Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Abeer and I’m the co-founder of Remy Sleep. We are an asleep company focused on bringing better health and wellness through sleep and rest.
Our main and sole product is a weighted blanket. It comes in a variety of options - summer, winter, kids, and king size. We’re bringing more variations to our customers soon!
When we started the business, we designed and ordered just 100 units with the goal of selling out in three months. We decided if we sold all the units in 3 months we have a viable business and it’s worth continuing. If it took longer we’d go back to the drawing board to see if this is worth our investment and time. After 20 days we were completely sold out - there was a market for it!
Our first customers were people in search of relief who had read or heard that a weighted blanket can act as an aid to help them sleep or relax. The majority of them might have been professionally diagnosed with anxiety and depression. We’ve labeled them ‘The Solution Seekers’. We also had ‘The Restless Souls’ who are in search of the ease in achieving sleep. Insomnia, restless leg syndrome or a whole other range of health conditions affect their sleep. More recently, we’re focusing on ‘The Self Improvers’ and ‘The Caring Parents’ who value betterment and their children's’ development, respectively.
To date, we’ve had over 4,000 orders and done $500,000+ in sales. This year we’re making a major change to our product offering to differentiate us from our competition and are forecasting to grow the business 3x.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My wife, Azka, and I started the business a year ago after searching for ways to help her sleep better. Ever since I’ve known Azka she’s struggled with sleep - waking up numerous times at night, not sleeping well, and rarely getting a full 8 hours of snooze. We’re always looking for solutions for her. We came across weighted blankets and tried a few on Amazon. They had a positive impact on her sleep! The issue was they were an eye-sore and were not as soft as the duvet’s we’re used to. Frankly, it felt like a cheap product. That’s when we decided to create our own. One that uses premium materials, is cozy and complements your bedroom aesthetic.
When we launched the business at the end of 2018 it was a side-hustle. We were in our late 20’s and financially very comfortable. I was working at Shopify at the time and Azka was/is at Linkedin. Our combined experience in eCommerce, tech, sales, and customer experience would be the stimulus in launching Remy Sleep. We had zero experience in creating a brand and running a business but always wanted to try our hand at entrepreneurship so we took this leap of faith. Six months later I quit my six-figure paying job to pursue Remy full-time.
Early on, we wanted to understand if there was a market for weighted blankets. We searched #weightedblankets on Twitter and used Google's Keyword Planner to see if people were searching for weighted blankets - the results were promising. Then, we had to understand the competitive landscape. Aside from Amazon sellers and one direct to consumer brand offering a very basic version the market was unsaturated.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We found a supplier in China pretty easily. Alibaba makes it easy to find manufacturers. Our first version of the product had minimal customization as we were looking to go to market quickly and from there learn what enhancements our customers want. We tested three different suppliers. Our initial requirements in finding a manufacturing partner were simple - quality, price, and ease of conversation.
Six months after launching I made a trip to China to visit the manufacturer in person. What an experience! The visit strengthened our relationship but more importantly allowed me to discuss design, customization, and the future of the business with them. If you have manufacturing partners make the time to go see them. Take gifts!
During the launch process, we kept our start-up costs to a minimum. We budgeted £10,000 which covered our inventory, basic brand elements, photography, website, and initial ad spend. It was enough to get us started and looking back I wouldn’t have done things any differently. In the future, as we needed to order larger quantities of inventory (1,000+ vs 100 units) we invested more money into the business.
There are times when I think we launched too quickly. We launched before creating a business plan, a product plan, a marketing plan. However, we are learning through our actions and the steps we’re taking to build the business.
Describe the process of launching the business.
During the summer of 2018, we decided to start the business. We set ourselves the goal of launching by October 1st to make it in time for the winter season. After our summer travel, we had less than three months to get our brand elements, product, website, and photography ready. At that time, Remy was a side hustle so all of this had to be done around our day job. We were diligent with our time! Early mornings (6 am-9 am) and evenings (5 pm-9 pm) were devoted to Remy. We loved the hustle and were proud to say we achieved our goal of launching on October 1st. That day we got 3 orders and it was an exhilarating feeling.
We didn’t have a pre-launch strategy. We wanted to launch October 1st and start pushing traffic via ads to the website. We kept it really simple! If we were to launch again we would focus on collecting email addresses and create an email marketing campaign.
