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In this week’s episode of eCommerce in the Trenches, JD chats with Tyler Howell, Chief Dream Officer of Cozy Earth, a company that provides top of the line bedding made from bamboo. Tyler tells the story of his seven year adventure in the bedding business and explains his perspectives on how to be the best company possible – from using sustainably sourced materials his customers clamor for, to handling each support request with care and consideration. JD and Tyler dive into the life of an entrepreneur and what it takes to build a multi-million dollar business.

Tyler: : Americans are now shocked when they feel quality that lasts. It’s a wonderful surprise and it makes them fiercely loyal to a brand.

Announcer: The biggest names in eCommerce. Hear tricks of the trade from tools and software to strategies and growth hacks. Learn from the best and take your business to the next level. Now your host, JD Crouse.

JD: : Hello and welcome back to eCommerce in the Trenches. This is JD Crouse and today I’m super stoked to have the Chief Dream Officer and founder of cozyearth.com,

Tyler: . How’s it going Tyler?

Tyler: : Good, good. How are you doing JD?

JD: : I’m doing great. So Chief Dream Officer. I mean, that is … I thought I had a cool title. Obviously I gave me, myself, my own title. My title to Bolder Band is Queso Grande, which, obviously, means big cheese. But Chief Dream Officer, that’s a great title. Tell me about that.

Tyler: : Thanks, man. Well, it’s just one of those things that starts out as a joke. A lot of people are talking of what I should be. I don’t know, sometimes you don’t feel like a Chief Executive or a President of anything really, you’re just trying to make good products that people love. And one thing for me is, we’re just trying to make people’s life better, enhance it a little bit better, so I was like yeah, let’s just have some fun with it and call it Dream Officer. We’re working with sleep products that are not just soft but are going to help you sleep better, so we’re like yeah, let’s go with Dream Officer, that sounds nice.

JD: : Nice. Well I think it’s very, very fitting, obviously.

Tyler: : Thanks, man.

JD: : Tell me about your … How did Cozy Earth come to life? Tell me about your origin story?

Tyler: : Yeah, so the journey of Cozy Earth is kind of a cool thing. It’s pretty basic in terms of how it started out. My wife was pregnant with our first child and she was having hot flashes, which is not a fun thing I’ve come to learn. I know more about hot flashes than any man should know, I think. But at the time, she was in and out of the covers, kicking the covers on and off at night, and to be frank, I get hot at night, too. I’d get out of the covers every once in a while. Some nights I wake up a little bit extra sweaty.

So it was a temperature thing with our bedding and we were discussing this with one of our friends who had a silk comforter that was filled with this long strand silk and they said that it was known for breathability and it was much more comfortable in terms of temperature and they said, “You’ve got to try this thing out one night.” So we slept under it in the middle of July under, we had a window that every morning the sun would come up and it would just heat the bed, which made everything a little bit worse. And we slept the whole night. And the one thing I noticed, I did not move the entire night. I slept just the perfect temperature. I didn’t have to kick my legs out of the covers and my wife was like, “This is amazing. This is so much better than the down comforter, the polyester filled comforters we’ve used in the past.” It’s more comfortable in terms of just feel, but also the temperature benefit was noticeable immediately.

And the same friends were asking us if we thought there was a business here. My background is I speak Mandarin Chinese fluently, which is kind of a strange thing. I served a mission for my church in Australia for two years and I was speaking Mandarin, so I learned how to speak Mandarin. I worked with the Chinese 12, 16 hours every single day, studied in the mornings, and got really good at speaking the language and reading Chinese. So I had been working helping companies here in the United States solve problems that they had overseas; fixing supply chain issues, making better products, more unique products, and also getting fair pricing.
So they asked me if I thought, with my experience overseas, if I thought there was something we could do here because it was such great bedding. They wanted to give it as gifts to friends. So I went out there and found suppliers, and not just the people who finished it or the products that they have received, it was kind of a junkie version of it now looking back, but just kind of an early version of what we do, and I discovered bamboo and the fabrics of bamboo. And then I discovered that they were all not created equal, just like cotton. There’s good cotton that you can buy at a very high end linen story and then there’s the stuff you can pick up at like a carnival, you know? The so called 8,000 thread count sheets that are $25 somehow.

JD: : Right, right.

Tyler: : So just like that, bamboo is very similar. So I got obsessed with it and I flew and trekked and trained and road on the back of scooters all over China tracking down not just the finishing people, but trying to get something unique for us that we could build a luxury bedding line around. And that’s kind of a long explanation of how we got into this.

JD: : So please tell me, for those of you who don’t know Tyler, you and I have never met, man, but you’re six three, you’re a big dude, right?

Tyler: : Yeah, six three, white guy speaking Mandarin is a weird thing out in China.

JD: : So you’ve got to have some pictures of you riding on the back of a scooter in China. Do you? Please-

Tyler: : Yeah.

JD: : You do?

