of what we were doing. We got a lot of attention from the press and then it snowballed.”
In terms of functionality, is Staff intent on building better products or simply infusing way more fun into existing ones à la Liquid Death?
CW: “Everything we make is a tool, and it has to function on a really high level. However, we're not Dyson – we're not coming in and totally reimagining, with new technology, what these things are. The first thing we do is imagine a high level version of an item, and then we decide how we can inject as much personality into it as possible.
If you’re going to use a plunger, it has to work. But also, if you have to grab that plunger…it’s probably not the best part of your day. So if we can add a little levity to that moment – that's what we're all about.”
Can you walk me through your current product line?
CW: “The idea's always been to have a house full of Staff. We started with the plunger because of the personal connection. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people share their plunger on social media. After that, we rolled out oven mitts and the hangers. The goal there was to bring us out of the bathroom a little bit – introduce that there's this whole world of Staff and bring in different subcultures.
So with the oven mitts, we can reach out to the whole foodie crowd and connect with them. With the hangers, it opens the door for us to talk to that fashion crowd and connect with them. And then we also have a toilet brush, and that's in part because once we came up the plunger, a lot of people said, "Hey, awesome, but we also want a toilet brush." So we got to work on that. They're best buddies. That's the four that we have at the moment, but stick around. We have so much in the works.”
Looking at the general landscape, are there other brands that you have your eye on? Are there brands that you would want to collaborate with?
CW: “I love brands. In terms of brands I’m following, two brands are really exciting me lately. One is Fishwife. I love the product itself, and their branding is just off the charts. The thing I think they do better than anyone is collabs. They do such a good job of connecting with different groups and it’s so fun to watch.
The other one is MSCHF. They do these monthly drops of these just wild products. Actually, I'm looking at a puzzle that's on my table right now where you don't know what it's supposed to be at the end. Every puzzle equates to money. Everyone's a winner, up to a million dollars. So maybe this puzzle's on my table and worth a million dollars. They just have this ability to wow me every month with what their next drop is. No brand has me more anticipated about seeing what's next.
To your second question, collabs are a huge part of Staff's future. We have two major ones in the works that I wish I could share more about. It's probably my favorite thing I'm working on at the moment. So I just can't wait to be able to share more on that one. And then there's a ton of other people that I would love to work with. A couple that I have in mind are Crocs, Kith and Erewhon. Those are three that I've got some ideas for. So if you're reading this... Wish me luck.”
In terms of the next few years – short term, long term – what are your big goals for the company?
CW: “What we want to do now is just get a lot more stuff out there, all throughout the house. The next year or so will be about telling a bigger brand story, and really trying to connect that with people. But on a macro level, what we're trying to do is just make people happy on a daily basis. That's the goal we work towards.”
*This interview had been edited for clarity and brevity.