They’re devoted to promoting diversity in healing … through adhesive bandage.
Calling themselves “Tru-Colour Bandages,” a small team of six people — including three Wheaton students: senior Michael Paffenroth, senior Mason Duling, and sophomore Ruth Ruberwa — banded together to change how we see bandages for good.
“Our founder, Toby Meisenheimer, class of ’96, has five children,” Paffenroth said. “Three are domestic adoptions and are African-American. A little over a year ago, Toby posted a pic of his son wearing a bleachy beige Band-Aid on his forehead, and how laughable it was. He looked for a bandage company that was targeting people of other skin tones and couldn’t find one still in business, so he decided to try his hand at starting one.”
The original team consisted of Meisenheimer, Duling and Paffenroth. They began to meet weekly in December 2013 to discuss the possibilities of beginning an adhesive bandage company that catered to all skin tones, not just beige.
“Imagine a spectrum of skin-tone bandages available, much like the cosmetic industry has done for makeup,” the Tru-Colour website says. “Tru-Colour Bandages exists to bring bandage equality to the industry. In our diverse society, bandage companies should offer more than just peachy beige or cartoon superhero.”
As the idea grew, so did the company. Currently six people are on staff at Tru-Colour bandages. Meisenheimer is the president and founder. Duling is the chief design officer and Paffenroth is the finance and operations manager. Christian Ruberwa ’14 is the legal advice expert, Ruth Ruberwa is the chief marketing officer and Ryan Tolbert ’12 is the videographer. The company also relies on an extensive network of volunteers. Their design team, business team and fulfillment team are based in Warrenville, Ill. Though the bandages are made in China at the moment, Ruth Ruberwa said, “We eventually hope to manufacture these in the countries in which we plan to have operations.”
Their product is more than just a typical bandage. “We make three different shades of flexible fabric bandages in two different sizes,” Ruberwa said. “The bandages are latex-free. Instead of the usual clumsy old boxes, our bandages are packaged in fun, brightly-colored, re-sealable, waterproof bags which are not prone to destruction like the usual cardboard boxes.” The bandages come in packs of 30 — 15 larger size and 15 smaller size — for the price of $5, plus $1 shipping for anywhere in the U.S. and $2 shipping for Canada. Three different skin tones — light, medium and dark — are available at the moment for market, but the team is consistently creating new colors for their bandages with the hopes of matching a variety of skin tones.
Tru-Colour has a website and Facebook page that keeps its followers updated about what new products will be released. Their Facebook is full of quotes from inspirational leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, promoting racial unity and healing. There are also comments and pictures from satisfied customers, thanking the team. They feature hashtags such as #diversityinhealing and #bandageequality.
Where can you find Tru-Colour Bandages? “We recently launched an Indiegogo campaign, so it’s available there, as well as on our website,” Ruberwa said. Indiegogo.com, an international crowd-funding site, asks donors to contribute to startup business and efforts, promising them some of the product in return. Donors can give anywhere from $1 to $50,000. Donate $30 or more and Tru-Colour will send you bandages as well as donating bandages to worldwide medical relief organizations in your name.
You can pre-order from their website, trucolourbandages.com, as well. They will be available by early December.
Even though the bandages are only available online, the team hopes to offer the bandages in stores soon. They also plan to get Wheaton students on board. “We are actually in the process of planning our preliminary marketing efforts here at Wheaton,” Ruberwa said. “We want to generate some buzz. Hint: It involves the essential staples in everyone’s wardrobe, some personalities around campus and our bandages.”
The Tru-Colour Team is keeping things a bit secretive regarding their advertising campaign at Wheaton, but you can look forward to seeing them around campus soon.
Starting a new company has both its challenges and rewards, and both Ruberwa and Paffenroth shared what has been the biggest joy for Tru-Colour.
“Being part of a startup is so unpredictable, but having a great team makes it really rewarding,” Ruberwa said. “The best part about Tru-Colour is its people. We each approach decisions with a unique perspective, but the environment we have managed to cultivate here is so encouraging that everyone feels like they have ownership, ideas flow freely and we mesh the best parts and that makes the end product collaborative and innovative.”
Regarding the challenges, Paffenroth noted the technical issues of beginning a new company. “Deciding which channels of distribution to go through has been particularly challenging. Does it belong in a physical location or online? We think partnering with non-profits is a good route, but we’re also considering hospital catalogs. The versatility of ways that this product can be marketed continues to amaze us, and it presents an exciting challenge.”
The Tru-Colour team has seen Christ working in specific ways as he brings people together, allowing them to daily live out their motto, “Diversity in Healing.” When Ruberwa was asked how Tru-Colour has seen God working in the business, he said, “God has been extremely present in terms of the people who have volunteered their time and talent to help out with Tru-Colour because they believe in the mission and understand the vision.” Ruberwa continued, “(The volunteers) all have unique gifts and it has been really cool to see the body of Christ at work in this way: We have adoptive parents who work in different fields who have stepped up to get the word out about Tru-Colour, there are people in press, people who are social media savvy and the list goes on. We’re amazed at the number of Christ-followers lending their time and talents for free to help see this succeed.”
The members of the Tru-Colour team recognize both the potential of the idea and also the magnitude of the vision that the business has a whole. “Toby reached out to the business and economic department, looking for students interested in starting the program with him,” Paffenroth said. “I was interested in the project because I saw that it had potential to be an amazing idea, and it was a product that would be helping others out!” Ruberwa said, “I joined Tru-Colour because I thought it was a unique idea. I work there because I see the vision, and I believe in it because of the team and how it’s drawing people into a fundamentally important dialogue about diversity.”