A Sleeping Giant

Despite a successful career working at two of the world’s largest investment banks, Scott Paladini (MBA ’13) had doubts about his future in finance. That’s what happens when your industry is ravaged by one of the greatest financial catastrophes in history.

“During the economic crisis I constantly questioned whether I’d have a job today, tomorrow, or even five years from now,” Paladini said.

To find career security, he took a major risk. Paladini’s entrepreneurial leap has paid off with Bear Mattress, a direct-to-consumer brand that helps active people sleep better, recover faster and improve athletic performance through its line of mattresses, pillows and accessories.

Paladini spent a combined eight years at Morgan Stanley—where he worked in the firm’s Fixed Income and Commodities division—and UBS as part of its Global Asset Management team.

But the worst of the U.S. financial crisis coinciding with Paladini turning 30, offered a time for professional reflection.

“Where I wanted to be was entrepreneurial,” Paladini said. “I wanted to control my own destiny.”

Before making the leap, Paladini enrolled in UF MBA’s Online Program in 2011. The online route provided him the flexibility to continue to work on his business.

“I found the program to be extremely valuable as I moved forward with my entrepreneurial career,” said Paladini, 36. “The coursework was a great mix of things you’ll come across in some shape or form when starting a business like supply chain management, business writing, and real estate. Also, being in a connected cohort for 27 straight months really helped me build out my network.”

In 2012, Paladini created Hibernate Bedding, a brick-and-mortar, luxury mattress retailer with two showrooms in New Jersey. It was a familiar industry for Paladini, whose parents had been in the mattress business for more than 30 years.

But with his newfound toolkit from UF MBA, Paladini made a key pivot with his business. He shifted focus to the online realm, and targeted athletic types—a sizable population. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, approximately 64.3 million Americans (1 in 5) have a health club membership.

“The more research we did, the more it became clear that this was a gap in the market,” Paladini said.

To further appeal to athletes, every Bear Mattress contains Celliant, a proprietary fiber packed with minerals that has been proven to help reduce muscle recovery time and improve athletic performance.

The benefits of Celliant and Bear Mattress’ memory foam, which provides a sleep experience that is seven times cooler than conventional memory foam, has been a hit with athletes and non-athletes yearning for a comfortable night’s sleep. Since officially launching in September 2015, Bear Mattress has surpassed $2 million in sales, said Paladini. The company’s Year 1 projection was $500,000.

“I think the market for buying beds online is larger than we anticipated,” Paladini said. “The product has really resonated well with people.”

While Paladini has had a successful first year—a time when most entrepreneurs are struggling—he remains guarded. Paladini remembers the eight months of exhaustive product testing and research he conducted before the company’s launch, as well as the unknown of whether Bear Mattress would make a dime.

“It can be easy to forget those first couple of months, that ‘founder’s depression,’” Paladini said. “You have doubts, you’re constantly worrying. It can be overwhelming.

“There are a lot of difficulties running your own business, but, in terms of my career fulfillment, it’s infinitely higher than it ever was. If you want to do something, do it, and be willing to work hard at it.”