77 Merging the Disruptor and Disrupted with JT Marino, co-founder of Tuft & Needle

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In 2012, Tuft & Needle co-founder JT Marino set out to fix the broken bed industry. The digitally native brand began by shipping mattresses in boxes with a focus on consumer experience. In their first six years, JT and his co-founder Daehee Park bootstrapped the company to $170M in sales, then in September 2018, they merged with the largest U.S. mattress manufacturer, Serta Simmons Bedding.

Now, as Chief Strategy Officer at Serta, JT has the challenge of retrofitting and dismantling existing systems at the traditional retailer. JT is doubling down to accelerate Tuft & Needle’s offline growth and guide Serta’s operations into the future, creating the lasting change Tuft & Needle had originally set out to achieve.

On this episode, JT talks about teaming up with their competitors to fundamentally transform the retail industry. Tuft & Needle didn’t take outside capital but pitched to VCs four times. Hear how pitching taught JT and Daehee how to build an operating plan, forecast and manage finances, and make a key executive hire (24:02). JT talks about turning down partnership opportunities and capital to stay true to their brand ethos (28:35). He emphasizes the importance of the digital customer journey (31:24) and adjusting their strategy to get ahead of the game (37:57). JT shares how they use promoter scores and customer satisfaction measurements to guide their omnichannel approach (43:16). Finally, he talks about their larger mission to transform Serta’s ecommerce channel (54:31), bringing two team cultures together (56:13), and building product companies that push the industry forward (1:01:00).

Links and images can be found on the Lumi Blog.

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