We sat down with Michael Hughes, CEO and founder of PlushBeds to learn more about the founding of the company and how they fit into the ever expanding online mattress landscape. Learn more about PlushBeds in our PlushBeds Botanical Bliss review and latex mattress reviews pages.
Why did you found PlushBeds?
My wife and I moved to California in 2007 and needed a new mattress. After struggling to find a quality eco-friendly mattress in local stores, we looked online. We found beautiful websites from known brands like TempurPedic for $3,000 and up, however every other website felt like a used car dealership with inconsistent information copied from other websites.
We finally bought a generic latex mattress from a small website where the owner took our order on his cell phone. He called us back 3 days later to take our order again because he lost our information. We were happy with the mattress, but the experience was a disaster. After realizing there was a void in the online space for a quality, eco-friendly mattress with accurate information and excellent service, we contacted and met with the manufacturer who shipped our mattress to us and PlushBeds was born.
What is your professional background?
I was a Senior Vice President with a subsidiary of Citigroup for 16 years. Also, prior to starting PlushBeds, I was a partner in an R&D company which developed a technology product for the luxury market. We were fortunate to present our developments to the executive offices of Louis Vuitton in Paris and Gucci in Milan.
I did a great deal of research in the luxury sector in preparation for these meetings and developed a firm belief in the value of a superior product and a quality shopping experience. I believe this foundation has guided many of our decisions early on which helped PlushBeds to thrive where other companies before us have not.
You’ve been in the online mattress game a long time (relatively). What has changed with the influx of new companies?
Yes, I guess you can say we’ve been selling mattresses online before it became fashionable. When we first bought our compression roll pack machine (to compress our mattresses so they can be shipped by UPS), it was only the 2nd roll pack machine of its kind in the USA.
Today, it seems like a new online mattress brand pops up every week. While I think a lot of newcomers have yet to understand the amount of work it takes to consistently provide a quality product and a quality experience, the overall attention to the online mattress space is great for all companies involved. I believe the most recent research still shows less than 5% of the population has bought a mattress over the internet.
Instead of thinking of it as an influx of new competitors fighting for the same customer, I believe the surge in new online mattress brands combined with the innovative promotional efforts of each company has created a synergy of awareness and legitimacy that benefits everyone in the online mattress community.
You have great control over the supply chain. What has this allowed you to do in terms of product innovation and delivering value to the consumer?
When we first launched PlushBeds, we were purely an e-retailer and had a private label manufacturer shipping mattresses directly to our customers (how almost all online ecommerce mattress brands are structured today). Our manufacturer would buy their latex from a latex importer who worked directly with the latex plantations around the world. With so many entities in the food chain, consistency was always an issue.
As we continued to grow, we made the pivotal decision to manufacture our own mattresses. While it was a huge undertaking, it allowed us to instantly increase the quality of all of our materials without having to raise our prices. For example, in our Botanical Bliss collection, we use up to 10 lbs of 100% natural wool in each mattress cover in order to safely pass all flammability tests without the use of dangerous chemicals.
Today, not only are we the retailer and the manufacturer, but we are also the largest importer of organic latex in the United States. By working directly with the latex plantations, we are vertically integrated and control the complete process from the organic plantations in Sri Lanka to our customer’s bedrooms. This has allowed us to ensure we offer the most consistent, highest quality latex mattress on the market.
Why is natural so important to you?
My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease when he was 40 years old. I watched this horrible disease rob him of everything he had, including his life, by age 64. While there is no definitive evidence as to what causes Parkinson’s Disease, a lot of research points to the chemicals in our environment.
Between foods, detergents, pesticides, hair products, etc. we briefly come in contact with hundreds of chemicals in our homes each day, yet there is no product we come in daily contact with for as much time as we do with our mattress. In the next 10 years, the average person will spend the equivalent of 3 years (24 hrs a day, 365 days a year) in their bed. That’s a lot of time to expose your body to potentially harmful chemicals.
When we first started PlushBeds, I remember being shocked at the results of a study which showed the levels of fire retardant found in breast milk of mother’s in the US were higher than in other countries. It validated our cause to provide healthier, safer sleep options. Although we sell many products that are not 100% natural as well, we have gone to great lengths to ensure the products we offer are safe and contain no harmful chemicals.
What type of certifications does PlushBeds have? Why are these important?
Although our latex is GOLS certified, our organic cotton is GOTS certified, and the foam used in our memory foam mattresses is CertiPUR-US certified, the certification we are most proud of is our GreenGuard Gold certification.
GreenGuard is the Mercedes of certifications when it comes to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that are released into the air from everyday furnishings. They can emit hundreds of chemicals into the air that we breathe into our blood stream for years on end. Once inhaled, VOCs can trigger a number of health problems.
All PlushBeds mattresses are GreenGuard Gold Certified, which is an accomplishment less than 1% of mattresses sold in the USA have achieved. Through rigorous testing, our mattresses are certified to meet the world’s most rigorous, third-party chemical emissions standards.
At a Gold level certification, PlushBeds mattresses prove beneficial to everyone, but especially children and the elderly, as they reduce indoor air pollution, minimize chemical exposure and create healthier indoor environments. To maintain our GreenGuard Gold certification, our mattresses are tested & re-certified every 90 days.
Where do you import your mattress components from? Why these places?
All of our organic cotton and natural wool are sourced from within the USA. The only product we import is our organic latex which we import from ARPICO in Sri Lanka.
With an 80 year track record, ARPICO is one of the oldest natural latex manufacturers in the world, and worldwide pioneers in organic latex technology. Additionally, ARPICO is one of the few latex suppliers in the world who also own their own plantation of 5.5 million rubber trees. PlushBeds has partnered with ARPICO as America’s largest importer of superior-quality ARPICO premium latex-widely acknowledged as the world’s finest organic latex.
ARPICO’s latex contains NO Fillers, NO Dyes, NO Carcinogenic Adhesives, NO harsh Chemicals, and absolutely NO Pesticides. Just clean, pure, botanical latex, just as Mother Nature intended. ARPICO’s famed 5.5 million rubber-tree plantation is certified by the Control Union, Europe’s largest organic regulator.
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What does your team look like now? Do you have outside funding?
We currently do not have any outside funding. We have a diverse team across 6 states that manages all marketing, SEO, social media, email, inbound sales, customer service, logistics, web design, and web maintenance in addition to our 50,000 sf manufacturing plant. We’ve experimented with outsourcing various departments to experienced vendors, however mostly have kept them in-house for quality control & consistency purposes.
Where do you see the mattress industry going in the next 5-10 years? How does PlushBeds fit in?
I think within the next 5-10 years we are going to see technology play a bigger role in sleep optimization. More and more today, we see new technology implemented into everyday household items which improve our quality of life. At PlushBeds, we’ve started to explore new sleep technologies that are just becoming available and how effective they are in improving the quality of sleep. Nothing we can discuss at this time, but we are excited about some of the new technologies we’ve experimented with.