What does it take to build a successful $200 million+ bedding company? As Ron Rudzin, CEO of Saatva proves, it takes humble beginnings, relentless focus, and a passion for making the best bedding products on the market.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ron one-on-one to learn more about Saatva’s rise to the top and hear what’s next for one of the industry’s strongest forces.
To be honest, I was a bit intimidated to be speaking with the leader of one of the most successful mattress companies, but Ron’s welcoming spirit (and his heavy New York accent) made me feel right at home. It was clear that his motivation to be the best is not just driven by profits, but by pride in delivering quality products and improving the lives of his customers.
Read on to hear about Saatva’s story from the person who started it all.
MA: Tell us about your background. How have your past experiences led you to build and run a successful mattress company?
Ron: You know, when we talk about past experiences, I think everything that drives you forward is based somewhat on your past experiences. Early on, I went to work with my father who always told me to stay grounded and humble. If you’re doing great work and making a difference, you don’t have to tell people – they already know. So I’ve always taken a very strong, but very humble approach to business.
Before starting Saatva, I was fortunate enough to run a very large chain of furniture stores across the country – we had 200 stores and a huge staff. Having such a large staff spread across the country really guided me on how to motivate people. Through leadership, kindness, and constantly educating everyone around me, we were able to stay focused on our goals, even at that size.
I was always very, very open-minded to learn from everyone around me too. That humble beginning that my father instilled in me allowed me to listen to and appreciate what my teammates had to say. I always tell people that being king is lonely. I love working with a team, and they inspire me every day.
If you’re doing great work and making a difference, you don’t have to tell people – they already know.
MA: What motivates you to come into work every day and continue moving the Saatva business forward?
Ron: For people who are entrepreneurial by spirit, you have to be naturally competitive. I enjoy sports, I enjoy competition and I don’t get offended very easily. To me, I recognize that there is a lot of room in the world for great competitors to go out and do well, just like you would do on a sports field. You’re not going to win every game.
But when it comes to my business, I’m actually very driven by knowing that I’ve developed a great product. My company operates with honesty. We do the right thing by our customer. I do the right thing by my employees and I can sleep well every night because of that. I come to the office every morning charged up, knowing that I’ve done the right thing every day.
If you’re playing it clean, you work really hard, and you focus, that’s what should drive you and your team to come into work every day.
MA: What do you enjoy most about running your own sleep company?
Ron: Some people would disagree with this, but I really enjoy business. I read about other companies and what they’re doing – whether they’re in the bedding space or not. I try to teach that sense of learning and curiosity to my staff, and because of that, everyone is filled with new ideas every day.
One of my favorite things to do is debate those ideas. I love when I have those “ah-ha moments,” where, even though I might be the CEO, someone might come up with something that is so smart, I might go, “Oh! Wow, that’s really smart, let’s go in that direction,” and then we make that a reality. I just love that.
MA: What’s the most important project you’re working on today?
Ron: The Saatva Company is successful. Not just from a revenue standpoint, but we’re successful in the sense that from the beginning, we were always ROI-focused. And I’ve loved that about us. We’ve stayed very disciplined.
We basically ran our business from the beginning through my own investment. We didn’t take any outside money to operate or grow the business. We created a $200 million business before taking in any partners.
I’ve loved that about us, We’ve stayed very disciplined.
We started out with “in-market” advertising only, or in other words, we were advertising in a place where people who needed our product already were. We weren’t spending millions on billboards or TV where many of those viewers didn’t need our product.
But for the first time in our history, we are now going out and making noise. We got to $200 million a year with only 1.8% brand recognition in the US. We operate through 18 production factories and 155 delivery centers with three mattress brands, in addition to our pillow and sheet company, but nobody knows who we are. Of course when you search for a mattress, you’ll find us. That’s due to the strength of our in-market approach. But now we are focusing on out-of-market and strengthening our brand awareness.
Over the last six months, we’ve been creating a new branding campaign. We made new commercials, YouTube videos, Facebook, and all different kinds of FAQ videos for the Saatva Company. We are going out and becoming a company that is the sleep educator online. And we’re best positioned to do that because we operate in each category: luxury innerspring, ultra-premium memory foam, and 100% natural latex. It’s called our sleep enlightenment campaign, where we guide instead of sell.
