“Think fat, ‘cause fat is better.” No doubt about, you can never be too rich or too fat. On the beach or at the pool, fat is where it’s at.”
Hold on there. Before you send up a shout of joy and reach for the telephone to see if Sam’s Club sells Twinkies by the case, we mean fat as in fluffy, as in towels, as in FatTowels, or FatTowels.com® if you want to get technical.
“It’s an oversize, triple-thick lounge towel,” explained Cliff Prescott of Dallas and Lake Texoma. He is the man behind the big—no, make that fat—towel. “It’s big enough to stretch over a chaise lounge. The towels are one meter by two meters.” That’s three feet, three inches by six feet six inches, for those who don’t do metric. Most beach towels are about thirty-six inches by twenty-four inches, only slightly larger than a bath towel.
The size of a FatTowel is not arbitrary. Prescott took into account some of the realities of life on the water to arrive at the dimensions. One was the size of a chaise lounge—he wanted his towels to drape easily over the entire couch— and the other was, “In the boating world, there are standard sizes for the padding on the boats. On larger boats the padding is twice standard size. I wanted a towel that could cover the padding. But, what really makes this towel different is the thickness. It’s triple thick.”
Prescott is a Dallas native and a graduate of SMU, who got into towels after careers in a couple of other fields. “I was in the real estate business until it crashed,” he said, prompting the question, “Which time?” And the answer, “The eighties.”
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Next came a stint in the media business with Satellite Music Network. “I got into broadcast media in about 1990, and did that for the next ten years or so. I gained a lot of knowledge about marketing and promotions and cultivated a lot of relationships that I’ve taken with me to FatTowels.com.”
Prescott has had a home on Lake Texoma for sixteen years and proudly introduces visitors to the spectacular view of the islands off High Point from his wraparound porch with the line, “This is Texoma living.” Life on the lake has always appealed to him, and he spends as much time as possible on the lake. It proved the perfect environment to inspire FatTowels.
“I can track the development of the idea perfectly,” he said. “I was riding on a boat with a friend of mine, and he had a big old Polo towel. A breeze caught it, and it blew off the boat. He said, ‘Well, there goes a hundred dollars,” and that stuck in my head. I couldn’t believe that people would pay $100 for a towel that was just a little oversize, with nothing else unique about it.”
The idea stuck, bobbing up and down like a piece of driftwood on the lake that picks up bits and pieces of flotsam each time it comes up. “I went back to Dallas, went back to dealing with my customers, and then it all came together.”
Prescott realized that he didn’t have the resources to launch an entry into the towel market, but having worked the promotions end of business for years, he concluded that if he could interest some of his clients in sponsoring the idea… “If companies would buy towels, put their logos on them and use them for promotions, it could work,” he said. “It was a way I could use their capital to launch my new product, and that’s what we did.”
The timing also was right to employ another idea that was growing rapidly, the Internet. Once he came up with the name, he locked up the potential Web sites. “It was also about the time the Internet was really coming on, which leveled the playing field for small guys,” he recalled.
And what about that name? “I wanted something simple. Something that was easy to Google®,” said Prescott. “So Fattowels became the name. I never was really in love with it, but it works.” Actually, Prescott writes the name “FatTowels. (dot) as in .com, and the company’s official name is “FatTowels. com.” Welcome to life in the age of the Internet.
Thinking about a triple-thick, double-stitched, biggerthan- your-average-towel towel is one thing. Coming up with a triple-thick, double-stitched, biggerthan- your-average-towel towel, or even a textile manufacturer who will make one, is something else altogether. Before Prescott and his partner in towels, Natalie Baugh, (their business partnership became a matrimonial one four years ago) could begin the search for answers, they saw a flier about an international textile convention in Miami. Hey, who doesn’t want to go to Miami?
“We went to the convention first, and we never got to the beach,” said Prescott. “There were manufacturers from all over the world there, and our reception was so warm that we put the whole thing together at the convention.”
Prescott and Baugh found no American manufacturers interested in the fat towel idea, but they had no problem getting samples from other parts of the world. They were able to find what they wanted in the first batch of samples, and then, with something big and soft and fluffy to show their potential customers, they set out to make the world aware of FatTowels.com.
The world, or at least companies such as Coor’s Light® and Microsoft®, quickly became aware of the new luxury item and began putting their brands on the premium towels for gifts and promotions. And then there was Oprah. When Oprah bragged on FatTowels on her television show…well, you know what always seems to happen if Oprah talks something up.
With FatTowels.com making friends in the promotions department of several national companies, it was time to expand the marketing reach, so Prescott and Baugh headed for the Miami Boat Show to show off their wares. “It’s the largest boat show in the world. It’s basically ten miles of boats,” said Prescott.
“I had boat manufacturers chasing me down, saying, ‘You, hey you! You with the big towels!’ I was working with Dos Equis at the time, so I took one towel and put those two big Xs on it and walked around the convention center with it. I had the owners of the boat companies following me down the aisle, wanting to know how to get those towels.”
With the towel business growing, the company reached out for other markets, embracing corporate gift giving, and high-end hotels. The latter market opened up when the Ritz Carlton started offering FatTowels embroidered with the chain’s golden lion logo to their guests.
The complex needle work on the towels is made possible by a bank of high-speed, computer-directed embroidery machines at FatTowels.com’s Denison plant and warehouse. Prescott moved the operations north from Dallas last year when he saw a chance to escape the higher costs in the big city and be closer to his home on the lake.
It probably is a good thing that he is close to his lakeside retreat. Summer is coming on, and he’s going to be busier than ever filling orders for FatTowels. And there may be a new line in the works. Prescott is considering a line of products for infants called “BabyFat.” He and Natalie would like to bring their son Sebastian in as a consultant when they start to develop that idea, but they will have to wait until he learns to talk. Sebastian is one-year-old, so it won’t be long before he’ll be adding to the marketing ideas, but for now, he’ll stick with testing naps on triple thick towels.
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Cliff Prescott, owner