Next up in our mattress executive interview series we’re chatting with the founders of Leesa, David Wolfe and Jamie Diamonstein, about the company’s mattress and sleep product offerings, dedication to giving back and making a difference in the world, and where they’re headed next
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We know you have been an entrepreneur dating back to the 1980s, focusing mainly on travel, how did that shift over the world of sleep, and mattresses specifically, for the idea that spawned Leesa?
My entrepreneurial journey did indeed start in the 1980s. Initially as a consultant and then off to the US as a direct-to-consumer marketer of vacations. So, I’ve spent the last 25 years in direct-to-consumer brand-building and marketing. Around 2000/2005 I had a business that sold sleep products directly to consumers all across America and would have sold mattresses back then if it were not for the fact that the delivery infrastructure and packaging technology wasn’t ready for a nationwide direct-to-consumer brand. My interest in the direct-to-consumer mattress space was heightened after quite an awful experience of helping my daughter purchase a mattress for her first home New York City. Then, in late 2013 I bumped into my co-founder Jamie Diamonstein right around the time when my team and I were looking for a new opportunity to build a direct-to-consumer business using our experience in social media marketing and brand-building. You could say the idea came from decades of experience, direct-to-consumer marketing and a chance meeting in a restaurant. I suppose, as they say, the rest is history.
Leesa seemed to have some nice success right out of the gate, was there difficulty in scaling the business, and what kinds of growing pains were you forced to endure?
I’ve always believed in planning for success and so when we launched Leesa, we did not expect it, but we were ready for the rapid growth that we enjoyed right out of the gate. The eventual growing pains set in as we went from thousands of customers to tens of thousands of customers. The sheer volume of activity was overwhelming at times and the key was hiring an extraordinary team who have masterminded growth for the last 3 ½ years.
From day one, it seems that philanthropy has been a cornerstone at Leesa, from the one in ten program to planting trees, all the way to the B Corp certification. Why has giving back been such a major priority for you and your team, and how do you see the philanthropy projects evolving over time?
It’s interesting that you chose the word philanthropy. For me, philanthropy was always what people with time and money do to contribute to the world in which we live. It’s hugely important, but very different from building a company with kindness at its very core. Long before we sold our first mattress we decided that we wanted a success to be measured as much by our impact on the world as buy our financial performance. Our social impact work is our purpose–it’s as much the reason we come to work every day as anything else. It’s enabled us to hire extraordinary people from all over the US. They all share in our mission and a passion to build a great business and to have a huge impact. I’d like to think I’ve always lived my life this way, but the truth is, the scale of Leesa has meant that our impact has changed my life and the lives of everyone who works at Leesa. It has made us humbler and more understanding of the problems of homelessness, domestic risk and human trafficking. We are proud to partner with people and organizations who do incredible work every day in support of people who really need our help. The B-Corp certification is simply external recognition that we are not alone and that we are joined with many companies who are trying to be a force for good in business.
The bed in a box vertical has evolved over the last five years, but it has to be surreal to see your commercials on national television. Leesa has also been at the forefront of working with athletes as brand ambassadors. How does your team think through expanding to different advertising mediums, and are there any new exciting partnerships on the way?
I’d be lying if I said that it isn’t exciting to see Leesa commercials on TV or the mattresses in West Elm and Pottery Barn stores, not just here in the US but also in Canada on the UK. It’s also been exciting to see people like Michael Phelps and Aly Raisman get behind our products. Perhaps most gratifying part is how all of our partners join with us on a mission to help. We are always exploring new ways to reach consumers and I’m sure you will see us appearing in many more channels over the course of the next 24 months.
Purchasing a mattress without seeing/feeling it first is becoming more commonplace, but some still would like to lie on it first, how beneficial is it for the brand to have the relationship with West Elm?
First and foremost, we take the risk out of purchasing out mattresses by being confident enough to offer 100-night trial and that’s enough for most people. Our relationship with West Elm and Pottery Barn allows consumers to try our mattress before they buy. The greatest benefit, however, is partnering with an extraordinary company like Williams-Sonoma who shadows our passion for people, design and kindness. We think our Customers appreciate this and it certainly helps the business grow.
As the business grew, a new mattress was added to the product line, the Sapira, making use of a pocketed coil system. Walk us through the reasoning behind creating more of a premium product offering?
We introduced the Sapira along with many other sleep products because we recognized that there are different kinds of consumers all with the same goal of sleeping better and reclaiming their right to rest in an always-on world. When we introduced Leesa, it was to compete with much more expensive foam mattresses by offering the support, pressure relief and comfort needed to restore your mind, body and soul for the day ahead. Sapira is for people who preferred the additional support provided by an extraordinary pocket spring system and a unified sleep experience from edge to edge. Ultimately, it’s a matter of choice. I sleep on a Leesa and my cofounder sleeps on a Sapira.
With over 150 online mattress brands out there, what advice would you give to the consumer to cut through the noise and find the right sleep surface for their needs?
We really focused on what a person needs to sleep well each night, and that’s simple. It’s comfort, pressure relief and support. Those three things are necessary for a good night’s sleep, no matter how you sleep each night or what body type you have. That’s what sets Leesa apart from the noise, we are relentless in our pursuit for better rest for our customers.
Staying with complimentary products, a hybrid pillow is now offered at Leesa. What steps should a consumer take to decide which Leesa pillow is right for their sleep preferences?
The Leesa Pillow is an amazing pillow that features the same foam found in our Leesa mattress. It provides the same Universal Adaptive Feel as our mattress, while giving you support for any sleeping position. Your spine will be aligned, which allows the pressure to come off of your joints. In our Hybrid pillow, you get the same spine alignment for any sleeping style, but you also get added benefits of our cool-to-the-touch fabric surrounding the pillow, a down-like quilted side that won’t clump over time and always feels fluffy plus a cooling memory foam side for a cool way to fall asleep. The Hybrid Pillow also features an inner fill pillow that can be removed to adjust the height of the pillow to your liking. Our Hybrid Pillow really is customizable for the way you sleep, every night.
Regarding the mattress, it is no secret that your customers love Avena foam. How important to the early and continued success of Leesa was the ability to utilize that specific component?
For the first three and a half years we chose Avena® as the performance foam that has improved the sleep experience for around a half a million people. I was not willing to compromise on quality and spent two years working with new materials to find a way to improve on the original Leesa mattress. Together, we developed a proprietary high-performance foam that will replace Avena®. It has extraordinary reactivity and pushback that gives you the feeling you’re floating. It’s the most supportive, most comfortable, most relaxing surface I’ve ever experienced in my 30 years in the mattress industry. This is an exciting time for Leesa as we launch our first new Leesa mattress since we started the company three and a half years ago.
With all of these new entrants, it is forcing companies to produce quality sleep products, but where do you see the industry as a whole headed in the next two to three years?
This is an industry that has not seen much innovation for decades. Our competitors seem to be focused on bringing out cheaper versions of the same old ideas year after year. At Leesa we are interested in new ideas that truly have an opportunity to change the way people sleep on the way they rest. We want the bedroom and the ease of products in the bedroom to help every body achieve deeper rest by switching off. You will see new materials, new product ideas and new partnerships from Leesa. We are helping turn bedrooms into sanctuaries while always remembering that when you choose Leesa you’re also choosing to help others who otherwise wouldn’t have a safe and comfortable place to sleep tonight.
Speaking of the Sapira, the branding is different from other Leesa products, and at launch resided on its own website, do you foresee a situation where complimentary products will be released in that Sapira line down the road?
Sapira has been an incredibly successful development for our company and I’m sure you can expect more in the future.