Leesa Mattress Co-Founder is First Guest Speaker For New Strome Series
Wolfe talks to students about the power of social entrepreneurship at ODU's Strome Entrepreneurial Center.
By Noell Saunders
When David Wolfe and his partner, Jamie Diamonstein, collaborated on the idea of creating one of the most successful "bed-in-a-box" retailers in 2015, they had one mission on their minds: How can we help communities?
Wolfe, co-founder and CEO of the Virginia Beach-based mattress company Leesa, recently spoke to a group of students at Old Dominion University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center about the journey of social entrepreneurship and becoming a B corporation as part of a new speaker series.
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," Wolfe told the crowd.
During its first year, Leesa experienced rapid growth with sales just shy of $30 million. The company has held its own competing with rivals like Casper, Tempur Sealy International and Serta Simmons Bedding.
Max Hall, student entrepreneur and co-founder of the companies CampusWise and Gymmie, said he was impressed with Wolfe's business model.
"I think it's great what David and his partner have built," Hall said. "It's amazing and inspiring to see how you can start a business and change the world while doing it."
Wolfe and Diamonstein have built their philosophy around the idea of "If you get it right, you won't need to tell your story; others will." For the past three years since Leesa's launch, that statement has been put into action with the company's promise of giving back.
"Our social impact programs are not a marketing tactic; they are part of why we work," Wolfe said.
Leesa has donated more than 24,000 mattresses to shelters nationwide and planted 135,000 trees. Volunteers have put in 2,000 work hours to help communities.
"David Wolfe and his enterprise, Leesa, are inspirational for all entrepreneurs since he demonstrates how a company can combine direct social impact with a viable business model," said Nancy Grden, executive director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center. "His advice was also invaluable for all, such as the changing marketing model for attracting customers from 'mousetrap' to 'megaphone' using advocacy and social media."
During the event, Wolfe discussed some of the highs and the lows of owning a business, branding, direct consumer marketing and ultimately how social entrepreneurship created a successful business. He said one particular personal goal changed his life. Wolfe encouraged students and aspiring entrepreneurs to find a purpose while building their brands and to take time to get to know the communities that their businesses will serve.
"Everyone has a story," he said. "If I'm in an area where there is a lot of homeless people, I talk to two or three people and remember their names. Hopefully, when I come back to the same spot, I can talk to them and remember their story."