In some ways, sleep and bedding retailer Essentia has the perfect Hollywood story. An epic one, actually. It has heartbreak, redemption, famous people, family ties and, of course, mattresses and pillows. Yet, while the story of one of its competitors is all over the news, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard of Essentia. Not the bottled water brand, mind you – the sleep brand.
“We’re not Casper, we’re not a big company looking to go public right now,” said Jack Dell’Accio, founder and CEO. “We’re a small, private company. We haven't raised money, and haven’t had a big promotional push as some companies have. We are a premium product that is intimately connected with the consumer and the consumer’s health. Sleep is a big part of health.”
When Dell’Accio says “connected,” he means it in the deepest sense of the word. Last week, arguably two of the most famous men in the world ordered Essentia products. Soccer megastar Cristiano Ronaldo ordered a mattress. And the Pope (yes, the one in the Vatican) sleeps on two Essentia pillows – and his office recently ordered 14 new mattresses.
To understand Essentia, one must understand the personal struggles of Dell’Accio. Fifteen years ago, in 2005, both his father and aunt were diagnosed with different types of cancers with different diagnoses: one promising, one not. As he watched both family members struggle with treatments, he realized that sleep is critical to recovery – but is hard to come by for a recovering cancer patient. At the same time, he developed a suspicion that environmental toxins might have had a role to play in their illnesses. And when both his father and aunt succumbed to cancer, he decided that something needed to be done about what he saw as a potential toxic element in mattresses and pillows.
In 2005, Dell’Accio created a mattress made of organic materials that did not create or release potentially harmful gases. Like other brands, it has a memory foam base, but instead of polyesters, it uses hevea milk mixed with other essential natural and organic ingredients. Hevea is a close relative of rubber, imported from Indonesia.
Word of Dell’Accio story and his work spread throughout the cancer recovery community.
“Honestly, back in the early days, recovery was not focused on consuming toxins,” he noted. “We didn’t see that they could be related to cancer. But I could see that when people are dealing with the treatments, the emotional and physical difficulty, it’s overwhelming. And it makes sleep extremely difficult.”
The development of Essentia happened organically. Dell’Accio connected with people in the cancer recovery community not to sell mattresses, but to sell the concept that organic products could be extended to mattresses and pillows. Working with people who were recovering from cancer, he saw that the mattresses helped. Eventually, interest began to grow among those seeking prevention, and Essentia’s product line was born.
While Dell’Accio isn’t quite ready to undertake a massive expansion program, Essentia is ready for its close-up. All 12 of its brick-and-mortar locations are thriving, with a few more planned for 2020. The MGM hotel chain recently placed an order to outfit its rooms with Essentia products. Dell’Accio has become an evangelist for healthy sleep in all its facets. Deepak Chopra is one of his influencers, as is actress Alicia Silverstone. Andy O’Brien, the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins’ director of sports science, says that his players use Essentia mattresses, and Dell’Accio estimates that 25 percent of all NHL players his products.
“What are we looking for is what you are looking for,” he said. “Are you looking to be a better athlete? We're going to try to achieve that through sleep. Do you want to have less stress and anxiety? That's your outcome. Making sure you have less stress at night is extremely powerful. I believe the right sleep gives you all the right outcomes, and that's our focus.”
That focus has also spread to charitable causes, all of them tied in some way to the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Dubbed The Betterhood, the effort makes Essentia showrooms available for charity organizations. The company has held one in Calgary to stop the culling of wild horses, has run silent auctions to raise funds for food banks in Vancouver and has hosted clothing drives to support firefighters in Denver or pet adoption days. The effort also goes beyond simple charity. Each location allows local entrepreneurs to highlight their products or services, and local artists get wall space as well.
As Dell’Accio prepares for his company’s 15th anniversary, it may have been borne from sorrow, but it will be celebrated with passion.
“We celebrate with our customers,” he said. “Ultimately, I think our customers sense and feel that we're genuine. And that's why they pass it on to friends and family. It’s rare in today's world to make a unique product with a unique experience with the actual people who invented it. It’s been a lot of hard reality, but now it seems to be our time.”
The Hollywood ending is still being written, but Essentia is having a great second act.