Ever wondered how to have the best night’s sleep and contribute to saving the planet at the same time? I interviewed the Founder and President of Ettitude, the creators of the luxurious, sustainable, vegan bedding company to find out exactly how.
TG: Tell us the story of Ettitude. Why and how did you start Ettitude? When did you start selling in the U.S.?
Pheobe Yu (Founder, Ettitude): I spent 15 years working for large U.S. retailers to produce home goods in Asia, and was disappointed that most only cared about low production costs, rather than quality, comfort or sustainability.
Similarly, when I was shopping for my own home in Australia, I spent hours hunting for the perfect sheets and was so frustrated by the low quality, while the higher quality or the more sustainable options were outrageously overpriced. So, I decided to build my own brand that would offer functional and comfortable bedding, that would also be earth-friendly.
With my knowledge and connections in the home textile space, I started testing prototypes for the world’s first bamboo lyocell fabric. It took a few years and many fails until I finally created the perfect combination of softness and durability for this innovative and earth-friendly fabric, and am so excited that we were able to finally develop the sheets of my dreams. I launched the company in Australia and then started seeing sales coming from North America, so I decided to partner with Kat to help grow the company in the U.S. and globally.
TG: Why is organic bedding important for health?
Kat Vorotova (President, Ettitude): I joined Ettitude because I fell in love with the product and the mission of the brand to make healthier and sustainable bedding more accessible. I’ve spent over a decade building brands that make it easier to have a healthier lifestyle. First, we saw a huge wave with consumers becoming a lot more conscious of the ingredients in their food, then beauty products, and we are now starting to see the same thing in textiles.
Skin is our largest organ, and we spend ⅓ of our lives in bed in contact with our sheets. Unfortunately because cotton is such an over-farmed crop it requires a lot of insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers. While organic cotton is a good healthy alternative, it is not very sustainable – because of lower yields it requires more land and double the water to produce vs. conventional cotton – and the price points can be out of reach for many consumers.
TG: Why does Ettitude differ from 500 count cotton bed sheets?
PY: Ettitude’s flagship fabric is made out of proprietary bamboo lyocell thread. We then weave it into sateen or twill weaves. The thread itself is ultra soft in comparison to cotton. Although our thread count is actually 300, it feels like higher end 800 thread count cotton. Not all consumers are aware of the technical definitions, but because different brands refer to different parts as “thread”, thread count is no longer an accurate measurement of softness or quality. The fiber itself is more important than the count.
TG: Apart from being soft, why do Ettitude sheets help you get a better night’s sleep?
Because of its thermoregulating qualities, Ettitude sheets keep your body at the optimal temperature for sleep. Science has proven that people sleep better in colder temperatures, our bodies naturally cool down in the evening to signify rest, and colder temperatures stimulate melatonin production.
TG: Why is bamboo bedding great for hot sleepers?
KV: Unlike cotton which absorbs moisture, bamboo is moisture wicking, so sleepers who tend to sweat at night will notice they stay dry with Ettitude.
TG: Why is bamboo fabric production more sustainable than cotton and other alternatives?
PY: Bamboo lyocell is one of the most sustainable textile materials of the 21st century, consuming 1/10 of the water vs. conventional cotton sheets. One set of our bamboo lyocell sheets saves 3,031 gallons of water vs. traditional cotton bed sheet set. Using no harmful chemicals in the production, Ettitude’s technology recycles and reuses water up to 200 times, recycling 98% of water in the process and minimizing waste.
TG: What sets Ettitude apart from other products out on the market?
KV: There are other bamboo bedding and apparel out there, but they use old technology – rayon or viscose. Because these processes require the use of harsh chemicals, U.S. regulation states that manufacturers need to disclose that it’s rayon or viscose, they cannot simply label these fabrics as “bamboo”. Lyocell is the latest generation technology for extracting raw bamboo fiber and turning it into yarn without using any harmful chemicals. Ettitude is the only bedding company with the patented bamboo lyocell fabric. Learn more about the differences here.
TG: What are your “productivity hacks”, favourite apps or new tech?
