Listen to the Nitty Gritty with Tuft & Needle here.
It started with a “Hate List.” That’s what Daehee Park and John-Thomas Marino called the piece of paper they had covered with personal grievances about the mattress industry during a brainstorm session. The product lacking, the price too high, the process of returning nonexistent: buying a mattress was painful, but did it have to be? It was this document of initial grumblings that would inspire Park and Marino to found Tuft & Needle, a direct-to-consumer mattress business that would not only go on to upend the old school model, but also shift the paradigm of how startups can get off the ground. Tuft & Needle is, was, and will continue to operate on its own terms–and, in the process, give consumers something to love.
From the beginning, Park and Marino knew they wanted to run a company that was self-financeable, propelled forward by real and organic growth. Their previous experience in tech startups had soured them on the “If you build it, they will come” format, wherein outsider funding paid for and supported products no one knew exactly if there was a market for. Sure, sometimes you had a winner of an idea, but what about all the unseen losers? Park and Marino knew there were inherent dangers in excess. Instead, they looked towards successfully bootstrapped companies like GitHub and 37signals for entrepreneurial inspiration. And today, Tuft & Needle is a bootstrapping inspiration to others. No small feat considering the company deals in real physical product. They didn’t just need to build an app; they needed to reverse engineer a mattress, cold call suppliers, build relationships with manufacturers. Not to mention develop a seamless web interface for the end user. Needless to say, it’s a beast no matter where the money is coming from.
Their attitude towards self-funding has impacted how the company functions at its core. Tuft & Needle operates in customer-driven iteratives. Instead of making large and sweeping (and expensive) changes all at once, Park and Marino prefer adjusting things slowly and over time. This ensures that the right decisions are made in the most efficient manner possible. The product–from the way it feels to how much it costs–remains a reflection of that. The money comes in and they know exactly where to put it. Since their 2012 launch, Park and Marino have worked to create an intelligent, cash-positive business offering customers a product better than anything on the market. They’ve done just that.
For our latest installment of The Nitty Gritty, Bond Street founder David Haber sat down to talk with Park and Marino about having passion for problems, childhood entrepreneurship, and running a business that can stand on its own two feet.
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