Tyler: : I should send you a couple of those. I have ones in the back of a rickshaw with me and another guy that’s six three, that’s even more interesting, so. Yeah, jammed in there. But yeah, it’s an adventure. But it’s what it takes, you know? It’s just like anything you do in life. If you’re going to make it great, if you’re going to do the best, be the best, and that’s really what our measuring stick is here. We just want to be simply just the best bedding company out there. And so what we do is we just go the extra mile in every way. And I know it’s so cliché, but we really do try to take those steps and to do whatever it takes to get something that’s unique and special for our customers.

JD: : So with that, you shared with me the other day when we spoke that … You shared with me several things and one of the things that really emanated out of you was this sense of patience, even though I know as a business owner, there’s probably time you might not be super patient, I don’t know you well, but that you’re in it for the long haul. And you talked to me about value and price and it’s work, right? To get these suppliers. So what does it mean to you as you’re building your company. You guys have been at it for how long now?

Tyler: : We’re in our seventh year.

JD: : Seventh year. What does all of that mean to you now? Because it’s not just a saying to you, it’s not something that you just came up with, you didn’t launch your company a year ago or six months ago. You’re seven years into this thing. Talk to me about the long game.

Tyler: : Yeah, that’s a great one. I guess it depends on your personality, right? And much to my wife’s chagrin, she would prefer that we’d be billionaires by now, working as hard as we’ve been working. For me it’s, that will come, I don’t know if billions. The success comes after you’ve laid the groundwork and a proper foundation for a good company. And this goes into entrepreneurial theory and how people do things. A lot of people want to brand themselves as an entrepreneur. I don’t really think about that kind of stuff. For me, the way I approach setting up a company, and I’ve been doing this since my sophomore year of college when I started my first little enterprise by myself. I’ve never done anything else except my own businesses. But one thing that I really try to do is lay a foundation and be patient with the foundation enough to say, “Look, this is something that’s going to last, it’s going to go on, and it’s going to perpetually grow because it’s so great, because it’s so well thought out and it’s methodically put together.” And we care about the details, the technical aspects of it.
There’s certain realities that you have to confront, right? You have to make money. That’s very important. And that has to be part of that. But the plan, the business plan that you put together and the culture that surrounds the plan, which is just as much important, really helps solidify that foundation and so with Cozy Earth, this was something that I knew was special instantly because any great business has to solve a problem; it has to provide a solution to people. And I think any great brand, in my opinion, a brand is a culture, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s something that enhances your life. And it’s something that you can trust to continually do so.

So it’s not like you’re just going to say, “Oh yeah, this is going to do one thing.” But if they come out with a new product, it should follow the same formula, you know? It should enhance your life, it should make things better for you. And it’s something that, you know, if you see them come out with a new product or something like that, you know that you can trust that brand to provide that kind of value and that kind of quality. And all of that takes a consorted effort and time to do so.
When I first started out, knowing the language and stuff, one thing people always used to say is like, “Man, this is going to be so advantageous in business to know Mandarin. You can speak to anybody over there.” And it was. It is incredibly advantageous. There’s lots of ways to make money speaking this language, right? IF that was my goal … Think about it. Anything you see, look around your office or your room. Everything you see is made over in either China or somewhere in Asia. And so we can import til the cows come home.
I could go out there and find a bunch of projects that … I met these guys, these guys who would run to me when I was 22 years old, they’d be like, “Hey man, I’ve got an order from Walgreens, it’s for 200,000 lighters. I don’t care if they don’t work after the third time, just get me lighters. Can you get me lighters?” And you can make a quick $200,000/$300,000 you know? Depending on what products you’re doing.
And to me it just seems so hollow and so flippant and haphazard. I felt like, how do I know these things aren’t going to blow up or they’re going to fall apart? I don’t want a bunch of customer getting mad at me and I don’t want a one and done thing. I don’t want to make a quick buck and then just be done with this thing. So even though you could do that for a while and you could make millions of dollars, for me, I was like, I’d prefer to have a company that is a lot more stable, that customers are happy to talk to me when they talk to me, that the feedback we get is positive, that they feel like they’re kind of part of a club or a family even, as hokey as that sounds. And so I really have kind of taken those steps, especially on the production side first and then second on the domestic side in customer service and how we kind of service the customers.

JD: : That’s awesome. So just because you speak Mandarin Chinese, that in and of itself doesn’t … I could hire a broker, right? I could hire somebody, a rep, to help me get relationships over there. I want to dig in just a little bit to the lengths you have gone to go to the end, to the very source. I mean, I don’t want to spend a ton of time on it, but I think it’s important and it’s a major differentiator in your company that impacts the end product.

Tyler: : Yeah.

JD: : Talk about that.

Tyler: : Yeah, so early on, the way that [inaudible 00:12:10] goes, most companies what they do is they’ll fly … So a lot of companies I meet they go, “Oh yeah, we work directly with the manufacturer.” And I say, “Okay.” And I kind of just roll my eyes and kind of move on. But most companies, what they do, and when I say most, I’m talking like 99%. In fact, I’ve yet to find somebody who does what we do. And not to brag or anything, I understand it’s difficult, it’s hard to do this. And you need a lot of things kind of firing at once.
But most companies what they’ll do is they say, okay, we need something made. Let’s take bedding for example. They’ll say we need some sheets. And they say let’s call up our sheet guy in China or let’s fly to a trade show out there and we’ll feel a bunch of samples and maybe we’ll fly to Shanghai, a big city, and we’ll sit in a big conference room and feel all their samples. And then well choose which one we want.
And then you ask questions to these people. You say, “Hey, what are the working conditions like? Is there child labor? Is there heavy chemicals used here? What are your guys’ processes in the factories? Is this consistent? Can they handle this volume?” And every question is yes, yes, yes, everything’s great. They’re salesman, you know?