PY: I use Asana, Slack and Google Calendar to manage my day-to-day work. I pick one day during the weekend to have a big block of undistracted focus time to do strategic thinking and set up long term plans for the company. It is very easy to get lost in the busy daily working routine and lose track of the bigger picture. I have found that having this dedicated time to think is extremely helpful.
TG: Could you list your best sleep tips to get a better night sleep?
PY: My personal favourite tip to maximise a good night’s rest is to sleep “au naturale”, especially if you are sleeping on ettitude bamboo lyocell sheets!
They are so silky soft, you really don’t need anything between your skin and the sheets. This will keep your body temperature optimal at night.
We also have some other great tips which we explained a bit more in detail in this blog post
TG: As a business owner, how do you ensure you get a good work/life balance?
PY: I do crossfit 3-4 times a week, and I try to have 7-8 hours solid night sleep if I can. High quality sleep is so important for physical and mental health. And of course, I only sleep on our own ettitude sheets. I do my best to spend quality down time with loved ones too – that’s particularly important for my mental health. The difference between the gold medal and silver medal athletes are the former ones know how to “take a break and rest”.
TG: What are the toughest aspects of being a woman in this industry – are there any?
KV: I believe being a woman is an asset! Women are the likely purchase decision makers for home goods. We understand our consumer and we speak to her values. For example, I recently became a mom, and am excited to announce that we will be launching a baby line featuring crib sheets, a mattress protector and a hooded towel. Developing products that we would want to purchase and use ourselves is incredibly satisfying.
PY: As women at the helm, we are proud of building a culture of diversity, entrepreneurship and making an impact in our company and the wider world. I grew up in Shanghai and am lucky to have received a good education. Not all girls around the world get the same opportunity, which is why at Ettitude we support initiatives that empower girls around the world.
TG: Could you please provide some tips to other women looking to start a business?
1. The biggest “failure” would be that you never tried. I had a dream, I pursued it, and I totally enjoyed the process. Other so-called ‘failures’ are temporary, and just lessons to be learned so you can be better next time. You need to have the ‘weight lifter mindset’. Keep lifting, keep failing, but at the same time you are getting better and better. Dropping the barbell once in a while is just part of it.
2. Ask for a ton of advice and then actively ignore most of it. Nobody knows your company better than you. Other people’s advice is really good in helping you find your blind spots or to avoid common mistakes, but you need to do your own thinking about what’s the best solution for your company at that particular moment.
TG: What other sustainable products on the market you are using right now?
PY: I love Reformation, Patagonia, and Toms shoes. Method for laundry and dishwash detergent. Youth to the People for face cream. I also buy organic food as much as I can.
KV: I use Puracy shampoo, body wash and hand soap. They are developed using food-grade plant-based ingredients, and I love that you can get large refill bags vs. getting small plastic bottles each time you run out.
TG: Will Ettitude have their products in hotels & spas?
PY: Yes, we have worked with boutique hotels and we will soon be in the new One & Only resort in Rwanda!
TG: How does the retail price compare to other luxury sheets on the market?
KV: Luxury brands, such as Frette, can charge upwards of $1,000 per cotton sheet set and over $US3,000 for silk or silk blends. Newer online brands usually start around $200 for mediocre quality. In comparison, Ettitude’s queen size sheet set is $178 and is often compared to silk, or as we like to call it “vegan silk”, since it is entirely plant-based and easy to care for, unlike traditional silk.
TG: What’s next for the brand/products?
KV: we are excited to expand our range within bedding and lifestyle. We have recently released a new weave, twill, in our signature bamboo lyocell thread. Twill is sturdier than our sateen weave, and appeals to sleepers who find silky sateen weaves too “slippery” but want that same softness and breathability. Our twill queen sheet set is $158. We plan to release more colors and prints, as well as new styles of sleepwear.
TG: What motivates you?
PY: Our customers reviews thanking us for make their sleep and life better are the best reward for me and the whole team. Every week, in our weekly all hands meeting, the favourite part for everyone is that we will pick a “review of the week” to read and we often are surprised how poetic our customer can be describing the life change experiences our products brought to them. And that always put big smiles on us!
TG: How do you define success or “thriving”
KV: Knowing that each day was spent making a positive impact, no matter how small or big: whether through our work, by sharing some smiles with family, or helping a friend.