Startups

Inside This Entrepreneur’s Quest to Help Families Get a Great Night’s Sleep

Michael Rothbard, the founder of Newton Baby, launched several companies dedicated to helping people sleep better, but helping babies sleep better had never crossed his mind. That was until he and his wife, Jasmine, were expecting twins and it came time to choose mattresses for the little ones to sleep on. Their first son had been and still was a difficult sleeper. This time they were determined to get it right. Michael took on the job of finding mattresses that would hopefully improve everyone’s rest.

His extensive search for a better baby mattress turned up nothing new. Every mattress, even the most expensive organic one, was rigid and encased in waterproof covers that prevented air circulation. As conventional thinking went, a baby mattress had to be firm so the baby wouldn’t suffocate and it had to be waterproof because, well, accidents happen. He concluded that a hard, hot surface couldn’t possibly be comfortable; no wonder babies have difficulty sleeping!

In the sleep lab

At that moment, Rothbard’s start-up, Sleep Studio, was working on products to help adults sleep cooler. Memory foam mattresses had become all the rage, but like the baby mattresses, they also didn’t allow for breathability. Lack of air circulation made for hot nights and people were desperate for cooler sleep. Sleep Studio was experimenting with a highly breathable material, invented in Japan, to create a mattress that would help people stay cool at night.

As with many great innovations, the next step seemed obvious in hindsight. Utilizing the innovative, highly breathable technology, Rothbard realized it was possible to create a 100% breathable and 100% washable crib mattress. As a new dad with more babies on the way, Rothbard knew that the peace of mind (and better sleep) that this innovation offered would be very meaningful to new parents everywhere. The safety benefits of this new mattress were so compelling that Rothbard decided to drop everything and focus all efforts on Newton Baby. The name, an inspiration that came from his son’s recent effort to explain Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and rest, would be a company dedicated to helping babies and their parents sleep better.

Marketing to exhausted parents

The next step, getting the word out, seemed like an easy task – who wouldn’t want safer sleep for their children? However, Rothbard discovered that while new parents put a lot of thought into their nursery, the crib mattress was not always a priority. It was obvious that educating new parents would be the biggest marketing hurdle According to Rothbard, “the first few years were difficult, we knew we had an important innovation but making people aware of it was proving very costly”. At the start, Rothbard had decided that, unlike his previous companies which sold through big box retailers, Newton was going to go direct to the consumer, so he launched Newtonbaby.com. Going direct had obvious advantages but came with a significant cost. “In those early days, we were spending a lot of money on advertising without any idea if we were doing it right,” explains Rothbard. “We were trying a lot of different things, but it was like throwing spaghetti against the wall. The losses were building, and we weren’t sure if any of it was breaking through. What kept us going were the amazing reviews we were receiving from new parents using our mattress.”

Eventually, the determination of the Newton team began to pay off as word spread. “We are very fortunate to be in a category where the customer does research and puts a lot of trust in reviews from other new parents,” says Rothbard. The addition of an experienced CMO and a more sophisticated approach to digital marketing improved return on advertising spend grew as sales began to roll in. “We got better at advertising, but at the end of the day you must have a great product, and it didn’t hurt that we had become the highest-rated crib mattress on Amazon. When we started out, no one was talking about crib mattresses, and if you were to ask someone which crib mattress their baby was sleeping on, they would have no idea. Now, I often ask parents with babies what crib mattress they use and almost before I finish my question, they tell me Newton –sometimes as if it has become the obvious choice.” says Rothbard.

Dreaming new products

Looking ahead, Newton is hard at work on new innovations. “Success breeds imitators, so while our customers can rest peacefully, we can’t. We recently launched a kid’s mattress for our earliest customers who are growing out of the crib. We also just launched pet beds; a first of its kind using our innovative and patented Wovenaire technology. Many of our newest innovations will go beyond mattresses. Our goal is to become the go-to brand for better rest for the whole family,” he says.

Sleep By the Numbers

In a poll of 2,000 adults, about one-quarter (24%) typically snooze their alarms because it helps their relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.

Six in 10 claim that getting more sleep helps them have a better relationship with their partner.

Furthermore, 71% said the amount of sleep they get directly impacts their social health.

The average American sets four different alarms to wake up on a normal day. About one in 10 of those surveyed don’t set an alarm.

Thirty-two percent of non-alarm clockers eat breakfast every day of the week, compared to only 7% of those who set about nine to 10 alarms.

A poll, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Dave’s Killer Bread, also uncovered that a midweek slump is worse than a case of the Mondays.

People are most likely to hit “snooze” on Wednesday (40%), while only 28% are likely to do so on Monday. Respondents were also twice as likely to hit snooze on Saturday than Sunday, 20% vs. 9% respectively.

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