JD: : Right.

Tyler: : And they’ll give you the answers that you want. And then they give you the prices. And then you say, “Okay.” And you say, “Get me out of this place. I don’t like eating rabbit and stuff, so I’m out of here. Get me home.” You know? And what we do is I go out and I fly out, I see what everybody else is buying, and then what I try to do is work my way back into the supply of what that takes. Now the next step of that is if you’re not working with a trade company, which is what people call middle men, most of the time you are, even within companies they have trade company guys working inside the company, you’ll be working with a finishing factory, which is not all the factory story. It’s just the end part of it, which in the sheet business or the bedding business, that’s the person who constructs the sheet.
They’ll take the fabric, they’ll build the comforter, however they do it; by hand in our case. A lot of stuff is done by hand. And they’ll package it and they’ll make it nice. You want to make sure that factory is just pristine. We’re doing bedding here so our stuff, with our factory, I want to know that they’re clean. They literally wear white gloves when they handle the bedding. They wear new slippers all the time in the factory. They don’t wear shoes. It’s marble floors. It’s a clean environment. And what are their working conditions like? What are their hours like? Their hours are better than mine, that’s for sure. It’s fair, you know? They’re paid a fair wage. And those are the things that are important.

Also, what do they do in terms of environmental standards? Our customers care about sustainability. So that’s something I also can check. And I can talk directly with these people sewing our products or working on it and they tell me what they say and they’re always happy to talk. It’s like a key to their world, you know? Because you get to really kind of get the real answers. Even away from the rest of the factory owners and everybody else. And then you can get the aims of the factory owner. What is his kind of what he’s pointing at.
And then what I do is I go back into the supply chain. So from the finishing factory, I say who’s the person weaving this product? And I go talk with that company. And then I say who’s the person who makes the yarn that weaves this product? And I go to that factory. That’s another city, another three, eight hour train ride, or wherever. Then I go from that factory I say who makes the fiber for this yarn? Is there any treatment facilities? Is there any dyeing facilities? I need to go see and talk to them. I need to spend a day with those guys. And several trips. Each trip I visit each one of these guys in the supply chain. In ours, there’s nine or ten of them.

JD: : Wow.

Tyler: : We go all the way back to where they produce the fiber and then actually where they, in our case, harvest the bamboo made for our products. I speak with the people who cut it down, I’ve cut it down myself, and I see kind of what they do. So by doing that, I have this handle on the supply chain that’s just like if they’re making it in my own backyard. I see them sometimes several times a year, each of these people. I have personal relationships with them. I eat dinner with their families. And so it’s neat. At the end of the day, it’s been a blessing in my life to just know these people and to see how much they are like us. And also, they’re wanting the same things that we want. And how willing they are to provide for our customers and serve our customers like we are. So they love our customers the same way. They love hearing the stories, they love hearing the testimonials of what their work is doing. If you think about the average fiber worker, he doesn’t have any idea what Americans think of what he’s doing, and I get to tell him, you know?

JD: : Wow.

Tyler: : That’s kind of neat thing. That’s the feel good part of it and I love it. The other part of it is the business standpoint. I have really tight controls on how this stuff’s done. So if there’s something we don’t like or there’s something our customers don’t like, we not only are more educated than anybody else in this regard, what we do, we’re also, the experts in this factory, but we also have control over influencing positive change to anything they’re doing that might not be as in step. And if we don’t like them, we can replace them. So that’s layer one.
Layer two is I have backups in each of these categories of companies that I also like that I can use in case one falls through or one’s not good. So establishing this network has been huge for Cozy Earth because we have these controls, we don’t have to go through people. When we make a phone call, it doesn’t have to play the game of telephone, literally, where five different people are hearing different things. It’s like we get a very consistent, straight forward production process and we have it done by people who really care, you know? Who have the same aims as us and kind of subscribe to what we’re doing.

JD: : And that’s so cool. I’m just envisioning for a normal, American entrepreneur who would like to launch a company that sells stuff on Amazon, they just want to get on Alibaba … I say normal, a lot of people. A lot of people read the get rich quick selling stuff on Amazon “stuff”. And that’s one end of the spectrum where they’re just slapping up whatever and private labeling it and it’s been knocked off, somebody knocked something off of somebody at the start of the whole thing. And it just is yucky. It’s just yucky.
And then you’ve got your business on the opposite end of the spectrum, which you’re taking the time and the effort, and I can’t imagine. I’ve never been to China. I have a good friend that’s done business over there for 20 years and my sister’s done business over there. She was the COO of a major retailer in the country and they bought a lot of yoga mats over the years and she’s visited a lot of factories. But it’s work. It is flat work doing what you do. But the beauty of it is most people that just want to slap something up and sell it, they would think, oh my goodness, I have nine or ten different vendors or factories or people who touch the end product? That sounds like a nightmare. But as a business owner, I’m looking at it going, “Oh, it’s actually a wonderful thing,” because if you have great bamboo from the farm and you know that and you can hang your hat on that, that’s an old cowboy term-

Tyler: : Yeah.

