Sleep of faith

Charlie Marshall launched bed provider The Sleep Room in 2009 and the company now turns over £7 million.

How did you come up with the idea?

I was trying to buy a bed and found the process so laborious. The one I wanted was £4,500 with a 16 week lead time. I thought that was crazy and that there must be a way of making it for a quarter of the price, so I went round the world for 18 months to educate myself in furniture manufacturing and decided to start up in this field.

How did you finance and market it?

I had the funds from my previous ventures. It cost £355,000 to get up and running, with the majority being spent on R&D, travelling round the world to various factories in China and Malaysia. Web design cost around £35,000 and branding around £40,000 – I recognised early on the importance of having a sexy brand. We marketed through pay per click advertising and press ads in home and furnishing magazines. It must have worked as the phones were ringing and the orders were coming in.

What has been a big challenge?

To get beds made around the world at the right price, get them shipped, stored in the right quantities, and delivered on time to customers’ houses, making sure they look nice, it’s difficult to get right and if one thing doesn’t work a customer has a bad experience. Finding the right suppliers is very difficult; a lot of these factories are very small operations. They would start out being able to keep up with our demands but a lot have struggled as production needed to be increased. Moving to other factories has been a difficult thing to get right but we’ve mastered it now.

What’s next?

We’ve decided we want to move into other home products such as sofas, armchairs and wardrobes. We’ll be sticking to the plan of not offering too much choice and selling great quality items for a reasonable price. The name will change to Loaf and we bought the domain name from a guy in Florida for $40,000.

Are you apprehensive about changing the name?

When you’ve got a business that started in a recession and is doing well, to then decide to change the name is quite a scary thing to do but I’m pleased we’re doing it. I think we have the potential to be a billion pound business and to grow oversees and The Sleep Room isn’t a name that befits a global operation. Big brands often have four-letter names and that’s what we’ve decided to do.

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