BSB x The Citizen: The Power of Networking
There are certain things that business school just can’t teach you. Sure, understanding core principles and theories are important, but more often than not, the things that will give you a leg up on the competition are learned by working in the field -— like networking. In collaboration with The Citizen, our new series takes a look at Canada’s innovators, thought-provokers and business leaders, and ask: How has networking helped you? This issue, meet the guys behind Endy, the Warby Parker of mattresses, who are starting to flip the industry on its head.
How did Ari Herberman, Mike Gettis and Rajen Ruparell come together to create Endy?
Rajen and Mike, both Calgary natives, attended The University of Toronto together and became great friends. Many years later, while Rajen was SVP of Global Partnerships at Groupon Inc., he met Ari and asked him to create and lead the Canadian National Partnerships team. In March 2015, while Mike was working on the concept of Endy, Rajen decided to make an investment in the company to help it get off the ground. All three guys knew personally the headaches and stress associated with traditional mattress buying, and Endy provided a feasible, tech-forward solution to those problems.
How does selling exclusively through e-commerce benefit the consumer experience, aside from lower prices?
The Endy e-commerce model benefits the consumer by eliminating all stressors associated with traditional mattress shopping: crowded stores, high markups, pushy sales people, and rushed in-store testing. Endy has streamlined this process by forgoing the gimmicks used by traditional mattress companies, opting instead to offer a single, exceptional, Canadian-made mattress with a simple online shopping experience. Once purchased online, the mattress is shipped directly to the customer in under 7 business days (1-4 business days in Canada). Endy understands that buying such a personal product online can be daunting. To remedy this worry, Endy offers a 100-night, risk free trial period during which the customer is able to test out the mattress in the comfort of their own home. If they decide that the mattress just isn’t for them, Endy will arrange to have the mattress removed and recycled with no questions asked and we issue a full refund to the customer. The Endy business model is centered on a seamless and enjoyable customer experience.
Tell us about the technology behind your products.
The Endy mattress is engineered with a unique three layer design to incorporate the best qualities of memory foam while using a gel-infused top layer to encourage heat management for better sleep. The core of the mattress is made up of two layers of support foam and the top layer is 2 inches of gel-infused memory foam. Memory foam has viscoelastic properties, which allow it to contour to your body and offer support that other foams cannot. The bottom layer of the mattress is high-density foam that serves to prop up and support you as you sleep, and the mid layer is medium-density transition foam that transfers the pressure between the memory and base layers. While many memory foam mattresses cause the sleeper to feel stuck, Endy foam is quickly responsive, yet it still maintains the support and conforming qualities of traditional memory foam. It is often compared to Tempurpedic mattresses in terms of comfort and support, but is a quarter of the price, has a 100-night trial period, and offers a relaxed shopping experience.
There have been other companies similar to Endy that have achieved success in the online mattress industry. What makes Endy unique?
Compared to other e-commerce mattress sites, Endy has the best product at the best price. Because of its unique Canadian location, Endy takes advantage of the current conversion rate between Canada and the States, which works strongly in their customers’ favour in both countries. Also, while all other competitors are located in the States, Endy is the only company located and manufactured in Canada. Supporting a local, Canadian-based business has resonated strongly with a large portion of our consumer base.
What have been the greatest challenges for entering the mattress market, especially when it is solely through e-commerce? And how are you overcoming those challenges?
The most important goal is to spread your brand name and value proposition. A strong marketing plan is essential. In this sense, one obstacle we have had is finding engaging and cost-effective ways to market the Endy brand successfully. When we realize that a certain strategy is working, we then need make decisions on the fly in order to optimize the proven method. After many trials and errors, we have established some incredibly successful guerrilla, online, and social-based marketing strategies that we will continue to pursue in the future. Another challenge we faced from the outset was the lack of a physical store where customers could test out the Endy. Although we try to relieve some of the stress of buying a mattress online with our 100-night trial, we understand that trying the mattress beforehand is important. Because the majority of our orders are from within the GTA, we decided the best solution was to create a beautiful showroom where customers can make an appointment or just drop-in to try the Endy before purchasing. The Endy showroom has proven to be an incredibly cost-effective and high-conversion tool for us. It also serves as a great place to grab a quick power nap during the day!
What professional backgrounds did Mike and Ari, and Rajen have that assisted them in getting into the mattress and e-commerce industries?
Ari previously served as Director of National Partnerships for Groupon, successfully building and launching their Canadian Sales Team. Ari has held various leadership positions in e-commerce startups and is passionate about online disruption and user growth. Mike is a proven e-commerce entrepreneur focused on operations, growth, logistics, and digital marketing analytics. Prior to launching an entrepreneurial career, Mike ran operations and marketing for a European retailer of memory foam sleep products. Finally, Rajen previously co-founded Citydeal (Groupon International), which was acquired by Groupon in 2010. He served most recently as SVP Global Sales at Groupon prior to his departure in March 2015. Rajen is currently an active investor and advisor in many ventures across North America and Europe.
This series is about the power of networking, which in business and, especially in startups, is everything. Can you provide an instance where networking has been vital to the success of your business?
I recently ran into an old colleague at a networking event and we discussed Endy and potential business partnerships for the company. On the spot, this contact offered to put me in touch with his friend at one of the largest moving companies in Canada, AMJ Campbell, to explore a potential partnership. When people move, they usually want or need a new mattress, as well. It was a great connection and opportunity. Fast forward two months and the Endy-AMJ Campbell partnership is in full-swing! You never know how an old connection could be the key to future successes.
What is the best advice you can give on how to be a great networker?
Make sure to master your elevator pitch and make it interesting! The next time your product, service, and/or industry comes up in conversation, hopefully you and your pitch will be remembered and recommended. Networking is the best referral system if done right.