Q&A: Between the sheets with an innovative couple

This week we chat to Hayley and Andy Worley, co-founders of The Sheet Society. Wanting to make purchasing linen uncomplicated and accessible, while also giving customer’s an extension of their personal style, Hayley and Andy started the Melbourne business with just a $20k investment. The team have opened a retail space in Abbotsford directly under their HQ, unveiled a digital bed builder program online that allows customers to design their bedding before purchase, and are set to integrate augmented reality software into their shopping experience.

ISB: What was the motivation behind you setting up The Sheet Society?

HW: I’ve worked in the fashion world for the past 10 years and really just fell out of love with clothes! I wanted a career change and still wanted to be involved with fabrics and colours so the idea of creating bed sheets ticked all the boxes for me. I had worked for a smaller business prior to launching The Sheet Society and I loved watching it grow from five employees to around 40. Being so close to their growth really inspired me to have the confidence to be able to jump-start our own business.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise up and running?

AW: The biggest challenge was managing cashflow, and the sleepless nights worrying about making payments. We got knocked back for bank overdrafts three times, and for most of 2017/18 we were juggling credit and balance transfer cards, stretching every day out of interest free periods and payment terms. We even sold our cars so we could pay for inventory ahead of Black Friday 2018.

ISB: I understand sustainability is important to you both – how do you ensure that all your products meet that requirement?

HW: As a brand, we have a really strong focus on only using natural materials for our core range, which means we’re also able to utilise a lot of natural processing treatments. Our Eden range is 100 per cent cotton, made from a long-staple yarn so to grow this crop means ourfarmers aren’t using harsh chemicals to preserve the natural characteristics of the cotton yarns.

AW: From an operational perspective, we’re doing all we can to minimise packaging throughout the whole process. Our stock comes into us bulk packed, with up to 30 pieces in the one carton so we’re able reduce as much packaging waste as possible.

ISB: Please tell us how you have incorporated augmented reality into the business, and what that has meant in terms of giving you a “USP”.

AW: We’re really excited about our new BedBuilder AR program. Personalisation is really important to us, being able to mix and match colours and fabrics on screen has been a game changer for our customers, as they plan and design their rooms. Now with the ability to view in AR, customers can see what their design looks like in their space. We’re definitely the first in our industry to play in this space and the tech has a fair way to go, but it’s fun to make our mark and engage our customers in experiential, innovative ways.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of The Sheet Society in the next couple of years?

HW: We are focusing on scaling, and that starts with the foundations of warehouse, operations and systems. It’s definitely not the glamorous side of the business but some (Andy), might say it’s the most important. We never want to give our customers a bad experience, so we’re actually trying to keep a lid on our paid marketing to make sure we’re able to keep up with the orders we have currently.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one piece of advice you’d share with partners or families looking to go into business together?

HW: It’s definitely a tough one, but something that we’re really conscious of. What I find is really important to our working relationship is the level of respect we have for each other. I certainly couldn’t do what Andy does, so even though we’re a partnership, we’re able to recognise seniority and expertise in each other’s responsibilities.