Hollywood sometimes forgets that for every Wild Bill Hickok, there was a Calamity Jane; for every Billy the Kid, an Annie Oakley. We already covered Wild Mike Doyle earlier this month, so it’s time to talk about Calamity Carly Griffin, Zonkd co-founder and HQ Raleigh member.
Carly Griffin did not wait around to see what opportunities would present themselves after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill;. she took the bull by the horns and started her own company. While working in public relations for a mattress component supplier, she and Zonkd co-founder Amanda Rudie began noticing that these new “bed-in-a-box” companies were not providing a quality product for a fair price.
“We saw a lot of the foams that were going into these mattresses, and, I don’t want to name competitors, but having worked with suppliers, we were like, well that’s kind of a crappy foam,” Carly laughed. “We also knew what these materials cost and what kind of markup they were giving and thought, that’s not very nice! We started thinking we could design a mattress with much higher quality for around the same price point.”
So, while working their day jobs, Carly and Amanda got to work designing the mattresses that would become Zonkd’s product line. Although the first year and a half was exciting as they saw their visions come to reality, they also had to deal with a lot of things that Annie Oakley never had to put up with — like paperwork. Carly said the approval process to be able to place those notorious federal mattress tags (that you should never remove) was long and annoying.
But they got all the paperwork and licenses done and Zonkd launched early this year. As they started selling their product, they began to realize just how out of the ordinary they were in this industry. For one, the other “bed-in-a-box” companies were started by marketing guru-types for whom the actual mattress was almost an afterthought. For Carly and Amanda, they came from within the sleep industry, and creating a quality product was their starting point. Marketing came a distant second in initial priorities.
Also, they noticed another big difference. As a group of young women running a small startup, they were disrupting what was pretty much a good ol’ boys club in the world of mattresses.
“Zonkd is all women, and we went to a sleep product convention over in Charlotte in March,” Carly recalled. “And I don’t know if you know much about the sleep product industry, but it is all old men. So, we walked in there and were the only young women and heads definitely turned. It was a little “outlaw” for sure.”
Not all outlaws are in it for greed though (Robin Hood anyone?). The ladies of Zonkd may only be in their first year of business, but they are already finding many ways of showing their love to those who need it.
In May, Zonkd announced a partnership with the Triangle area’s only teen crisis center, Wrenn House. This shelter in Raleigh gives homeless teens and runaways a place to go while dealing with incredibly difficult situations. Zonkd has committed to giving each teen who walks through the door a pillow and duffle bag.
But that’s not all. For the whole month of October, Zonkd is donating 20 percent of their profits to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which raises money for breast cancer research. So this October, which is not just HQ Outlaw Month but National Women’s Small Business Month, we are proud to have the ladies of Zonkd in our posse and to celebrate all their success.