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How Do You Define Failure?

Before I get started on this week’s blog I want to direct you to this podcast featuring Rick Anderson, the President of Tempur Sealy International. We talk about the reunion with Mattress Firm, MAP pricing, the value of the Tempur-Pedic brand, and Ricks’ very cool Caddy Shack golf bag so check it out.

Q1 of 2017 my brother Jeff and I launched a new D2C mattress brand called Herobed. The goal was to participate in the growth of the online channel and do some good along the way but it didn’t work out how we had hoped. As with any start-up we did our due diligence looking at other brands, their pricing, product construction, advertising approach, did a lot of analysis on acquisition cost etc. and felt strongly that our approach would fit a niche with consumers and capture the hearts and minds of people wanting better sleep, therefore, a better life. The problem was, even during development, the financial models that we created were constantly changing and it was impossible to keep up with new players in the category. When you enter such a dynamic segment the risk factor grows exponentially and we failed. Or did we?

Our concept was to come out with a hybrid, (pocketed coil/gel memory foam construction) which was different than pretty much anything being promoted on-line, price it slightly above the market, and create a marketing message that consumers could get behind. The idea there was that we are all somebody’s hero and in order to make an impact on those around us, we have to be the best version of ourselves, and sleep is a critical piece to that. We celebrated teachers, moms and dads, neighbors, and local charities. ANYONE that was doing something to add value to the lives of others. We donated beds and talked about sleep as a component of a happy life, turned the box into something kids could color, (what kid doesn’t like to play with a big box?), and we even delivered the bed with its very own superhero cape. But it wasn’t enough. Low conversion rates and higher than projected marketing cost kept us from the desired result.

I haven’t really talked about this until now because, in all honesty, I was a little embarrassed. I hate losing which at the time is how I was looking at the year we spent developing the brand; a big fat loss. It’s true that Herobed was not a financial success but we did get a lot from our time working on the project so was it really a net loss? We now have a very deep understanding and appreciation as to what it takes to succeed in that space and we learned a lot about digital commerce, which in today’s world is pretty valuable. Not to mention the fact that I spent a year working on this with one of my best friends who also happens to be my brother.  Somebody said that you aren’t failing if you get a solid education from the experience which I guess is true and something you should always remember if you fall short. Right? It sounds a little like the BS that you tell yourself when something doesn’t work out but there is a lot of truth in that sentiment.

I hope that there are more failures in my future because it means that I am going after my dreams and not sitting on my butt TALKING about the stuff I could do. When you hear about successful entrepreneurs, the story is typically about how they succeeded with their idea, but most of them have a long history of working on projects that didn’t turn out well. Did they fail? I guess they did/ we did in a way but all of those experiences pave the way for what will ultimately be the big win. This is true for me in business as I reflect on other “failures” but also in my personal life. I get it wrong. Try not to repeat mistakes, and always end up better as a result so I’m good with that. Bring it on! Funny thing is that the people who criticize others for failing with a business venture are usually the ones that never try something on their own because the people I know taking risk have a profound appreciation for others doing the same, and I love that about people in the startup space.

My new friend Pablo Frixione recently purchased the Herobed brand from us and has done some really good stuff. Like our version they are launching slightly above market, with a hybrid, and a solid focus on giving back, donating a free mattress to someone in need for every two Herobeds sold. Go check out their site and take a look at their Herobed Pregnancy Test, it will make you smile I promise. Great job Pablo and best of luck to you and your team!


Check out the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz. He interviews the founders of companies like Tempur-Pedic, Compaq Computer, and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and takes them through the early years, how they almost failed, and what ultimately lead to their success. It’s one of my favorites so give it a listen.





4 thoughts on “How Do You Define Failure?

  1. I had a friend in the car world who used to say, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.” Most of the people in that venue talk about what they will do and obviously never follow through. We became friendly because my answer was always, “Okay, let’s do it.” And so we did.

    A failure, per se, is better than a what if because you know the outcome. It’s a learning experience.

    1. Could not agree more Tom, thanks for sharing that. I have never heard the expression…”Don’t talk about it…BE ABOUT IT!” Love it

  2. Love the “How I Built This” podcast!

    I am not sure if you know this about me but I also built a D2C Boxed Bed Brand called snoozecube. It was a total FLOP. I also look at it as an expensive lesson, it was very informative and I met some great folks that I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for trying it. I spent way too much time on the branding and hit the market with everyone else. That lesson will come with me through life but I wouldn’t change anything.

    1. Glad I’m not the only one. They are good lessons but expensive I agree!!!! But now at least we have some expertise on the matter!!! 🙂

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