Two Utah brothers, Mark and Peter Rane, found themselves dissatisfied with the existing pillow options on the market. Their quest for the perfect pillow led them to leverage their extensive industrial design experience—accumulated over 30 years while working with prominent brands like YETI, Lenovo, and Black Diamond—to create a solution of their own.
The result was Twilla, an adjustable pillow that epitomizes customization for individual comfort. The name “Twilla” itself, meaning “woven with a double thread,” reflects the high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail the brothers insisted upon. Their patented Pod-System allows users to tailor the pillow’s firmness and support, aligning the spine for a restful sleep.
This innovative product was brought to life through a successful Kickstarter campaign in the Fall of 2022, showcasing the community’s support for their vision. The Rane brothers’ journey from concept to creation has culminated in a pillow that not only adjusts to one’s sleeping preferences but also represents a commitment to superior design and personal well-being.
We are thrilled to present an exclusive interview with the co-founders of Twilla, who have taken the concept of the humble pillow and transformed it into a tailored sleep experience. Join us as we delve into the minds of Peter and Mark Rane, exploring the origins of their company, the challenges they’ve faced, and the triumphs they’ve celebrated.
1. Peter and Mark, can you share with us the story behind the inception of Twilla? What was the driving force that led you to start your own company as a brother duo?
The idea for Twilla started several years ago, when we were looking for a pillow for ourselves. It seemed like there were a lot of good pillows on the market, but when we tried them out, we were constantly disappointed. Being designers, we just naturally started evaluating all of the pillows and then making our own prototypes. We spent a lot of time behind the sewing machine before we thought about turning it into a brand.
But the seed was planted a long time before that. We grew up camping and mountain biking together, then we both studied Industrial Design. We went our separate ways, working for different companies for a long time before everything finally fell into place for us to be able to work together.
2. You both have a rich background in Industrial Design and have worked with renowned brands. How has this experience shaped your approach towards product design at Twilla?
We feel really lucky to have been involved with so many great brands. It was amazing to see how you could take a simple idea, turn it into a product, and then create a whole brand! We loved working on in-house design teams because it gave us a deep understanding of both products and brands, along with access to founders and other amazing brand-builders. This gave us a front row seat to the challenges and rewards of starting something from scratch.
Seeing all of this motivated us to come up with a really refined product that we could be confident standing behind. Knowing how hard it is to launch a successful product, there was no way we could do it with something mediocre.
3. The name “Twilla” signifies “woven with a double thread”. Can you elaborate on how this meaning is reflected in your products and overall brand philosophy?
It goes back to how we started the company. We saw a real problem, and we let the product naturally evolve by focusing on the best solutions. That’s how great products are made. We didn’t start with a strict timeline or budget, we just wanted to make sure we were solving a real problem, and in the best possible way. We try to make sure that everything we do is thorough and refined.
4. As co-founders and brothers, how do you manage disagreements or differences in opinion when it comes to decision-making for Twilla?
I think we lean on our design skills, which means that we love to prototype and test. If we’re not sure which direction to go, we try to think of a way to test it out as quickly as we can. Usually the right solution becomes obvious and we don’t worry about where the idea came from.
And if that doesn’t work, a good mountain bike ride clears our heads and helps us work through whatever we need to!
5. You started Twilla because you couldn’t find a pillow that you liked. Can you tell us more about the process of creating a customizable pillow and the challenges you faced along the way?
We like to start by testing and learning everything we can about what is already available. Why would you start with a blank slate when so many people have already worked on the same problem! By testing what was already available, we learned what made something super soft, what was durable, what was supportive, what hadn’t been tried before, etc.
This allowed us to address the first major hurdle, which was finding the right materials. Once we had this figured out, the most significant problem we identified was coming up with an adjustment system. We could use the best materials in the world, but none of that mattered if it couldn’t be adjusted easily and quickly.
We tried all sorts of different ideas, and we were inspired by other products that had packaged stuff together into little ‘pods’, like laundry detergent and things like that. There was a magic moment when I was experimenting with different fillings to see how they felt. In the middle of the night I woke up, and without turning on the light, I zipped open the pillow, pulled these prototype ‘pods’ out, then zipped the pillow closed and went right back to bed. The adjustment was so easy and it made a huge difference in the comfort of the pillow. We knew we were on the right track.
6. With over 30 years of combined experience in designing products, what are some key lessons you’ve learned that you apply in your current venture?
We know how important it is to be aligned internally and make sure that we, as founders, have a clear vision for the company. This makes everything so much easier and allows us to grow the way we want to.
We’ve also seen how important it is to emphasize creativity and a sense of constant improvement. Having been involved with many different companies, we know this doesn’t happen by accident. It takes real effort to create the kind of culture that makes you excited to work to attract others.
7. Lastly, what’s next for Twilla? Are there any upcoming projects or products that you’re particularly excited about?
There are so many products that we can’t wait to show! But for now we are doing everything we can to create a strong brand and get our pillow out to as many people as possible.
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