Dan Hauber ’02 didn’t know what he wanted to do while he was in college, but chose an economics major because it “seemed like a reasonable thing to be majoring in.”
At that time, Hauber said, everyone was geared toward Wall Street. He moved to New York City after graduation and worked as an international equities and options trader.
But he always had a desire to be doing something more tangible, something that would require him to build something. He went to business school in 2010, not knowing that four years later, he’d fulfill that desire by launching a company that makes mattresses.
In 2010, he went to business school, where he got his first taste of entrepreneurship when he won his school’s business plan competition and co-founded a payments platform business.
After graduating business school, Hauber went to work for McKinsey & Company, where he built a skillset that enabled him to jump back into “the fray of entrepreneurship.”
While at McKinsey, Hauber worked on a consulting project in the mattress industry. He saw the huge market, as well as the limited options for consumers.
Mattress stores are monopolized by one or two companies, which causes markups and higher prices for consumers, Hauber said.
He began to think about the possibility of creating a better product, complete with better materials, a better design and a better price.
In 2012, Hauber started to research, making factory visits to see just what it would take to build a product.
Two years later, he’d built a prototype and raised some capital. He quit his job at McKinsey and started WRIGHT, a bedding and mattress company.
WRIGHT sells mattresses online, and by cutting out the middle man of mattress stores and selling directly to consumers, the company is able to offer lower prices.
But changing people’s behavior – in other words, convincing them to buy a mattress online instead of going to test them out in the store – is difficult.
Luckily, Hauber said, WRIGHT’s business model is more aligned with the way people are shopping now.
“If you’re making a real purchase, you’re going to start with doing research, looking online,” he said.
And when these consumers run into WRIGHT, the company offers benefits designed to eliminate the risk of online shopping, like a 120-day risk-free home trial.
“I wanted to build better things for beds,” he said. “Your bed is the most personal, important space in your life.”
To live up to this promise, Hauber started conducting sleep studies in 2014, which are still continuing today. The first mattress went through 27 rounds of prototypes before it was ready for sale.
Now a year after WRIGHT’s official launch, Hauber said he’s still getting his feet wet but is focused on growing. WRIGHT’s second mattress will become available in December, and the company will launch its first sheet set in January.
WRIGHT’s team is currently made up of four full-time employees and other part-timers. The company’s flagship showroom is set to open soon in New York City.
Although this kind of career has always been appealing, Hauber said, it was difficult for him to see the path to entrepreneurship while he was still in undergrad. But he said he’s glad he worked traditional jobs first, noting that the skillset he gained via consulting is similar to the skills he uses for his company – he deals with complex problems and finds solutions with limited resources.
“Actually starting a business – there’s a certain amount of experience you need before you launch something,” he said.
To learn more about WRIGHT Bedding, click here.
To read about more Duke entrepreneurs, click here.
Duke I&E @EshipAtDuke
Duke I&E @EshipAtDuke
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