Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

How we built it: Dr Dennis Schmoltzi, Co-founder and CEO of Emma -The Sleep Company

How we Built is our new series which goes behind the scenes at some of the best known and innovative DTC brands. Today we speak to Dr Dennis Schmoltzi, co-founder of one the flagship DTC brands Emma.

Give us the elevator pitch.

We believe a great night’s sleep is transformational. Therefore, we are revolutionizing the way people sleep by offering science-backed and innovative products, tailored to ensure the best sleep quality. Because it is our purpose to help anyone awaken their best through good sleep and to make good sleep accessible to everyone. Founded in 2013, our sleep innovation company today is active in more than 30 countries and recorded an annual turnover of 405 million in 2020, a year-on-year growth of 170%.

What was your biggest challenge in year one?

There had been a lot of challenges in the first year as a start-up. One of them was to develop our own brand concept of “Emma” in some night shifts besides running our multibrand online shop. Also, we only raised 5 million in funding after all, mainly from friends and family. Finding these people who believed in our idea was successful but challenging at the same time. Lastly, also our office situation was challenging: with a team of 6 people we worked in a tiny 14 square meters office while we also quickly extended the team to more people. We affectionately called our office room “the foxhole”.

What would you say has been your biggest marketing success?

In general, our whole marketing approach is very successful: performance first, brand second. By increasing our sales, we automatically gain brand awareness. Thereby, we didn’t focus a lot on building a brand strategy. Also, we are very proud of our more than 40 product awards which we won globally for our excellent products. We use them for marketing purposes because independent test wins help our customers to gain orientation in the, sometimes confusing, mattress market. In the UK for example, we can proudly say we have the most awarded mattress ever.

What has been the biggest mistake you made?

At Emma, there are no mistakes – just lessons to learn. We had a lot of them but in the end, this is part of our company DNA: We are entrepreneurs. We are willing to take risks and to make mistakes, as long as we only make them once and learn from it. This is what makes us an extremely agile and fast company.

Tell us about your plans for the future.

We are on our mission to lead, disrupt, and reinvent the whole industry. With the D2C concept of a one-fits-all-mattress, we did this once – showing our customers how to buy a mattress online. But we know that there is more to disrupt: we want to improve sleep holistically. Sleep tech will be one important part in that mission. For example, with our Emma Motion, our first smart mattress, we investigated the concept of “active adjustability”. The mattress constantly and automatically adapts to your body and sleeping position to ensure spinal alignment throughout the night.Also, we follow an omnichannel approach: Besides our online presence, our product is now also available offline in more than 3,000 physical stores. Besides investing in this offline presence, we also constantly improve our e-commerce set-up. Currently, we are for example going through a replatforming project, designing the e-commerce architecture of the future. Together with our partners as for example commercetools, we ensure that we can scale our business even further.

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