Eve Sleep was featured in the 2016 Start-ups 100 list and increased revenues by 355%. Chief Creative Officer (CCO) and co-founder Kuba Wieczorek explains what it takes to build a successful company, and brand, from the ground up.
What was the premise behind Eve Sleep? What were you giving customers that they didn’t have already?
A great quality mattress, at a fraction of the price, on their doorstep within three days…That’s the functional bit – what I really wanted was to create a sleep brand that everyone would talk about down the pub.
Tell us about the brand and why this has been important
Our brand was built on the premise that ‘every great day starts the night before’. An energy brand rather than a sleep brand. A cup of orange juice vs a cup of cocoa. The brand only exists in the mind of the consumer – what is important is resonating with that consumer and creating something which has a purpose and a role in people’s lives. In a word, the brand is everything we do – so pretty important!
What were the most significant difficulties or obstacles during the first few months?
Selling the dream and vision. Hiring great people. Getting journalists and people of influence to listen and not to slam the phone down as soon as they heard the word ‘mattress’. The toughest thing is getting other people to buy into your vision.
How did you overcome these hurdles?
Having a clear vision and purpose. You have to know where you’re going. That’s the biggest thing that helped us, we knew exactly what we wanted to be, we wanted to revolutionise the sleep market, we wanted to shake things up, and we knew we wanted to be an energy brand and not a sleep brand. The way we overcame the hurdle was to be very clear on who we were at the very beginning.
How important is securing the right funding in the early stages?
I think funding depends on what you’re trying to build. For us, it was critical as we knew we had to build awareness and revenue growth FAST. As a fast start-up we needed to invest in growth and chase growth, we invested all of that funding into growing.
Sourcing new talent – and the right expertise – is imperative for a Start-up. How did you approach this?
This was very difficult in the early days. I’m ex-advertising, so a starting point is always approaching ex-colleagues. Next step is approaching intern agencies – we are a meritocratic organisation and have hired some superstars who are first-jobbers with us.
Finally, we have a great Partner in Major Players. They have been with us from the very start of our journey and have placed more than half of our marketing staff, and you need to find a partner who understands you, who you get on with, who shares your passion and vision and who is able to sell the dream to potential candidates.
How much of starting a new business is to do with skill and how much is simply being there at the right time?
I think luck plays a hand in everything you do. Luck is important, and timing is important. We launched Eve at the right time, what this luck or did we just see a gap in the market? I do think you make your own luck, but the key thing is hard work, it’s all about hard work – 95% graft.
As a Start-up, how do you gain the trust of your customers?
It is hard because you’re not a brand when you start-up, customers trust brands. But ultimately it is no different from any other business. You need to act with honesty, integrity and take consumers along with you on your journey. Every business was a start-up once.
What advice would you give somebody in the initial phase of launching a Start-up?
Figure out what you are trying to create. Have a vision. Brand or commodity? Fast growth company for an eventual acquisition or is the goal to create a longer term, profitable (sustainable) business? There is nothing wrong with starting a commodity, but the important thing is knowing exactly what you’re creating from day one.
The second thing would be to learn how to package up your vision, know where you’re trying to get and get people excited about your journey.
Lastly, enjoy it; it takes over your life. Eve is like my fifth child – I have four real children by the way – it takes over everything. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t last, laugh a lot and enjoy the journey.
What characteristics do you need to flourish in a start-up?
I think the type of person that thrives in a start-up likes to roll their sleeves up; they like to get involved. Start-ups are entirely meritocratic; there’s no structure, there’s no hierarchy, certainly not at Eve, so you have to be able to thrive in that environment. If you like to really get stuck in and enjoy creating and executing, then I think a start-up is an incredible environment.