By Dan Sanchez | Feb 06, 2019
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
After many years of experience in the mattress and bedding industries, Fradin opened her first retail store called PJs Sleep Company in 1994.
To differentiate from the competition, she decided to look for goods made from organic materials. "I looked for products that no one else carried, and I found one person in Canada making quasi-organic mattresses," says Fradin. "The product came in pieces, and I had to assemble them. It made the entire process rather difficult, but it worked for us initially."
Fradin soon realized selling organic products gave a sense of purpose; to provide unique products with unparalleled construction standards for reasons of health and to minimize environmental impact. After trying several suppliers, however, and becoming frustrated with the quality and the fact that many of them would eventually go under, she found herself at a crossroads.
"I decided there was a bigger need to make organic mattresses, so I started a mattress factory," says Fradin. "I began in 2010 in a small, 2,500-square-foot facility making 14 different organic mattresses, five toppers and six pillows. Furthermore, it was important that nothing went to waste. So, any leftover materials from our products that would otherwise end up in a landfill are used to craft organic pet toys, free from dyes and other harmful chemicals."
Fradin decided to close the retail store in 2018 and focus on manufacturing and the Ivy Organics mattress brand, which now sells directly to consumers and dealers with a dedication to products made with certified organic materials.
While this has proven successful, Fradin says that maintaining a genuinely organic product within the state of the current market is very difficult. "The industry is inundated with what I call novelty products," says Fradin. "There are hundreds of companies selling a bed-in-a-box, with more online companies popping up every month. Some say they are organic, but this couldn't be further from the truth. These brands and companies often use blended materials still laden with toxic chemicals or impurities, and due to loopholes, they can market their product to appeal to the organic niche, using a tactic called greenwashing. This is when polluting companies devote relatively minor resources to environmental causes to reap public relations windfalls."
Despite the heavy competition, Ivy Organics remains committed to their focus, but at a cost. "We're being very transparent and paying extra for organic materials," says Fradin. "More consumers need additional exposure to be aware of the greenwashing that is going on, and it hasn't reached a point where everyone is going to vote with their dollar. Real organic commodities are expensive. "
The company's commitment to its organic roots extends to working closely with suppliers. "I decided to be fully transparent and show that our materials are honestly organic," says Fradin. "I use Dunlop-certified organic latex from responsibly managed forests in Sri Lanka. I also went out to the ranch in Oregon where our wool comes from to make sure it was not only organic but also cruelty-free [so] that it would be consistent in our messaging. I stand behind what I say. Moreover, I went as far as to show how the lambs were treated and sheared. I get our organic cotton from San Joaquin Valley here in California, and from Texas farms that don't use pesticides and replenish the soil. We do as much due diligence as possible to inspect our supply chain and use credible third-party verification."
The materials are then crafted by hand at the factory. According to Fradin, this helps maintain high standards of quality rarely found in mattress construction these days. "There is a great deal of pride of manufacturing here," says Fradin. "Our product is made one at a time by paid salary employees. By doing that, there is a unique opportunity to take the time to do it right and not rush through. For me, people will far excel over robots in this capacity. They're always adjusting and assessing, looking for ways to improve. After eight years as a brand and manufacturer, it's rare that we get a return."
Fradin's efforts are gaining momentum as the company has its share of loyal customers and is acquiring new ones. "We are a destination at the moment. Customers are willing to drive and visit our factory and showroom to test or buy our product," she says. "They trust us and are fans of our movement. That was our goal, and it's worked. As more people are becoming disenchanted with our online competition, they are willing to invest in something that helps them return to the basics and will last 10 years or more."
Challenges: "One of our biggest is marketing. We're transparent, but we need to figure out how to get the word out," says Fradin. As a start, the company has videos on its site that show how its mattresses are made and the types of organic materials it uses.
Opportunities: Retail distribution. "We're just now launching the product, selling it to stores. We continue to do well selling direct, but don't want to undermine our dealers base," says Fradin. "There are more significant opportunities, however, for us to join with new retailers who want to offer something better for consumers."
Needs: Messaging. "There's a need to communicate effectively our unique proposition," says Fradin. "The product is proven and has sustained for eight years. I need to get it out there and find more quality dealers. Having a true organic option will be great for them."