Joe Alexander is Director of Sales and Marketing for Keetsa Mattress here in San Francisco. Keetsa is a leading manufacturer of green mattress and bedding products, using recycled and sustainable materials to produce high quality bedding for its customers. Keetsa is the bedding sponsor for the Discarded Dreams Mattress Recycling Competition, cohosted by RNSI. Jonathan Harrison, Director of RNSI, posed the following questions to Joe:
1. The mattress industry has a bad reputation for confusing pricing structures, deceptive sales tactics, and renovated product that is sometimes passed off as new. Is that reputation deserved?
I would have to say, in my experience, it is an earned reputation. Before the advent and accessibility of the internet, customers were subject to the marketing of the mattress giants. Shopping for a mattress was similar to the process of buying a car. In the "old days", you would go from dealership to dealership, listening to salespeople, collecting brochures and getting pressured to buy now. When the internet gave customers the ability to research, price and compare, it changed the landscape. The same thing is now happening for mattresses. Customers are now coming into the market informed, asking the right questions. Because of this, the old sales tactics many companies rely on are now accounting for a rise of alternative bedding companies. It's why you see so many of the major mattress manufacturers suffering in this economy and many alternative companies thriving. Mattresses are a perceived need. Good or bad economy, people still need mattresses. And if you give the consumer respect for being intelligent and savvy, if you give them value, they will buy.
2. Your company is pretty green in the scheme of things? But what are you doing that is different from other mattress companies?
What we are doing is pretty radical from most mattress stores. We do not spend tons of money on radio and TV. We don't blanket newspapers with ads. We live off word of mouth and the internet. This helps us keep our pricing affordable. In respect to being green, we are constantly challenging ourselves by searching for new innovations. We have lots of customers who cannot afford latex or are allergic to it. We make a healthy version of memory foam. In fact, we just pioneered the world's first castor oil foam. We replace over 10% of the oil with castor oil, a natural plant oil, for lower dependency and reduced VOC. We are also about to unveil our first natural latex mattress with organic cotton and wool. By packaging our mattresses in boxes that can fit in your car, we are able to send customers home in their car, taxi or BART with a new mattress.
3. Keetsa is growing fast. This might present a few challenges in your day . . . what keeps you up at night?
First, I am daily innundated with emails from customers, potential customers and inquiries from media. It amazes me how passionate people are about their mattress! But the one thing that keeps me up at night are the people who attack us. When you are on the forefront of change you are a target. I work very hard with our staff to educate customers about how our mattresses are different from other mattresses. And yet, to some people, it is not enough. Fortunately though, you are right, we are growing very fast. We make a great mattress for a great price.
4. What is Keetsa going to look like in 10 years?
In the year 2019 we will have flying mattresses! No, just kidding. Actually, if all goes according to plan, Keetsa will be a household name in ten years. I personally would like to see us making 100% biodegradable mattresses that last 25-50 years. That way waste and disposal are things of the past when it comes to mattresses. These are some of our goals.
5. Tell us the story about a customer experience that made you proud?
Our staff works tirelessly to make our customers happy. I try to remind them all the time that you never know the circumstances of why someone is shopping for a mattress. A young lady came into the store the other day and fell in love with our mattresses. She was distraught because she had been to some big retailers and could not afford a mattress. Her family came back an hour later and bought the mattress for her. It seems her husband of 5 months had run off with another woman and took all the furniture. She was so grateful for her new mattress!
6. Why is reducing your companies' carbon footprint so personally important to you as an manager?
As an avid surfer and runner, I enjoy the outdoors. Before Keetsa I had lived in Hawaii for two years and Tahoe for a winter. We have such an amazing planet! I want my three kids to be able to enjoy this place long after I am gone. With Keetsa, I get to contribute on a daily basis.