By focusing on our brand and growing awareness about who the Saatva Company is, we believe that within 5 years we can become a billion dollar company. In a way, we’ve done what other companies have done, but we’ve done it in reverse. We built our infrastructure and network first, and now we are focusing on brand awareness.
Here’s a commercial from Saatva’s new brand campaign:
MA: Do you have any regrets about the way you’ve built the Saatva business or anything you would have done differently?
Ron: Honestly, I’m 55 years old and I never want to change a door that’s opened in my life for the fear that I wouldn’t be in this position today.
Obviously, I’ve made mistakes, but would I change the overall strategy? The answer is no. I love what we’ve done. We are now ready to become the best company in our space.
We feel we have the best customer service representatives in this space. We feel we have the best delivery and manufacturing network in this space. Because we were always profitable, I was able to go out and hire what I consider one of the top branding companies in the country. We put together incredible content, incredible video, and a year from now, most people in the country will know who we are because they’ll have seen us so many different times and in so many different venues.
I never want to change a door that’s opened in my life for the fear that I wouldn’t be in this position today.
MA: Consumers today have so many options when it comes to buying a mattress. What makes Saatva products different?
Ron: Well for starters, we’re the only online mattress company that’s really offering what a mattress store offers you without having to go into the mattress store. In other words, you have comfort levels, you have categories of different mattresses to choose from, you can choose the different height of the foundation, you can get a metal frame, an adjustable base, all with the click of a button. We also offer full-service, white glove delivery in your room of choice and we’ll take out your old bed for you – anywhere in the country.
From a quality standpoint, we also stand out above the competition. You can’t compress our beds in a box. We have two innerspring units in one mattress, organic cotton, and the highest quality foams. You just can’t bend our beds.
Our mattresses are comparable to what you’d find in retail stores, but you don’t need to spend $2,500 for them. Because we operate exclusively online, we’re taking that ultra-premium class from the retail store and we’re selling our product for over $1,000 less.
We call our beds “affordable luxury.” “Affordable” only because we sell them online. Just think about this: If you take the current revenue of the Saatva Company and compare it to the average revenue of an independent mattress store, we would need to have approximately 190 showrooms to operate the way we do.
So, imagine if I had to pay 190 rents, 190 utility bills, every month. Our product would have to have another thousand dollars on it for us to make money. Without those costs, we’re able to pass those savings on to the customer.
We are classic American luxury, we make it affordable, we delivery it in-home with white-glove service, and we make it truly convenient.
MA: What inspires change and innovation at Saatva?
Ron: One thing I can say for sure is that I love technology. Even though we’re a nuts-and-bolts, old-fashioned, customer service-type company, we are really modern in the way we operate, technology-wise. I love some of the new bedding technology that’s out there and we’re constantly on the lookout for all-new innovations in the sleep sector.
We also want to be sleep educators. Sleep is an activity, and people have to understand that. Just like when you go to work out, you put the right clothes on, the right sneakers on, the right socks on. The same thing goes for sleep. I know for me, personally, I need to take a long shower before I go to sleep. I like to have a pillow under my right leg. I have to wear the right clothes. That’s how you prepare for sleep.
There are so many new innovations in health and sleep too – about heart rate and body temperature. I haven’t really gone off of our core business to go spend a ton of time on that, but I know going forward, the Saatva Company will look to either partner or develop its own innovative products in the sleep space.
From the core product standpoint, I want to offer everything that goes into creating your luxury bedroom online. Over the next 3-5 years, I want the Saatva Company to be known not only for its great mattresses but also for the other great products that make that luxury bedroom a reality for someone.
MA: When you think about the future of Saatva, what are you most excited about?
Ron: The thing I’m most excited about is our new branding effort. I think this new campaign will really explain where the Saatva Company sits in the market, and although we’ve been successful, I don’t think we’ve done a great job explaining that we are the ones that really fit in-between.
