By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
Woman with Broom Sweeps into Housewares Industry Leadership
Like many new home and housewares companies emerging today, Bissell, Inc. started with a problem—and the creative collaboration of an ingenious husband-and-wife team. In the 1870s, Anna and Melville Bissell owned a crockery shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ceramic ware was shipped in crates and barrels packed with loose straw. Anna struggled to sweep up the sawdust and broken dishes from the carpet. Seeing his wife’s frustration, in 1876 Melville designed an improved mechanical carpet sweeper that used brush rollers, his first patented invention. Homemakers were soon swept away by the efficient new cleaner and the Bissells rolled into floor care, leaving the pottery business in the dust.
Demand quickly grew, and in 1883 they built their first manufacturing plant. Anna understood the housekeeping needs of women and their preferences in product appearance. She also grasped the impact of trade promotion and consumer advertising. Upon Melville’s untimely death in 1889, she assumed management of the company, becoming America’s first female corporate CEO. By 1906 the company announced that its sweepers were “the only brand advertised nationally to consumers”. BISSELL’s expanding product
line was soon sold around the world. Anna Bissell guided the company through decades of growth; she served as chairman of the board until her death in 1934. Her heirs continue the legacy of innovation.
As lifestyles evolved, BISSELL introduced new products to help people clean better and easier. In the 1950s, the company invented a multi-purpose formula and shampooer that reduced the time and effort involved in carpet cleaning. Responding to the needs of users living in smaller homes, BISSELL developed lightweight cleaning tools for quick work and easy storage. Today the company offers a wide array of products for many cleaning tasks. See www.bissell.com to learn more about their machines with built-in hot water heaters for deep carpet cleaning, wet and dry hard surface vacuums, upholstery and car cleaners, allergen control products, mops, brooms and liquid cleaning supplies.
BISSELL doesn’t concern itself only with cleaning messes inside your home. The company’s sustainability commitment is a model for cleaning up larger environmental messes as well. BISSELL created the company-wide ForEverGreen team in 2006 to integrate sustainable practices into all aspects of its business. Addressing its key goals of efficient use of resources in products and operations, responsible use of chemicals and transparent reporting of product ingredients, and responsible management of waste throughout a product’s lifecycle, BISSELL strategies apply varied methods to reduce, reuse and recycle.
The company works with its suppliers and retailers to reduce energy and water consumption and generation of waste in its products and operations. Sustainability is incorporated into the earliest phases of product design for optimal impact. In its concentrated cleaning formulas and durable goods, BISSELL reduced use of new materials and increased the use of recycled plastics and cardboard. Limiting truck idling time at shipping docks, efficient factory lighting, and closed loop manufacturing improved operations and reduced costs. BISSELL’s Innovation Center converted factory space into offices and includes the latest in sustainable building design features—from energy recovery systems to rainwater collection for landscape irrigation. In addition to using compostable plates and utensils, the cafeteria discounts coffee prices for employees who bring a reusable coffee mug. BISSELL partners with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) program, which enables companies and industry sectors to compare and improve performance and environmental costs and risks. BISSELL’s programs have proven to be good for the environment and good for its business. Learn more about how BISSELL contributes to a cleaner, greener future at www.bissell.com/sustainability.
More than 135 years after taking on the challenge of cleaning up a family shop, family-owned BISSELL Homecare, Inc. continues to innovate products that solve daily household needs. Sometimes it’s fun to get dirty, but then BISSELL reminds us: “Life’s messy. Clean it up.™”