JD: : Then if there’s an issue at the next couple steps, you can go, all right, I need to be looking at a replacement for step two or three because I know that my input at that first step is great. And it actually reduces your liability and allows your to pivot and replace and I’m sure you’ve done that several times in the last seven years.

Tyler: : Yeah, absolutely. That’s a good point to bring up. When you’re starting a business, in my mind there’s two different things, right? You’re either building a lemonade stand or you’re building a machine, a company, you know? Those are two different things. They’re not the same. A lot of people are like, “You can go down if you want and go to Costco and buy a bunch of soda for super cheap, soda pop cans or whatever, and then you can go down to the golf course and you can sell those for twice as much. And you might be able to make a million dollars in a year if you work hard. Maybe you do multiple … There’s many ways to do this, to make lots of money.
And these people who think that the only thing you’ve got to do is go get someone in China to make something cheaper and then sell it here, it’s just not true. There’s so many more variables where you can really step into it, in a bad way.

JD: : You’re staying step into it where it goes squish.

Tyler: : Squish, exactly.

JD: : Not like ah, you step into the light.

Tyler: : Not the light.

JD: : You’re talking-

Tyler: : No, the darkness man, the darkness. The steaming pile of darkness. There’s many ways to do that and it just is shocking to me the brands, huge brands, everybody knows. I’m not going to name them here, I don’t want to get myself into any legal issues, but major brands, shoe companies that you’ve heard of, bedding companies, massive corporations that do eCommerce that everybody knows. They do stuff so incredibly haphazardly in terms of their sourcing. They literally don’t check any of this stuff. They have no idea what they’re talking about. And it’s funny, I meet guys who oh yeah, I’ve been traveling to China for 25 years. I get on a plane every Thursday or ever Sunday night and I fly out there. And I talk to them about their process and it is just a joke in terms of they’re so reckless with how they import.
And the thing is it’s not China’s problem. And this is the other thing I want to get out there. I’m not here to defend China or anything, or any overseas issue. The problem is not that. The problem is … It’s not like they’re just trying. There’s this conception, this misconception, that China or India or any of these companies overseas are trying to make as cheap a possible product that use chemicals and cut every corner and everything else. That’s not the case at all. It’s what’s been driven by the consumer. I don’t know if you have this as part of your other discussion further, but you and I mentioned a little bit about China’s perception of the US consumer.

JD: : Absolutely. This is a huge golden nugget. I was going to lead you there if you didn’t go there, so knock it out.

Tyler: : Okay.

JD: : I love it.

Tyler: : Well, I think this is an important thing. This is a true story and it’s happened to me several times since I’ve been out there. But the first time it happened to me, I will never forget it. I was meeting with a factory owner of a multi-billion dollar corporation. They’re a Fortune 200 company. They make 10% of the world’s denim. And they fill an entire city of three million people, I think two thirds of the people in the city work for the company in some way or another.

JD: : Wow.

Tyler: : They make the aluminum on most of the cellphones in the world in major brands. And they also make … That’s another kind of part of their conglomerate, but they also do a lot of this fabric stuff. I was meeting with this guy and, again, I meet with the factory owners. I don’t just sit with the only people who speak the best English in the company, I sit with the guys who run the place.

And he said to me, he goes, “Man, everything you like, everything you’re picking out, everything you’re directing us to do is really high quality stuff. I’m impressed.” And I said, “Oh, thanks. Why are you so surprised? Is this something that your other customers aren’t doing?” And he goes, “Oh no, it’s the opposite.” He’s telling me these huge brands that he works with. He’s like, “Man, I thought Americans only like cheap stuff. They’re taste is really cheap.”

And I said, “Why do you say that?” He goes, “They don’t care if it lasts, they don’t care if it falls apart. All they care about, Americans, are price, is my opinion.” And I said, “Listen pal, that is not the case. I don’t know where you got that.” He goes, “Well, every time a big retailer comes out here, the only thing they talk to me about is the price. Lower, lower, lower, it has to be lower. And they’ll do anything for it.” I don’t know if you remember previously, and I told him, I said, “Look, that is not the case. Our customers care about quality. I believe there’s a [inaudible 00:24:53] change happening in the United States where we’re going back to the way generations of the past viewed things.” Remember when your grandparents had furniture for three generations? I mean, the stuff lasted forever.

JD: : Absolutely.

