Coop Co-founder Kevin Chon's Interview with Tuck

Coop Co-founder Kevin Chon's Interview with Tuck

Sleep health website Tuck recently interviewed our co-founder Kevin Chon about his experience starting Coop, working alongside his sister, and more. We’ve highlighted a portion of his interview below.

It looks like you have spent a long time in textiles before designing and manufacturing your first pillow for Coop. Can you take us through the formation of the idea to get into the sleep space?

I spent about 10 years in apparel and textiles, and it really gave me the foundation for product development and manufacturing. We supplied many of the major international fashion retailers and department stores. One of the main frustrations was that these large retailers kept pushing the manufacturers for lower prices and were willing to cut corners in order to maximize their profit at the cost of quality for customers and profit margins for manufacturers. In the end, customers ended up with subpar products in the stores for higher prices than they should have paid. My desire was always about making better products for the customers, which retailers ultimately didn’t care to do. I see this practice extend into so many industries, including the sleep industry!

Often, when we couldn’t lower the price any more to meet the retailers’ price points, they ended up taking OUR own design and giving it to a foreign factory to produce. You can’t really bite the hand that feeds you, so a lot of suppliers take this kind of abuse without any recourse.

On one phone call, a buyer kept asking for ridiculous prices, and I told the buyer, by asking me for those prices, you’re asking me to use sweat shop labor! They were not very happy with my response, and that was a pivotal point where I was done working with these retailers. I started looking into the direct-to-consumer model/e-commerce.

I was really tired of the culture of fashion, so we were looking into a different industry to pivot into.

Sleep products had always interested me. I got my first memory foam pillow in high school, and I fell in love with this new “NASA” sleep technology. In fact, I made my own mattress when I was in college. Memory foam was the hot ticket, and I was a poor college student so I sourced different components to build my own memory foam mattress.

Coop Sleep Goods was founded by yourself and your sister, Jin. What are the pros and cons of working closely with a family member?

I’m very fortunate that Jin and I get along for the most part. We are very different, which can lead to disagreements, but it also helps us look at situations from different perspectives. She used to be a lawyer, which also helps us look at things from a legal perspective. I’d say generally I am more of the gas pedal and she is more of the brake pedal, so we balance each other out. I focus more on the marketing side, and Jin focuses more on the operations side; however, we are open to give and receive input across all aspects of our business.

I don’t think I could do this without her and am thankful to have someone at the end of the day that I can completely rely on and trust. We also agree that disagreement and arguing isn’t necessarily bad, and that as long as we do it in a healthy way, it will actually help us make the best decision for our products, company, and team.

You have come a long way from the Coop Original Pillow, as there are now seven different pillows offered on the site. What advice would you give to the consumer to ensure they find the best model to meet their needs?

I think the first place to start is identifying your sleep position and if you like a softer, down-like pillow (Eden Pillow) or something with more support (Original Pillow). Also take into consideration whether you’re a hot sleeper or not, as our Eden Pillow is designed for greater breathability, which can benefit hot sleepers.

Once you identify what type of sleeper you are, we have specific support pillows for side sleeping (Knee Pillow, Body Pillow) and back sleeping (Four Position Support Pillow). You can always call us to talk to our customer service who can recommend a setup as well.