Sampler recruits testers to make masks

Demand for the at-home sampling start-up has remained high, and now it is including sewing kits in the boxes it sends to members.


Direct-to-consumer start-up Sampler is tapping its network of product testers to produce over 20,000 non-medical grade masks for Toronto grocery and shelter workers.

Sampler – which offers targeted at-home product sampling – is using insights from a recent consumer questionnaire, to find and then to recruit sewers in the GTA to be part of its ComeTogetherTO initiative, which involves sending out 2,000 at home sewing kits in Sampler boxes. Sampler also partnered with CPG giant Procter & Gamble to donate 1,000 Tide laundry detergent pods to help at home manufacturers clean the masks prior to donating. Local same-day delivery service Envoi joined to offer free no-contact pickup of masks to be donated to delivery drivers.

In addition, Sampler is offering discounts for users who support local brands that have used the service, with 126 Toronto brands such as Balzac coffee, Culcherd, Mother Raw and Dick Duff’s Organic Jerky being featured on a landing page where users could get a coupon code.

A desire to give back, along with the recommendation by the government to produce more non-medical grade masks, inspired the move, according to Marie Chevrier, founder of Sampler, who says the company wanted to utilize its big distribution channel of 100,000 members in the GTA. “We are really good at shipping boxes to consumer homes,” Chevrier jokes, “and we have worked with amazing brands that deserved to be highlighted.”

Chevrier tells strategy that the discount idea was spurred from trying to get a grocery delivery time slot and being unable to. She says that in her head she then “started a list of 10 brands I wanted to buy directly from.”

Chevier says it’s a good time for Sampler’s business, as its members are engaged with their packages as they arrive and there’s been an increase in demand from brands that have had to pivot away from in-person sampling programs.

A lot of brands are now using influencers instead of hosting public events, she says, people who can just direct followers to sign-up for a sample, while also leveraging Sampler’s North American network of 50 million users. It allows the brand to converse and have a more direct relationship with the consumer, she says.

Chevrier says that in the pandemic environment with public fears of venturing outside for everyday purchases, “even if you don’t sell DTC, you are being pushed to do so in the way that you market” She expects an uptick in CPG sales, citing a Credit Suisse study that shows an increase of 30% from March to May., though warns not all categories are created equal.

“What’s been interesting to see is that for example, cosmetics, which has typically been pretty recession proof – in a pandemic situation it’s really decreasing,” Chevrier says. However, she says, “people are really focused on self-care right now. I have done more face masks than I can count!”