A few weeks after launching we had publishers reach out hoping to feature us.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our strategy to attract new customers has been Facebook ads and Google ads. We’ve noticed there is a lot of search intent for weighted blankets so our Google ads are always placed first or second. From there we retarget on Facebook and Instagram quite heavily. Our retargeting ads are focused on education and our USPs. Since weighted blankets are a new concept to most of our visitors it’s important for us to concisely explain the benefits and science behind them. Following that, we clearly showcase why we’re different (and better) than our competitors - 100-night sleep trial, free express shipping, and 10-year guarantee.
To keep our customers and subscribers engaged we send out weekly newsletters called ‘Sleep Well Wednesday’. It's a curation of sleep tips, gadgets, science, and overall positive news to help our community get to bed. We stay away from mentioning our products or sales. We want our customers to look forward to our newsletter every Wednesday. It has over 5,000 subscribers. Our open rates on the newsletter are between 20-30% and engagement is pretty high as well. We’re proud of it.
When I started I knew nothing about copywriting, Facebook ads, conversion rate optimization… We live in a time where free information is available at our fingertips. Absorb this information and put it to use for your business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, in the first quarter of our second year, we’re profitable however we’re bootstrapping and reinvesting all profits back into the business. To keep up with demand our cash is used to purchase inventory. It’s a vicious cycle because we have to purchase inventory 60 days before it’s in our warehouse and at that point, our previous inventory’s revenue hasn’t been fully recognized. Cash flow is a challenge for us as it is for most start-ups.
Most of our sales come from paid traffic. Our return on ad spend is 3:1, which we are constantly optimizing. As the weighted blanket industry is becoming more competitive, paid traffic is not a sustainable long term strategy. This year our goal is to double our traffic but organically. We’re investing more effort in PR, social and SEO.
This year we have plans to expand into new countries. 95% of our sales come from the UK. Our research shows Germany is an interesting market and worth getting into. The challenge with Germany is the language. Germany, like other European countries, prefers purchasing from local websites. This means hiring a German-speaking customer service rep, opening a German fulfillment center, and translating our website and email marketing.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the reasons we started Remy was so we wouldn’t have to work a 9-5, have a balanced life and focus our time (we really value this) on something that is ours. Year 1 was filled with really long hours, working on weekends and sacrificing personal time. So... it was the opposite of balance. Year 2 has begun similarly but better thanks to our new team.
We’ve gone from two to four people. If you’re able to, hire early! Hire earlier than you think you need to even if it means hiring someone on a part-time basis. Our first hire was in customer service and our second in operations - two functions that require daily attention and lots of time. It will take time to onboard new team members because no one will know the business as you do, but it’s worth it.
We made an amateur, costly mistake in year 1. We didn’t trademark our brand name. Six months after launching we were served a cease and desist letter by a competitor. Our competitor had trademarked (in bad faith) our company name and was demanding we stop using the name. We were shocked and after speaking to lawyers we were told there’s a case and we can fight it, but it would be an expensive process.
We had to rebrand. Within a week we had to come up with a new name, purchase a new domain, change our website to showcase the new brand. Remy was born in a week! We immediately trademarked the new name so this wouldn’t happen again. If you’re serious about the business, register your brand’s name as a trademark. It’s costly and can take some time but worth it. Being first-time entrepreneurs it was something that never crossed our mind.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Ecommerce Platform: Shopify
- Email Marketing: Drip
- Customer Service: Zendesk and Raven (callback request app).
- Abandoned Cart Recovery: Scout
- Internal Process and Communication: Airtable and Slack
- Reviews: Trustpilot
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I read quite a bit! What I read depends on what I’m going through at that time. For example, I’ve just hired my first employee and I’ve never led before so I’m reading The making of a manager by Julie Zhuo. I’m also reading books by Seth Godin to help me understand Marketing.
When we were starting the business I was reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It’s the story of how Nike got started. It’s inspiring and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone starting or thinking of starting a business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” There are times when I think we launched too quickly. We launched before creating a business plan, a product plan, a marketing plan. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our first year and will continue to make mistakes. However, we are learning through our actions and the steps we’re taking to build the business. Watching videos, reading books, talking to other entrepreneurs will definitely help but true learning won’t come until you’ve done it yourself.
Maintain a growth mindset. I believe with the right mindset and work ethic anyone can run a successful business and be self-sufficient. When I started I knew nothing about copywriting, Facebook ads, conversion rate optimization… the list goes on. Having the mindset to learn these things has allowed us to be where we are today. We live in a time where free information is available at our fingertips. Absorb this information and put it to use for your business.
There will be incredible highs and really really tough lows. Don’t give up! You will go through challenges, self-doubt, mistakes but always continue working hard and push through it. “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not currently hiring any full-time positions but are always on the look-out for designers and videographers/photographers to help us with our content for social and ads.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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