March 19, 2024

The Scaling Diaries with Bedfolk

Sasha Jeppesen
Head of Creative

On a mission to help you “wind down well,” Bedfolk is changing the bedding game and are turning us all into comfort addicts with their sleek digital shopping experience, and their ridiculously well-made products. 

Put simply, they’re a breakout brand we had to stand behind, and in February we welcomed them into the Charlie Oscar portfolio.

Over the next couple of months, we’ll be helping the Bedfolk team accelerate their (already impressive) growth by plugging in our Data Science Lab. And although we believe data science is the bedrock on which great digital brands are built, at Charlie Oscar we also believe that people power brands- in every sense of the phrase. So to officially introduce Bedfolk to our community, we felt like it was only right to pass the mic to the people behind Bedfolk, Jo and Nick, to chat about their brand-building experience so far in our new interview series, The Scaling Diaries.

CO: Hey Jo and Nick! Let’s start here: how is the “founder life” treating you so far?

NJ: A total rollercoaster full of massive highs and massive lows!

I’ve often heard people compare building a start-up to jumping out of a plane and assembling the parachute on the way down. I describe it as more like being at the front of a runaway train and laying the track in front of you as you go - there’s so many decisions to make about the direction of travel and a huge sense of urgency all the time.

But as well as being exhilarating we’re hugely proud of the business and what we’ve built to this point. We often refer to Bedfolk as our first baby!

CO: What’s one routine you’ve developed that is making it easier? 

NJ: Pre-planning time outside the business. It’s very easy to get burnt out as founders and it’s something that’s definitely affected both of us at various points over the four years since we started Bedfolk. Time passes in a bit of a blur and if you don’t pre-plan it's very easy to go months without a proper break. 

Last Christmas we committed to taking some time out of the business this year to recharge our batteries and booked a couple of holidays. We’re off to Majorca for a week later this month and can’t wait to rest, recover and come back rejuvenated for the next few months.

CO: What was it like setting up the operation, to go from idea to launch? And how did you get your first customers? 

NJ: We did everything ourselves - I found suppliers, did all the business admin & finance, and ran our limited marketing activity. Jo specified the products we wanted to launch, built the website, and worked on our brand.

We were blissfully naive about what running a business would actually be like. On the first day a lorry got stuck down our garden path dropping off 6 pallets of bedding (our life savings) and we had to carry every box through the house and into our makeshift warehouse (our dining room). Thank god it didn’t rain!

Apart from family & friends (thanks Mum!), our first customers came through an Instagram community & email database that we nurtured before launch. We posted bedroom inspiration & related content as well as some behind the scenes progress updates on Instagram for about 9 months prior to launch. Everyday I'd follow about 300 people (until Instagram blocked me) that were following other interior accounts and about 20 of them would follow our account back. I must have followed a small city's worth of people over the 9 months as we launched with more than 10,000 followers, which made the brand feel bigger than it was. It was a pretty mind numbing process but definitely worked!

CO: Digital brand building is hard nowadays, you only have a few seconds before that potential customer scrolls past. How does Bedfolk manage to continually breakthrough?

NJ: It’s really tough. I think the main thing for us has been investing heavily in brand & creative. We knew that in today's world where the barriers to entry in e-com are very low, having a distinct & differentiated brand (as well as amazing products) would be how we cut through.

We took on our first warehouse in 2020 and turned the mezzanine into a photo studio. We shoot all our own creative in-house, directed and managed by our super Creative Manager, Hattie. This set up means we can get really creative as we don’t have the same time & resource constraints as shooting on location or through an agency, and we can be quite agile & responsive in terms of the creative requirements for the different marketing channels that we run.

We’re also trying to lean as hard as possible into non-digital channels. We get plenty of word of mouth referrals, and also sell into interior designers, hotels, and Airbnb's using more traditional sales tactics!

CO: One of the things that stood out the most for us with Bedfolk was the product design. How important was that to your success? And where did that expertise come from on the team?

NJ: Thanks :) Product is everything for us at Bedfolk. We know that brand & marketing is important to get people through the door, but product is what will keep them coming back. We didn’t start with much product experience - Jo had worked in luxury retail before and helped to manage some bespoke furniture production, but other than that we just started as curious consumers. We knew we wanted the best quality, so spent a while researching where to source - we looked at supplier lists from recent textile fairs, and scoured the web to try and find where high end brands that we looked up to sourced their bedding. 

Once we’d landed on a mill (our bedding is made in Portugal) we spent a long time testing different fabrics to land on a range that we thought met the maximum amount of consumer demand with the minimum amount of choice, and which found a sweet spot in terms of quality & price. Jo used to walk around with fabric swatches in her bag and would ask our poor friends & families to close their eyes, stroke her samples, and tell us which they preferred. Between that and selling our flat to invest in bed sheets, they must have thought we were very odd!

We now have a fantastic Product Development Manager - Emma - onboard. She’s only been with us for a couple of months but has already transformed how we manage product development. It’s far more professional and no longer Jo & I making it up as we go along.

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CO: Are there any technology or creative tools that have been game-changers for Bedfolk?

NJ: We use lots of mainstream e-com tools like Shopify, Klaviyo, Yotpo & Gorgias to run the business.

Probably the biggest game changer behind the scenes has been implementing a Warehouse Management System, Peoplvox. Our efficiency has gone through the roof, our error rate nearly to zero, and it’s much easier to see what stock we have in the warehouse at any one time. It means our operations are really well set up for our next phase of growth.

I’m also a bit of a data geek and have spent hours building automated reporting with Supermetrics, Google Sheets, Zapier, and Slack. Every day, week & month we get an automated Slack message with all our key stats from the relevant period.

CO: Bedfolk is on a mission to help people “wind down well” starting with comfy bedding and bath essentials. Over the past two years we’ve never spent more time looking inwards into our homes for comfort, do you think this cultural impact Covid has had on our lifestyles, has helped Bedfolk achieve this mission in any way? 

NJ: Definitely. We were lucky to be on the ‘right side’ of Covid, in terms of being an online homeware brand when everyone was locked down at home. Before Covid there was already a rise in awareness of the importance of self care and comfort, but obviously this has been accelerated during the last 2 years. 

Although we were well positioned for Covid, we’ve also definitely reacted to events, and have leaned more into our mission during this period. Rather than just talking about high quality bedding and towels, ‘The Wind Down’ feels like such rich territory for us to explore as a brand. Our mission of helping people to wind down well now anchors all of our marketing activity & product development.

CO: What role has data played in developing your creativity?

NJ: An increasingly important one. We developed the brand and creative identity internally really off our own intuition and taste. But as we scale, and now that we have Charlie Oscar on board, we’re increasingly using data to make creative decisions.

We’re also starting to use more consumer insight, both quantitative & quantitative, to inform how and where we show up in the world.

CO: What do you do to switch off….or we now say “wind-down”? 

NJ: We’ve got a 9 month old daughter and a start-up, so there isn’t a huge amount of time to wind down at the moment. Jo’s an avid reader and is hugely into beauty, aromatherapy & self care. I like exercise & sports - particularly cycling, swimming, and golf - and also like to cook. We often go for a hike in the Cotswolds at the weekend, and like to spend time with family & friends as much as possible. Nothing too crazy I'm afraid!

CO: Finally, what advice can you give co-founders starting out together?

NJ: Be thankful that you’ve got a co-founder. We often say how much respect we have for solo-founders. It’s incredibly hard and we couldn’t have done it without each other's complementary skill sets, and without the support that we’re able to give one another through the good and tough times!

Sasha Jeppesen
Head of Creative
charlie oscar