Tyler: : And now people won’t hold on to stuff longer than three to five years and they throw it out. They’re building stuff that breaks within three months and they’re not surprised and they don’t, the US consumer, a lot of them, have kind of just resigned themselves to the fact that their stuff’s not going to last. Like clothing, I buy a new t-shirt, I wash it twice, and it’s just not the same, you know? And it didn’t used to be this way. The clothing, fashion, the way things have changed with manufacturing, it’s all changed because people are trying to get you to buy more things.
And I’m lucky in the sense that we just make one color: white bedding. It doesn’t go out of style. And what we try to do is not just focus in on design, because it’s beautiful white, but the thing we’re trying to do is provide luxury with utility. And what I told this guy over here is I said, “Look, Americans are now shocked when they feel quality that lasts. It’s a wonderful surprise. And it makes them fiercely loyal to a brand. It’s not the case with our customers and I think things are changing.” And he says, “I hope so, because us Chinese people, we don’t buy this stuff. We like the high quality stuff that lasts.” Which is interesting. And they are kind of behind us in terms of certain things and I’m sure they’ll start moving to where it’s fast fashion too in terms of developing country, which I hope they don’t.

But yeah, like you talked about, the race to the bottom is not just bad for quality and the environment and everything else, it’s bad for your lifestyle. It’s stressful to sit there and sit in your living room and not be happy with anything that’s in it because it’s three years old is stressful, it’s hard on your life, you know?

JD: : Yeah. Well, and it makes you not be happy and proud of where your money has gone. Even if you … I’m going to knock it, the big yellow and purple place that you go and buy furniture.

Tyler: : Yeah.

JD: : I’m going to say it, if you’ll help me remind what’s it’s called? IKEA, I’ll say it. IKEA. We’ve done it. We’ve bought furniture, dressers for our kids and stuff, and not to mention you almost get a divorce or you need marriage counseling if you’re working together with your spouse to put the stupid stuff together.

Tyler: : Oh yeah, dude, I got demoted. I can’t do that anymore, she won’t let me.

JD: : Yeah. Because if you’re like me, I don’t read the directions and I’m trying to figure it out and it’s questioning my manhood. But I was so happy I got this killer deal, but at the end of the day, a buddy of mine who’s our photographer for Bolder Brand, our eCommerce business, Jeff Shane, and he has Shane Reclaim Design. And he started doing woodwork out of his garage and this guy made us a table for our dining room made out of red oak and the trees were probably planted in the mid 1800s. We did the math.

Tyler: : Wow.

JD: : It came out of barn in Missouri that was built in the early 1900s, in the 1920s or 30s, and this thing … We watched him for weeks work on this thing, sanding it down, and he put it together, didn’t use any metal screws or nails, he notched it together. I don’t even know all the lingo, but he poured his blood, sweat, and tears into this thing and we got to buy it from him. And we will have that table probably in our family for hopefully generations, Lord willing. And I’m proud of that table, you know? I love that table.

Tyler: : Oh, yeah.

JD: : And I’m proud to tell the story of where it came from and who worked on it and we’ve done life together. I totally think that even irregardless of your socio-economic status, even the millennials out there, if they have limited income, they’re hoarding their money and maybe not buying a lot of eight dollar t-shirts, but when they buy a garment or a shirt, it’s nice. It’s $70/$80 and it’s going to be around, it’s going to last awhile. And the same thing with furniture and I think same thing with bedding.

Tyler: : Yeah, we don’t-

JD: : I really think that you’re on to something.

Tyler: : I think that’s awesome. That’s an awesome story. And yeah, like you said, that thing means … It’s an emotional connection with it, but also it’s simplifying your life in a way, right? Because you’ve now purchased something that you know you can rely on for a long period of time. And I think the other thing, the misconception with what we do is, we talk about China, it’s like I don’t make the bedding in China because it’s cheaper there. It’s actually cheaper to make it in Mexico or Vietnam or Cambodia or other places. I do it because they’re the experts. They’ve been doing bamboo and silk for 2,000 years.

JD: : Wow.

Tyler: : And they know their stuff, you know? That’s why we’re there. And with you, with Bolder Brand, I know you guys do stuff in the States and that’s because you probably know you can get the best quality here. And this whole thing we live in a global economy or a global society, it’s true now. These quick plane flights, these all these different things, I think you want product, right? That tree that turned into a table, you want it made by the people who are the experts who are doing the best job. That’s another kind of great step towards quality.

JD: : That’s right. Very cool. There’s so many things I want to talk to you about, but I want to talk to you about bamboo really quick. Is it true that a bamboo plant is underground for the first seven years of its life?

Tyler: : Yeah. I mean, it depends on the species, but yeah, that is true. There are also species of bamboo that will grow six feet in a few days. Like they’ll just spring up. There’s ones that’ll grow … Bamboo is a beautiful weed. So maybe think about it like your lawn. Every week, you mow your lawn, it comes right back. Bamboo’s the same way. And when you cut it, it doesn’t release CO2 emissions into the atmosphere so it’s very sustainable to use as kind of a base product of whatever you’re doing.

JD: : Hmm. That’s cool. So let’s get down into the technical stuff because man we’ve talked about so much of just the input that goes into your product; the effort and the care and the quality of the actual material. How do you guys, kind of switching over to an eCommerce conversation, how do you guys think about or go about it attracting customers, great customers? What is your, you probably have a multi-pronged approach, but are you driving Facebook, are you paying for Facebook traffic, Google traffic, how ae you staying in front of these people and bringing them to your site.

