Sometimes the craziest-sounding ideas are the ones that lead to the most success—like quitting your teaching job to open a mattress business during a global pandemic.
But Direct Ship Mattress did just that at the end of 2021, and the story that led to the opening is almost as unbelievable as the fact that it opened at such a challenging time in the industry.
In 2017, Direct Ship Owner Michele Zdanowicz’s husband Eric bought a mattress fundraising business called Custom Fundraising Solutions Atlanta South, which provides schools and groups a creative approach to raising money with “The Mattress Fundraiser.” The fundraiser has helped over 3,000 schools and groups nationwide raise over $50 million.
At the time, Michele was a teacher and had been for 20 years, “and I felt the man had lost his mind,” she says. “He kept coming to me for months telling me all about it.”
But when he asked for her help on the weekends, she helped him, and not long after, she found herself selling for him on the weekends while still teaching during the week.
Once she realized she needed to get 100% on board with this to make it work, Michele changed my mindset, became a business partner, started hustling and the million-dollar retail business prospered.
Then Covid hit, and the mattress fundraiser could not be held. In those four months, Michele’s vision for the store began.
“I started talking to Eric about some ideas that I had, and I thought, ‘I don’t know if there’s a lot of women in the industry at all,’”she says. “And when you go into a mattress store, they’re always so masculine. And they’re kind of sterile. And some of them kind of have the whole warehouse feel and all that stuff. So I would like to create a mattress store with a comfortable feel that a woman would be invited into.”
Michele describes the stores as comforting and aesthetically pleasing, almost like a boutique. And inside, customers will find all direct ship bed-in-a-box mattresses—hence the name of the store.
She says it was important to find a store name that tells customers exactly what they do. Bringing in Brooklyn bedding and Bed-In-A-Box, and MLily to start she describes the store as a complete sleep boutique “because I sell mattresses but luxury linens, pillows and more.”
“I’ve never explored my creative side or my independence to this degree,” she continues. “So this is kind of stepping outside the box and hoping that I create an inviting, familiar type of atmosphere that will help draw in customers. And I have had several, if not, most of my customers come—in even men—and be so surprised that we’re a mattress store.”
Michele does admit the bed-in-a-box concept in her store is risky but it’s a risk she was willing to and it’s paying off.
“There’s a learning curve for me, I’ve been in business six months and I have been paying my bills consistently, so I can’t complain.”
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