10 to Watch 2016: Resthouse Sleep Solutions

“People struggle to get a good night’s sleep for different reasons … We knew there was this big need out there.”

Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

For all their focus on sleep, the owners of Resthouse Sleep Solutions are a dynamically energetic team. Believing the traditional bedding industry was too focused on a one-size-fits-all approach — and was failing consumers wanting organic options — Chris Manley and Dawn Howlett started a boutique business, online and bricks-and-mortar, to help people optimize their sleep.

“Most of our products are customizable,” Howlett says. “People can adapt and adjust their pillows, duvets and, most importantly, their mattresses to fit their unique needs. Couples can even have their respective sides designed just for them.”

A challenge has been addressing customer perception of what constitutes organic bedding. Many people don’t realize the traditional market sells a lot of petroleum-based mattresses, which may off-gas. And while some products are labelled natural or organic, that may only refer to a constituent part, not the item as a whole.

“We were thrilled when we started distributing Savvy Rest, whose products are wholly organic,” Manley says. “It’s also empowering for the consumer because they can see inside and tweak the layers.”

Good sleep is not all about the mattress. An organic body pillow is Resthouse’s flagship product. This sleep aid gives extra support and has been shown to reduce tossing and turning throughout the night. Howlett believes “hugging” a body pillow also releases calming endorphins.

“When we started to hear back from our customers how much they loved their beds and body pillows,” she says, “that was all the encouragement we needed to keep going.”

Q&A with Chris Manley and Dawn Howlett of Resthouse Sleep Solutions

What was the best advice you received when you were starting out?

Dawn: To make sure to launch our e-commerce at the same time as opening up the bricks-and-mortar store. Not to worry about it being perfect, just to get it up. [The website] has been everything. Everybody can access it, and it’s the first place people look. Even if someone is going to order in the store, they look online first.

What advice would you give to someone starting a business?

Chris: One thing any budding entrepreneur should do is find mentors and a business coach — one who you can be open and transparent with. We meet with our business coach, Clemens Rettich, every month, and when we were going into new territory, we would talk to him and he would help us find our bearings. There are a million things you have to do when you open a business, and you can get lost with any of those tasks.

Resthouse Sleep Solutions Business Profile

Type of business: Sleep specialists offering natural bedding and products

Year founded: 2014

Owners/principals: Chris Manley and Dawn Howlett

Employees: 4

This article is from the April/May 2016 issue of Douglas.