Daehee Park, Waking Up the Sleep Industry

Disruption was the aim from the get-go for Tuft & Needle co-founder  
by Andrea Kalmanovitz

Just seven short years ago, Daehee Park met JT Marino through a mutual professor at Penn State. Both had big dreams and aspirations that aligned and, today, those dreams have manifested into a $170-million national company headquartered right in the heart of Downtown Phoenix.

As a Silicon Valley entrepreneur at the time, Park was a software engineer working on the “next big thing,” which consisted of a bunch of apps that he says served no purpose. He absolutely hated it. He wanted to work on something that mattered. So, the pair got together in Marino’s apartment one Saturday afternoon and put their heads together on what to do next.

The duo decided to build a business that had three main cornerstones: 1) They wanted to build a concept that would solve a real problem, 2) they wanted to create a unique work culture that people actually wanted to work at, and 3) they wanted to see the business through a non-traditional lens and use their combined experience to disrupt an industry. “At the time, we were surrounded by so many people who had ‘big ideas’ but weren’t ready to take any action to make them happen,” Park says. “JT and I were both ready to build a grassroots business model that would actually help people and flip an entire industry on its head.”

The first step was identifying what problem they wanted to fix. They didn’t even have to sleep on it. Marino had recently gone through a horrible experience buying a new mattress. The salesman was pushy, ill-informed and talked him into buying a $3,500 mattress, as Marino was led to believe that the more expensive it was, the more comfortably he’d sleep.

As Park and Marino commiserated on the topic, they realized the mattress industry was broken, and if they could fix even one or two of the common pain points as a customer, they could be onto something. “It was extremely apparent that there was something wrong with the way that mattress retailers were running the Industry,” Park relates. “With crazy markups, sales gimmicks, employee commissions and the like, it was near impossible for a customer to have a good experience buying a mattress.”

To test the waters on their concept, they immediately launched a concept website for a direct-to-consumer mattress retailer. They made their first sale within 15 minutes. They refunded the customer and, soon after, Tuft & Needle was born.

To keep the business fresh, Park and Marino place a high importance on ensuring Tuft & Needle continually takes innovative measures to shake up their business model and stay at the forefront of the industry. Since its inception and first universally comfortable mattress on the market, the company has developed a full product suite inclusive of &Sheets, &Pillow, &Pouch and &Frame — with more on the horizon.

“From the onset of the company, we believe in efficiency without cutting corners. When it comes to pricing, this means creating the best product with the highest quality materials and charging what we need, not what we can,” Park says.

Tuft & Needle has been helping people wake up better ever since and has grown to become a $170-plus-million business in yearly revenue with more than 140 employees.

As a testament to his achievements at a young age, Park was just named on the 2018 edition of Forbes 30 Under 30 list. “It is such an honor to be listed next to so many inspiring men and women,” Park says. “It is very humbling to see the awesome concepts that have come to life based on true grit and hard work.”

Tuft & Needle’s retail growth is focused on customer experience and providing a stark contrast to the status quo in the standard retail experience. The company provides same-day to-your-door shipping and, in addition to its expansive brick and mortar retail footprint, Tuft & Needle enhances the customer experience by enabling online purchasing capabilities through its website and Amazon.

A Sound Sleep Business Model

  • Daehee Park co-founded Phoenix-based Tuft & Needle at the age of 24 with partner JT Marino.
  • Founded in 2012, Tuft & Needle pioneered the disruption of the mattress industry. Its business model is built on leading a revolution against unfair mattress markups, commission-based sales models and information asymmetry by creating an exceptional, honestly priced product.
  • Park was honored with the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 award.

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