If you want to go online, you don’t need to get a bed-in-a-box. With Saatva, you can actually do the same thing you do in a mattress store, but you can do it online. Our new content, our new creative, really does a great job of explaining this. We have a great character and that’s what I’m most excited about.
I’m also excited about developing new products. We just launched our sheets and pillow company that’s doing fantastic. It launched about two months ago and it beat all expectation at this point. We developed 100% organic cotton sheets and a beautiful, really high-end pillow. We just don’t do anything cheap here. Everything we did is ultra-luxury, as we’re trying to be the company that makes you feel like you’re in a luxury hotel every night.
I can’t say what it is just yet, but we are also going to be launching a new product in the mattress category sometime in the next twelve months. One of the things that I’ve invested in that’s unusual for this space is a launch team. People have engineering teams, development teams, and marketing teams, but not many people have a team like ours dedicated to launching new products and making sure it’s done right.
We’re trying to be the company that makes you feel like you’re in a luxury hotel every night.
MA: Where did the name Saatva come from?
Ron: Jen Pressley, who is our Creative Director and Vice President, managed the creation of our first website and went through the process of finding a name for the business. When we were first starting out, I said, “Jen, what I want to do is expose the mattress industry for what it is.” Over the last 30 or 40 years, the mattress industry had developed the worst reputation for itself. Phony sales, gimmicks…they made it hard for consumers to comparison shop. I wanted to bring this all to light.
Jen is into eastern philosophy and yoga and “saatva” in Sanskrit, means “purity, truth, light.” It was perfect for what we were looking to do and the kind of company we wanted to be. We wanted to offer the best customer service, the best products, and treat customers in a way that they hadn’t seen in the mattress industry in my lifetime.
MA: What’s your best advice for someone who’s in the market for a new mattress?
Ron: Well, first you need to understand the category of mattress you’re looking for. In other words, make up your mind: do you want an innerspring, memory foam, latex?
- If you’re a memory foam customer, you’re generally someone who doesn’t like to move a lot when you sleep. You like to get locked in, so it molds and contours to your body but locks you in.
- If you’re an innerspring customer like me, I really like to move a lot at night. I like to roll, I like to choose what side I’m on. Innerspring also molds and contours, but because it has these individually pocketed springs, it allows easy movement.
- And latex is great because latex has the resiliency of the spring but locks you in like memory foam. You get the combination of both. The deterrent there is that it’s expensive – 100% pure latex is just expensive. But that is really the best of both worlds.
Once you understand that, I would always recommend to anyone, whether you buy from Saatva or not, to make sure that the foams are American foams. Foams that come from overseas have less health and safety standards. America by far has the highest levels of health and safety standards in the world.
You also want to make sure that the bed breathes and has airflow, and is made with natural fabrics. No matter what, even if it’s really cold in the winter, you don’t want a warm bed.
If you opt for an innerspring mattress, make sure that the coils are made with tempered steel and that it’s oven-baked. That’s the proper way to make a coil. The cheap way to do it is to electric shock it. And when you see beds that are on sale at whatever company for $199, you’re getting a cheap unit that was just electric shocked.
You also want to make sure that you check your bed height and what you’ll be putting it on. A lot of people make this mistake and they wind up getting a bed that doesn’t fit their fit their platform bed right or hits the headboard too high or too low. You always want to make sure that you check the height. Stand next to your bed, understand how high you want it to be, and when you buy a box or a platform and the actual mattress, make sure you’re buying the correct height.
MA: Which mattress do you personally sleep on?
Ron: I sleep on the Saatva innerspring mattress in luxury firm. I have slept on this mattress since I developed it. It’s my favorite, no question about it. It really is designed to give you the feeling you get when you’re in a luxury hotel. We’ve sold so many of them over the last 8 years. Feedback has been great, so I feel wonderful about that personally. That’s my bed to sleep on, and I love it.
More About Saatva’s Mattresses
The Saatva company offers three different types of mattresses:
- Saatva Classic: A luxury innerspring mattress
- Loom & Leaf: An ultra-premium memory foam mattress
- Zenhaven: A 100% natural Talalay latex mattress