Tyler: : Yeah, so, for me [inaudible 00:32:28], we started our company working with the whole sale. But we were more working with selective high end retailers that are smaller. So like just small mom and pops and whoever we felt like kind of jived with our brand. And also working with interior designers. We made a lot of friends with interior designers. We love them. They kind of get tossed around, they get disrespected in this industry, because they’re not a store, but they can do great volume, which is an awesome thing. And we can reach them now through those channels you were talking about; social media and all kinds of different things. But we started out going to industry markets. We have five large market a year, or five large market twice a year, so ten markets a year that we go do meet these people all in the industry. And we started that way.

And then the second thing we would do is we started switching more to eCommerce because because it was an easier way to get straight to our customers. Again, we’re cutting out middle men that associate with raising prices and making things a little bit more difficult. And also, it just makes it more convenient for our customers. It helps us to provide better customer service. So from an eCommerce standpoint, the way we mark it now is we do work through Facebook Digital Advertising, Instagram, Pinterest. We work with Selective Influencers, and we do it a little bit differently than other people, with the influencer thing, but we don’t just give away free product flippantly or anything like that or pay them to do our products.

We require our influencers to love our product. And we can tell. We can tell if they love it or not. So far, we’re batting 1,000, but we want to make sure that they’re as passionate as we are about it, at least, to be able to represent it.

And we’re selective with who does it. Also, we’re working with referral stuff now. So letting customers refer and tell their friends. One thing about our products is we have a really nice, residual, I guess, recency rate they call it in the business. When they come back and purchase again? A lot of people think oh bedding … and it usually is. Bedding is usually a purchase you don’t make very often. But with our stuff, our customers are returning. Almost 15% of our customers return within the first six months to purchase something again.

JD: : Wow.

Tyler: : And that’s really rare in the bedding industry. Most of the time, the lifetime value of a customer or the half life, it’s just not great. So with what we do, we’re nice. Again, you put that extra effort in, you get fiercely loyal customers, so they come back and they buy again. They purchase on thing … We call the sheets the gateway drug, our bamboo sheets. They try that, they have to have everything else. So they get into the comforters and they start to see how it’s doing more than just … It’s not just exponentially soft and everything else that they have, because it is, it’s also that temperature regulating benefit and that hypoallergenic benefit.

JD: : Very cool. Well and I would assume you probably have, you customer probably skews affluent, and they’re buying additional linens for their spare bedroom and/or their children or for wedding gifts, you know, for friends and things. So I would assume that a certain percentage of those repeat buyer purchases are for gifts.

Tyler: : Yes, yeah, that could be very much the case. And also second and third bedrooms. The parents will buy it and the kids won’t get out of their bed.

JD: : Right, yeah.

Tyler: : So they’re like, we’ve got to get these for the kids. So we do have, it’s funny, when we first got going, we were mostly affluent. It was weird, it was like … I wouldn’t say affluent. I’d say upper middle class to affluent, to rich, wealthy people. And when we first started, and we still do this, we do a lot of fifth avenue, Hamptons, we do private jets, yachts. I mean, it’s amazing. Billionaires sleep under our bedding. We have celebrities that do it and love it.

But the thing is, is then we started to see in our price point, there’s this uber luxury lines out there like [Frete and SDH 00:37:10] and these other companies, they’re charging $1,000 a sheet set, and we just think it’s outrageous, you know? I mean, our products are definitely a third of that, for our sheets, and we’re providing I think a lot more value there. And we’ve noticed that customers, those affluent customers or those ones that are more on the wealthy side are telling their family and friends about it and it’s getting out ad now we’re seeing people with just, you know, middle class people with a little bit of disposable income, can reach a little bit and grab out products and enjoy them. And they realize it’s an investment, you know? Bedding is either a commodity or it’s an investment. It’s like toilet paper. Some people care about their toilet paper, I do.
But with the sheets, it’s like, I just need to cover a bed. Then you realize you’re not sleeping comfortable in the bed or the sheets are pilling or they’re shredding or they’re discoloring. Now you realize this is causing me undue stress. And so with Cozy Earth, we’re hoping we can address some of those issues. If you spend a little bit more, you get what you pay for, you get a lot nicer sheets, it’s going to last aa long, and I think that’s resonated well with the middle income people because they’re like look, I just want a set of sheets. Let’s see if it really is worth what it is. And we have such a great return policy, if they have any buyers remorse, they can just send it back even after sleeping under it. We’ll take it back and give them a full refund.

JD: : Nice, nice. So once you get somebody to the site, you’re driving paid traffic, right? You’re spending money in advertising to get people to your site on all these different channels: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, all this, correct?

Tyler: : Yup.

JD: : Once you get somebody there, what are some of the things that you have used on your site to get them to buy, to convert them? And with that, how many touches? Do you guys track in analytics? I know attribution is always a challenge, but roughly, do you have an idea how many times you have to get your message and your brand promise in front of somebody cold, brand new, before they pull the trigger and pull out their credit card?

Tyler: : It’s a minimum to three to eight times, you know? I have a big range there. But you definitely have to get in front of them. Remarketing is important for that as well, I didn’t mention, through Facebook and through PPC. You have to be constantly in front of customers, you have to be tracking them. As far as touch points go, you’re right about attribution, it’s kind of all over the map because you have people who are coming in and coming out and visiting the site and not. We don’t track it as well I want to. We’re working on kind of improving that, that’s one thing we’re working on improving.

