Sleep and success are often positioned as incompatible: to have one requires sacrificing the other.
But that’s an exhausted myth. Sleep is paramount to strengthening memories, enhancing problem solving and boosting mood, among many other benefits — all of which help drive entrepreneurship and professional success (and help us feel better throughout the day).
Ron Rudzin had figured this out ten years ago, but saw a problem: quality sleep, via quality mattresses, often came at a cost, limiting how accessible a healthy night’s rest was. In 2010, he introduced his first luxury mattress, where good sleep met good business.
I spoke with Rudzin, the President and CEO of Saatva, the Smarter Luxury Sleep company that began with one mattress and now expects to soon have over 15 stores throughout the country. For over a decade, Rudzin has staked a claim in the sleep industry, pioneering mattresses for better sleep and a business model that subverted expectations (and price tags) for luxury goods.
He offered his insights into how to identify a gap in the market and transform it into a successful business, and, most importantly, how to incorporate a consistent sleep routine into our daily lives (hint: think of it the way you think of your exercise regimen).
Beth Doane: The more we learn about sleep, the more we learn about how fundamental it is to so many aspects of our health. How do you prioritize your health and wellbeing as a founder?
Ron Rudzin: I have a philosophy I call “total life success.” Success in life is never just about one thing — it’s never just about work, or money, or family. It’s a combination of all those things. For me, I love having a good time. I love to read, I love to be at the beach, I love to play sports. Every week, I have to do physical activity that makes me sweat, no matter what. Unless I do those things, I don’t feel successful.
Doane: What tips would you recommend someone follow to create a wellness routine?
Rudzin: Get out. Be active. Your best ideas are not going to come at your desk.
Getting enough sleep is critical. Make sure you have the right mattress that will support you and help you get the best rest. I tell whoever will listen that they have to view sleep as an activity and prepare for it, the same way they would if they were going to work out or play a sport.
Doane: What are your strategies for a successful sleep?
Rudzin: I make sure that the temperature of the room is right. It has to be extremely dark, and I turn off all my electronics about 15 minutes beforehand. I take a warm shower before I go to sleep. I prepare the same way for sleep every single night, because I know how important it is.
Doane: Your company helps encourage better sleep — and through that, better health. A lot of aspiring founders have similarly big ideas and are trying to translate them into businesses. What was the catalyst behind the idea to start Saatva?
Rudzin: I spent my career in the home furnishings business and knew that the luxury mattress is the highest margin item in the industry. By cutting out the middleman and selling directly to the consumer, we could create a product that was as good, or better, than mattresses sold at traditional retail stores — at half the cost. We could offer 24/7 customer service, white-glove delivery and setup, and a generous home trial.
This makes a quality sleep experience accessible to more people everywhere. From the beginning, we made a commitment to healthy practices, such as using only premium eco-friendly materials, like organic cotton and natural latex, and manufacturing our mattresses in facilities across the United States, which cuts down on the distance they have to travel from the factory to the customer’s home.
Doane: What’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced as a founder, and how have you overcome it?
Rudzin: The past 18 months have been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Saatva’s reputation was built on customer service.
The pressures COVID put on us were unprecedented. For the first time, we had to deal with supply chain issues, factory shutdowns, new social distancing and delivery policies — all of which contributed to delays. On top of that, demand for our products skyrocketed as people were staying home and shopping online. Fortunately, most of the materials shortages have eased out, and we are back on track. I am especially proud that throughout this period, as we pivoted to remote work, we have continued to grow and improve as a company, adding to our teams, getting more efficient in our processes, and collaborating in ways that I didn’t think possible before the pandemic.
Doane: What quote most inspired you as you started your career?
Rudzin: This one is from Sam Walton. “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”