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Lilly Brush: How a Heart Attack Launched an Eco-Friendly Pet Brand

Glenn Polyn//April 30, 2024//

Lilly Brush: How a Heart Attack Launched an Eco-Friendly Pet Brand

Glenn Polyn //April 30, 2024//

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Launching a startup company can be a stressful experience that is not for the faint of heart. Based in Denver, Colorado and launched in 2011 by Elsie Hamilton, Lilly Brush is a small manufacturer of eco-friendly cleaning brushes for pet owners.

Pet Age recently spoke with Hamilton to learn how fate led her to starting her own pet brand.


What inspired you to develop the Lilly Brush line of pet hair clean-up products?

In 2009, at 48, I was a single mom with two middle school-aged boys. I had a thriving career as an artist. Then, one evening after shoveling snow, my “widow-maker” artery tore during a family dinner causing a massive heart attack. My odds of survival sank into single digits, but I fought with everything I had to get back to my kids.

The following morning, I was so delighted to be alive that when I reached for a water glass and my hands shook uncontrollably, it didn’t faze me. I had had a slight tremor before, but now I couldn’t control a paintbrush. I’d have to find a new career.

The idea for Lilly Brush started several weeks later when we adopted a fluffy little Australian Shepherd named Lilly. Within a day or two, every bed, rug, couch and person in our home was covered in a soft haze of Lilly’s black fur. Hoping for a solution, I went to two pet stores but found only single-use sticky rollers. I avoid environmentally irresponsible products, but I wasn’t allowed to lift a vacuum, so I took one home. The whole time I used that tedious thing, I wondered why nobody had come up with anything better.

Days later, while scrubbing sink fixtures with a toothbrush I saw Lilly jump on the couch with muddy paws. I went over and gently swept the dirt off with the toothbrush. That’s when I noticed that a swath of Lilly’s hair had twisted into a little roll-on top of the bristles. I immediately knew what I was looking at.

By 4 p.m. that afternoon, I had sawed the heads off every toothbrush in the house and glued them to a palm-sized block of wood. When my kids came home from school, they found me cleaning the house with the first Lilly Brush. We all burst out laughing when I announced that I was going to start a company named Lilly Brush, but I was serious. My dad always said, “Leave a place better for your having been there,” and my docs weren’t promising me a long life. I decided to do something good with whatever I had left.


How do the materials used in creating Lilly Brush set you apart from other hair removal products?

Unlike other pet hair removers on the market, our products are completely safe to use on all fabrics and carpets!  The idea of people trying to get embedded hair out of their stuff using lava rocks or those awful metal rakes horrifies me.  Imagine dragging a pumice stone or saw blade across your dress pants or couch cushion. Sticky rollers aren’t much better as they leave a residue that eventually becomes icky and shiny, and cheap rubber products leave black streaks of debrided rubber. We pride ourselves on making products that last for years and not only outperform all these others, but also do so without causing damage or waste!


How many items are offered in the Lilly Brush product line?

We currently offer five pet product SKUs with more on the way!


How would you describe your relationship with retailers who carry the Lilly Brush product line?

We recognize the challenges retailers face when they bring in a new line. If customers haven’t seen our products before, they’ll want to know more about them, but if your sales staff haven’t had a chance to try them, what can they say?  We include multiple employee samples with first orders so that store staff can try them at home and become Lilly Brush fans themselves! We also offer generous ISO discounts, free shipping on orders over $150, and free sales displays. Since we are well established on Amazon with over 45,000 5-star reviews to date, we keep things fair by maintaining a strict online MAP/EMAP policy and by prohibiting third party sales online.


What should retailers and pet parents know about cleaning the different types of pet hair?

We’ve learned that there are two types of pet hair that pet owners struggle with. Long-haired “fluffy” pets like Aussies, Huskies, and Maine Coons shed loads of fine, clingy undercoat hair. It’s easy enough to clean up with a vacuum, but the degree of shedding throughout the year causes customers to desire something easier and faster than daily vacuuming. Our soft-bristled products are a quick and portable solution to that problem. Conversely, pets with short or wiry hair like Labs, Boxers and short-haired cats present a tougher issue because their hair weaves itself into fabrics or carpets. Self-embedding, vacuum-resistant hair is a source of great frustration and embarrassment to many pet owners. Our soft-bladed cleaning products remove years of embedded hair quickly and easily without damaging fabrics!