But we do, from anecdotal evidence, and just talking to customers, people are typically searching for us online, searching for something regarding bamboo sheets, or SEO is a big part of what we do, I didn’t even mention that. But that’s also a big thing that we’re up to. But yeah, I think the biggest thing for us is staying in front of the customer. If they’re looking for us and they’re trying to do things, another kind of thing that we do is we try to offer good promotions through our newsletter through signing up on our website regularly, that are not the same every month but are a little bit different to kind of pull in people. And that’s worked well, too.

JD: : Mm-hmm (affirmative). So the opt in form that you have come up on your page right when you land, is that there for everybody or is it just for new traffic, new visitors?

Tyler: : It’s typically for new visitors, yeah. And we A/B test stuff all the time. In fact, right now, we’re getting ready to migrate to a whole new site, whole new design, actually. So that’ll be launched in a couple weeks. That’ll be even more fun.

JD: : Nice. So I was hoping you would bring that up. So you’re migrating from Magenta you’ve been on since inception.

Tyler: : Yeah.

JD: : And you’re migrating to Shopify Plus store. I’ve never migrated, but I can only imagine … we’ve been on Shopify Plus from the very beginning and this is a big deal. You’re heavily invested in your Magenta site. And it’s a cool site. It’s a very nice site. What are like two or three big reasons why you’re going through the brain damage to do this?

Tyler: : Yeah, good question. Good way to term it, too. This is our second time doing it. When we first started a long time ago, we did OS Commerce. I don’t even know if that exists anymore.

JD: : I don’t either. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it.

Tyler: : I don’t think it exists. I don’t know, I twas 2011 or something, but that doesn’t sound long ago, but it was. And these guys, what happened was, they just got stale, OS Commerce, and they didn’t have the features we wanted and we were making a lot of concessions. And when you’re on an eCommerce, you really want everything as automated as possible. You want to reduce human error. You want to make it easy for customers to funnel through your site as easy as possible. These are very, again, obviously things, but people make concessions all the time, I’ve found, in eCommerce. And for me, I try to keep the attitude not just in eCommerce, but in business in general, to just be like things are going to change, so just prepare yourself.

You have to make these changes to survive. You have to grow, you have to develop, you have to get better, you have to learn new things. And so we switched from OS Commerce to Magenta because at the time, and this is literally three years ago, two and a half/three years ago, Magenta was like the awesome kid on the block. It was like Magenta’s got all these features and it’s customizable and they just got acquired by eBay and so they’re going to dump all this money into it and it’s got the most extensions. And if you’re going to grow big, Magenta’s where you want to be. And that was the common talk at the time. Shopify wasn’t even on the radar at that time, three years ago. Maybe it was on a couple of people’s, but it wasn’t nearly what it is today. And not to say Shopify’s the best ever. There’s Woo Commerce, there’s some other great ones out there, too, but what happened was it just became very clear and evident over the last six months that whoa, we are behind the times here.

We needed to switch platforms because Shopify has a much better value proposition for us. It’s easier to use, it’s easier to train people to use it. It’s less reliant on developers, which means you don’t have to hire programmers all the time and everything you want to make a change on the sight, you don’t have to call a programmer, which is good. And historically, the problem with that is they had these kind of sites in the past and they have these pop up template-based sites in the past. We’re using Shopify Plus, by the way, which is a lot more customizable and you can get your own things on there. But I never liked the template pop up sites, even though they were easier to insert photos and stuff, I just didn’t want to look the same as everybody else, and I wanted to be able to tune things just to our customers, who they like to shop. And now Shopify solved both those problems I believe, for the time being, until in three years we talking about another one.

But it moves so fast. Magenta [inaudible 00:44:31], just like OS Commerce, and now Shopify, is just like, they’re killing it. They’re just doing so many good things in terms of payment processing, in terms of increasing conversions. They have a dedicated account manager, this is Shopify Plus I’m talking about, a dedicated account manager who’s incentivized to make you do better. They got some things figure out over there. So that’s why we went through the headache and it has been a headache. And why has it been a headache? I don’t know if you want me to talk about this, but-

JD: : Yeah, just really quick, because it’s a big deal. There’s a lot of moving pieces to doing this. I’d love to hear it.

Tyler: : You have to migrate all of your data and if you have SEO ranking, which we do, you have to make sure that 301 redirects are in place. You need to make sure that all the data’s porting through properly and you’re not losing any of that SEO juice. And then also, that you’re skews are coming over right. So you’re relying on several different companies to do the right thing. And then on your new design elements, you got new designers coming out, you’ve got people who are working with new elements of eCommerce and things like that to push it through. And you have a developer. You do have a developer at the front end. And it’s an expense. It’s a big expense to make that switch. But we believe it’s going to be a very good investment for our customers. Our customers are going to love it. It’s going to be a lot quicker, especially our mobile people who visit our site. Mobile customers are going to have much quicker time getting through the cart and getting what they want.

JD: : Mm-hmm (affirmative). Just touch on conversion on site. I see that you have a live chat widget. Have you noticed that that interaction … Is there somebody actually live that’s manning that most of the time? Or is it like one of the services that will actually email after you engage?

