Next up in our mattress executive interview series we’re chatting with the Founder and CEO of of Sleep on Latex, Karl Shevick, about latex as a mattress component, how he got into the world of mattresses and much more.
Also, when you finish reading, enter to win a brand new Sleep on Latex mattress in a size of your choice!
Founding Sleep On Latex as a one man operation sounds like a daunting task. Walk us through your decision to get into the bedding industry and what you had worked on prior.
After college, I went to work for a contract sewing business in Chicago. I eventually started a string of sewing related businesses in the midst of the recession that were not very successful. I wanted to move into selling products online and found that many sewing and upholstery materials which I could buy at wholesale prices were being sold at higher prices online. One of my suppliers sold latex foam. I had never heard of it but quickly became intrigued by it and found out that there was a niche market for it online. I decided in the beginning of 2013 that I would give up everything else I was doing and create Sleep On Latex. It was the last shot I was giving myself to build a sustainable business. I really knew nothing about the bedding industry, I just thought that latex foam was a great product that I could sell online.
Working with family can sometimes be difficult, from what we read you brought on your brother Ezra, how has this impacted your personal relationship?
It hasn’t really been difficult at all. I think it’s brought us closer. We have gained a really good understanding of each other. We’re different people and have different strengths and weaknesses. When we started, these differences would sometimes cause some friction, but over time, we’ve gotten past that. I think that we’ve come to see our different perspectives as more of a strength than an issue. I really respect what he brings to the table and I think he respects what I bring to the table. We definitely disagree on things now, but we rarely get into any kind of argument. I’m extremely lucky to have him working with me and I know that the business would not be what it is today without him.
How was the decision made to progress from offering toppers and pillows to complete mattresses?
We felt like we had become pretty good at selling latex mattress toppers online but wanted to continue growing the business. Complete mattresses seemed like a natural next step. I had experience in sewing so manufacturing them was something that we had the ability to do. We saw a need for competitively priced natural mattresses. We felt that we could get to a lower cost without sacrificing on quality through smart sourcing and efficient manufacturing.
It sounds like the decision was made to bring all of the inventory in house, and you got into a warehouse, then quickly moved into a far bigger warehouse. Were there any catalysts to your extreme growth?
We’ve always sold our products at great prices. Our quality is top notch, better than many brands that sell mattresses and toppers at much higher prices than us. We really do everything we can to set up customer friendly policies and make sure our customers are happy. We have amazing and unbelievably dedicated employees. We’re always looking for ways to improve.
The latex used in your mattress comes all the way from Sri Lanka. Fill us in on how someone in Chicago discover that Sri Lanka is an excellent resource for latex, it sounds quite interesting.
The internet. I researched it, sent out a bunch of emails and explored the different suppliers. I looked at a bunch of samples and eventually went there to work on perfecting the product for our use.
Bringing in your latex in from that far around the globe, how do you mitigate product shortages, as you must have a rather long lead time shipping wise.
We have to be really good at planning and carry a lot of inventory. We had some issues with it in the beginning but we rarely have any shortages anymore. We keep a large inventory of finished goods and ship pretty much everything out in 1 business day or less.
There are not too many companies out there offering solely latex mattresses, especially at this price point. What drew you to focusing on that particular component for your products, and what is the latex pitch to potential customers?
We’re not trying to be everything to everyone. We’re trying to be really good at one thing. Natural latex foam is the best mattress material. It’s a safe, plant based material that offers superior comfort, support and durability. We don’t want to sacrifice on quality in any way, so we’ve never even really considered using any cheaper petroleum based foams.
It’s very important to us that our customers understand that we’re really committed to the products that we sell. You won’t come to our factory and find petroleum based foams. I believe that our customers want to buy from a company that is dedicated to only selling natural latex foam. Going along with that, since we really believe in the value of our products, we want them to be as accessible as possible. Too many latex foam mattresses are sold at outrageous prices. I think it’s disingenuous and boring to sell great products at unaffordable prices.
Unfortunately, returns are something that the industry is forced to deal with. How is your team working with customers to ensure they are satisfied with their mattress purchase?
The truth is that some consumers aren’t going to be happy with their mattress. If it’s an issue that can be solved with a topper or an exchange, we try our best to help. If they simply want to return it within 100 days, we have it picked up and refund them as quickly as possible, no questions asked. We try not to put up any barriers to returning the mattress within 100 days. We don’t want someone to be stuck with a mattress that they don’t want, it’s not good for anyone.
By offering three different types of firmness and two heights of the mattress, do you ever find customers aren’t exactly sure as to what would be best for them?
Yes, definitely. We try to give people guidance on the website but we encourage anyone who is unsure to call us. We have tons of people contact us every day for advice on choosing a mattresses and toppers. We have a customer service team that’s here to help.
Do you foresee any new product offerings on the horizon for Sleep on Latex?
We have some very exciting things in the pipeline. I can’t go into too much detail about our plans right now, but we’ll be sure to reach out when we make an announcement.
The online mattress sector has exploded over the last four years, where do you see things heading over the next couple of years?
It has exploded, but I think what often goes unnoticed is that it hasn’t been particularly profitable for most online mattress companies. Growth has come to a halt for many companies as their marketing budgets have dried up. I think the current model of online mattress sales is dying and will slowly die out.
Although some of the better financed online mattress companies will survive, consumers will become more aware of the fact that these “startups” who are “disrupting” the mattress industry are little more than marketing firms. As consumers become more aware of this, I think that the online mattress industry will be forced to become more transparent and more focused on providing good value.
Huge thanks to Karl, Rachel, Ola and the team at Sleep on Latex for making this interview possible! For more information about Sleep on Latex and their products, check out our Sleep on Latex Mattress Reviews.