Making it Work

Natural Sleep Company dreams of doubling turnover via exports

The Limerick-based mattress maker has high hopes that its organic mattress will create further opportunities for expansion

James Hayes, owner of the Natural Sleep Company: ‘We started making them by hand. Over the years we’ve built up the business to what it is now.’ Picture: Arthur Ellis

The Natural Sleep Company

Founded by: James Hayes in 1983

Staff: 30

Turnover: €4.5 million

The Natural Sleep Company, a Co Limerick-based mattress business, expects to double its turnover within the next three years due to export growth. The company was founded by James Hayes in 1983. The business is based in Ballylanders, Co Limerick, has 30 staff and an annual turnover of €4.5 million.

“We make a range of mattresses covering from budget to high-end mattresses. We also make electrical adjustable beds and have recently launched the first organic mattress in Ireland. It’s all made with natural materials with no artificial fire retardants or foams,” Hayes told the Business Post.

“It’s lambswool, organic cotton and 100 per cent natural latex made with sap from rubber trees.”

The idea to start the business grew from the simple realities of the economy in Ireland in the early 1980s.

“It was 1983 and there weren’t many jobs around. My father had a furniture shop. We found during the summer months that we couldn’t get supplies of mattresses. With no business plan or anything like that, we decided to start there,” Hayes said.

“We started making them by hand. Over the years we’ve built up the business to what it is now. We’ve probably the most automated mattress factory between Ireland and Britain. We invested over €1 million in automation and produce 700 to 800 mattresses each week.”

The growth story is an interesting one. There was an initial spurt, then a decades-long holding pattern before the new growth cycle aided by that investment.

“We had been stuck on turnover of €2.5 million to €3 million for the last 20 or 30 years. Over the last five years, with all the automation we’ve put in, we have increased the capacity of the factory – so we’re now exporting into the UK and that is growing rapidly now,” Hayes said.

“We expect to double the size of the business over the next two to three years, and that growth will come from exports.”

The business has been supported by Enterprise Ireland, including assistance with adoption of automation technology.

“We’ve done a lean programme with Enterprise Ireland which helped us with the automation and putting structure on the business. They made us more efficient as a company; we cut out all our waste,” Hayes said.

“We’ve been working with them to constantly improve the product and production line.”

The business will soon be starting Enterprise Ireland’s green lean programme, which is designed to make it more sustainable in the future. Hayes said the agency had also played a pivotal role in developing an export business.

“From a standstill start over the last two or three years, we’re up to €700,000 in exports now,” he said.

Hayes said the organic mattress will create further opportunities for The Natural Sleep Company to expand its export business.

“We’ve been targeting that market for a long time, but the biggest challenge was getting over the fire-retardant issue. We worked on it for over two years and the solution was a mixture of the natural fillings we use. We could use them to make it naturally fire retardant,” Hayes said.

“It’s a niche market but a growing market. We’re targeting the US as well, but that’s in the initial stages at the moment.”