Tyler: : That’s good, yeah. We have a live chat during business hours every day and soon we will have live chat 18 hours a day, roughly. So we’re going to have somebody on there all the time. That has been a great thing for our business. I recommend that to everybody. If you have the resources, meaning time, people to do it, or a person to man it, depending on how much traffic and orders you have, it’s just huge. How often do you walk into a store at the mall and nobody’s there, you know? It just doesn’t happen, ever. You need help to get through this stuff, even if it’s … Everyone knows how to buy things online, but there’s questions. Our product sometimes requires description, right? People are like, which one’s better? And they have these questions. And also, there’s issues, too, customers come up with. They’ll have a question or a problem with something or maybe it’s not a problem and they just think it is and they need to talk it out. So yeah, we want someone that can converse with them and feel like they’re getting that attention that they deserve.

JD: : Some people just need to be validating and say, “This is going to be a great decision. You’re going to love them, and if you don’t, we’re going to take them back and give you your money back.” Right?

Tyler: : Absolutely.

JD: : You can scream that from the rooftops all over your site, but if there’s a real human, I think it just adds to the trust factor. At least, that’s what we’ve seen [crosstalk 00:47:54].

Tyler: : Absolutely. I highly recommend those.

JD: : Cool. Retention. I think I’m just going to jump out there and say that once you sleep on these sheets and sleep under them and feel them, and I can’t wait to get some. I’ve already told my wife about them. We’re going to get some when we get our new place and we get our king size bed from colorado to Texas. I will just assume that because of the quality of your product and because you have put so much care and time and energy and money into creating a great product, you really do have built in repeat purchases, is that correct?

Tyler: : Yeah, absolutely. We have people coming back, purchasing it again like I mentioned. The customers, we try to take them through an experience. So we start from beginning to end. We say, “Look, this is going to be a great experience.” We’re fixing the beginning part, which is our website. We want to make that better. And that’s one of the first touch points of the customer. But we want the delivery to be smooth, so we’ve automated everything from shipping and fulfillment facility through our customized APIs so when they order, it instantly will ship. We also have, within the day. And the other thing that we do is when they receive the product, we don’t just package it in plastic zip packaging like all this other bedding.

We actually have, this is another thing in our supply chain that I’ve done. I know a professional bag maker out there and we have them making these reusable bags, these totes for us, for all of our comforter and sheets that people can use again and again and again. And they’re beautiful. So it’s another touch point, right? The packaging needs a second, to me, it needs a utility. If it’s going to be there, you don’t want to just throw this away. We’re a sustainable company, we don’t want that going on. So our packaging is another value added gift to the customer that they can take to the beach with them, they can use it as a weekender bag. If it’s a comforter bag, you can stick stuff in there. It’s pretty cool.

JD: : Yeah, and oh by the way, it probably has cozyearth.com on it.

Tyler: : It does. It says cozyearth.com. But it’s tasteful. It’s not too crazy. It’s designed well by professional designers at a really great bag making company. And then we also have the products. And then they pull the product out, we hope that their jaws drop when they feel how soft it is and how amazing. It’s not just soft, but it’s drape. The drape of it is incredible. It contours as you sleep. And then they sleep under it. And that, we think, is like rounding third base. That’s the home run part of it where you’ve got this experience after a night with our stuff, we hope that you wake up the next morning and you feel better than you felt with anything else that you’ve slept under.

And then the last component, like I said, the very last component is it lasts. It’s easy to wash, it’s easy to take care of, there’s not a lot of high maintenance involved. It’s taking the stress out of your life. It’s not something that you’re going to have to purchase five or six other different types because it’s falling apart. That’s the longevity portion of it.

JD: : Very cool. Well, where can people find out more about Cozy Earth?

Tyler: : Yeah, great question. Cozyearth.com, of course. So our website: C-O-Z-Y-E-A-R-T-H .com. We also have a great Instagram page. It’s Cozy Earth Bedding, @cozyearthbedding, that you can check us out. We are on Facebook as well. We post some pretty awesome pictures. If you’re interested in Fine homes, we have a cool thing going on with our customers. A lot of our customers have some nice homes, nice second and third homes, and so what we’ve done is we’re just about to, with this new launch of the site, we’re going to launch a new portion of our blog called Cozy Earth Home Tours, and it’s going to be tours of homes that feature Cozy Earth or use Cozy Earth bedding. So you’ll be able to see their design elements and it’s kind of interesting to our customers who like looking at fine homes and meet places. So come check us out any time. We’re here for you. And Justin will be on the chat waiting for you.

JD: : Nice. That’s awesome. Well Tyler, thanks for sharing the elements of what has made what I believe a company that’s going to be around a long time. And congratulations on all your success. I hope that the transition goes smoothly. I know that the team that I have worked with at Shopify have been just fantastic over the years and I have no doubt there’ll be challenges, right? But I have no doubt that you guys will figure it out as well, and I appreciate you chatting with me today here and I look forward to shaking your hand and meeting you face to face in the near future.

Tyler: : Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for the time, JD, and likewise to you too. Congratulations on all your success and good luck with Bolder Brand.
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