Sealy had a long history starting in 1881 in (unsurprisingly) Sealy, Texas. Daniel Haynes worked in the cotton fields already when he started putting cotton into mattresses, and then eventually figuring out how to compress the cotton for better comfort. When he patented the process, he was already inundated with demand for his product.
Between evocative advertising slogans which included cloud comparisons and their clever design, they had all the makings of a successful company. People were finding the compressed mattresses to provide better back support and with manual labor being a large part of most people’s jobs, this provided a very welcome change. They worked on expanding their licensing to other mattress manufacturers so they could expand their processes when they didn’t have enough buying power to purchase their own facilities. They leaned heavily on the few surviving licensees during the Great Depression, and they stayed in business.
Haynes did a great job at exploiting his idea to start the company and stay in business for 131 years. They certainly had their ups and downs as would be expected over that much time, but it’s an incredibly impressive story when you think of the fate of most businesses subjected to that much change and turmoil. They looked for ways to expand their business everywhere, including South Africa and New Zealand. In 2012, Tempur-Pedic wanted to put their number one competitor under their umbrella in 2012, so they made Sealy an offer which they accepted. Sealy continues to use their products in relationship with Tempur-Pedic’s process.
Great ideas definitely don’t come around all that often, and they’re even harder to implement successfully. The business tried a lot of things that worked and some that didn’t. This particular business had the support of the initial successes to fuel through some of the mistakes. Some people don’t get that luxury because their first idea takes off too weakly. It’s extremely important to remember that mistakes are necessary in business, otherwise you’re not creating anything new, but too many mistakes and you won’t make it at all.