When his wholesale business selling luxury linens to boutique hotels slowed during the recession, Steve Caradano tried a new approach, launching a website nine months ago to sell sheets directly to consumers. "I can take an $1,100 sheet set, bypass the retailers, and sell it for $500," says Caradano. To build the reputation of his brand in a new market, he got in touch with editors of interior design blogs such as Habitually Chic, Cote de Texas, and Coco & Kelley to offer them a chance to review the products, which are handcrafted in Italy, and to award a set of linens to their followers in small contests. "They're mini-Oprahs," says Caradano. "They have people who are intrigued by what they say. They bring credibility." The giveaways led to discussions of the sheets among the design aficionados on the blogs -- and purchases from his site. Caradano has now added his own blog to Vero Linens' site -- offering advice like tips for recently divorced men on how to buy sheets, which drives additional traffic to his site. "A year ago, I had zero traffic," he says. Today, he notes, his site appears on the first page of Google search results when consumers type in terms like "Italian bedding."
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