Discreet and Dignified: Norton Hurley Avoids Embarrassing Purchases with Subscription Service

Cincinnati-born startup provides a new approach to adult diapers

For millions of people around the world, buying adult diapers is a necessity, but it can also be an embarrassing task. At rapidly expanding Norton Hurley, however, they’ve found that the booming subscription model can solve that problem while adding convenience and streamlining delivery. And as the founders have come to discover, their target demographic isn’t as limited as many would expect.

“People think, ‘How are you going to sell subscriptions to 80-year-old people?’” said CEO David Woodbury. “Certainly, that demographic uses the product a lot, but the average user is only 54 years old. This is a potentially embarrassing product to have in your cart at Walmart. We provide the convenience of having it shipped discreetly to your house.”

The idea for Norton Hurley was born at Ohio Third Frontier partner The Brandery in Cincinnati, and its creators reached out to Woodbury’s innovation and growth agency, Rev7, to helm the project. To take the idea from concept to reality, Woodbury and his team made the quick decision to put their faith in the Cincinnati startup scene.

“It was pretty crazy; when we joined The Brandery, we didn’t even have a name,” said Woodbury. “We didn’t have the company formed. We just knew we were going to build something around adult diapers and a subscription model. We got there, did a bunch of research and came up with something discreet that didn’t necessarily say ‘diapers’ but had a more dignified, higher-end feel to the brand.”

The group spent four months developing their idea, partnering with local agencies and earning investment from Gener8tor. Through the process, the young company was able to create connections, meet potential investors and advisors and network with a variety of local companies and industry figures.

“The Brandery is known for their mentor programs,” said Woodbury. “Right away, they had scheduled meetings. It was like speed dating with nonstop one-on-ones with potential mentors, telling your story and getting quick feedback. You end up working with people throughout the whole program that might be a good match for your company.”

While in town, Woodbury and his team got to know Cincinnati’s flourishing Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and beyond. He credits his Cincinnati experience with getting Norton Hurley off the ground, showcasing the power of Ohio’s startup culture.

“Everybody came in totally blind with no relationships and The Brandery made sure to jump-start everything,” said Woodbury. “We’ve been part of a lot of different accelerator programs and have experienced a lot of different places. Midwestern cities are evolving from a predominantly blue-collar workforce into thriving tech hubs. There is a lot of money and resources right now, and you can tell that evolution is happening.”

Norton Hurley is now looking global. They have offices in South Dakota and a distribution team with employees in Minnesota, Tennessee, Florida, Massachusetts, Bulgaria and British Columbia, with plans to open a facility in Germany in the future. After all that expansion, the company is headed back to Cincinnati where it all began.

“We’ll continue pushing the U.S. market, but we’re actually going to launch a European market because we have a partner in Germany with manufacturing plants,” said Woodbury. “We want Cincinnati to be our Midwest to East Coast hub. It’s a great community with a really creative vibe and it’s a major central location.”

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