Self-described as “impatient and controlling” when it comes to results and company growth, Dell’Accio chose early on to sell his products directly through Essentia outlets in 11 North American cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Montreal. “To avoid the middleman, we became a vertical company—thanks to some timely financing from BDC.”
Despite an upmarket price range of $1,700 to $5,000, Dell’Accio argues that his mattresses are competitive with traditional brands because customers can feel a real difference and accept that “natural costs slightly more.” He adds that the growth in Essentia’s sales is in keeping with increased consumer demand for organic food and green household goods.
His previous business was furnishing condominiums, but when two family members were diagnosed with cancer, he became concerned about environmental toxins and an advocate for healthy living and natural products. “I wanted to offer consumers memory foam derived directly from rubber trees as an alternative to synthetic memory foam.”
“Our first mattresses were designed for fragile people with serious medical issues who needed good spinal support, blood circulation and comfort,” he says. “That’s now a small niche and most customers are buying our mattresses because they are into healthy lifestyles.”
In fact, Dell’Accio considers working with Essentia to be a lifestyle in itself, which in turn fuels the company’s success.
“Staff in our stores are committed to the brand and the company’s culture,” he says. “They’re well informed about our mattresses and can also advise our customers about other natural products.”
Similarly, Dell’Accio’s employees are encouraged to blog, tweet and use other social media to spread the word about healthy living.
“You have to live it, breathe it and believe it, to properly represent Essentia.”
Winner of the 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst & Young, Dell’Accio has enjoyed widespread attention from newspapers, lifestyle magazines and TV talk show hosts including Anderson Cooper and Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“Our best publicity is word-of-mouth,” Dell’Accio says. “We’re also fortunate to have customers who work in the media. Dr. Oz first became aware of our products when he started using one of our pillows for his pre-show naps.”
Relaxation for Dell’Accio is coaching his son’s hockey team and travelling with his family. Otherwise, the Essentia CEO is focused on company growth, new product research and development, and finances.
“You need to know your numbers,” he says. “Quarterly reviews are not enough. We look at the figures monthly and I check sales every two days. At night, I read every single email from staff, to keep in touch with what everyone is doing and thinking.”
At the same time, Dell’Accio cautions against allowing a company to become too reliant on its founder as it grows.
“My previous business was all about me,” he says. “I did all the sales, communications, the handshakes, the deal closing, the financial side.”
“That’s a recipe for an enterprise that lives and dies by its entrepreneur. I realized the company has to be bigger than me. So, as we grow, I’m involving others.”