For as long as there have been bedrooms, there have been products built on the promise of enhancing consumers “performance” in them. Now two former women’s basketball coaches are putting a different spin on the concept.
“The better you sleep, the better you are the next day and I think everyone can relate to that,” says Susan Walvius.
To that end, Walvius and her Co-founder Michelle Marciniak have created “Sheex”,billed as “the worlds first performance bedding.” The idea is that the same high tech fabric that revolutionized the sports apparel industry by keeping athletes cool and dry during workouts will now do the same thing in the bedroom.
“Sleep is so critical to health and rejuvenation” says Walvuis. “You’re seeing a lot of innovation in the rejuvenation space as it applies to athletes. Sleep is as critical an area as you can have.”
The idea for Sheex was born on the basketball court at the University of South Carolina. Walvius and Marciniak were wrapping up a practice when the talk turned to the comfort and feel of their new performance athletic shorts.
"I'd like to make sheets out of this fabric," Walvius joked.
"Let's do it!" Marciniak replied.
They took their idea to the students at South Carolina’s Moore School of Business who helped them put together a business plan. A short time later Sheex was born.
The pair would eventually quit their coaching jobs to pursue their dream in the business world. It was a big leap for two women who had been in the sports arena for the entire lives.
Walvius spent 21 years coaching various womens teams, including being named the 2002 SEC Coach of the year while at South Carolina. Marciniak played on the 1996 Tennessee National Championship team and was named the Final Four MVP. She went on to play in the WNBA before entering coaching.
The duo has applied what they learned about building a team to creating a business, including using their recruiting skills to put together savvy group to provide business counsel. Sheex advisory board members include the COO of Jones Apparel , Cindy Dipietrantonio, Korn/Ferry President Bob Damon and Raphael Peck, who spent eight years with Under Armour working on product creation.
The company has also signed athletes like the NFL‘s Steve Smith to serve as endorsers or as Walvius calls them “sleep ambassadors.“ But while athletes might have been top of mind in creating the company, the concept quickly evolved beyond the athletic space.
“We’re about the science of sleep. Through years of research we’ve learned how cotton can trap heat and disrupt sleep. Sheex keeps you closer to the ideal temperature conducive to a deep sleep. That benefits everybody, not just athletes.“
Two years after first coming to market, the company is picking up momentum, rolling out nationwide in Bed Bath and Beyond this month. Priced at $200 for a queen set, the sheets aren’t cheap but in line with the cost of other luxury sheet sets says Walvius.
“It’s just a really different product. It has a very luxurious feel but there’s a performance aspect that you won’t get with similarly priced sheets. Because of the feel and look of the product, there’s a luxury and fashion aspect to it, but beyond that we’re really providing a better sleep benefit.”
As for the raised eyebrows when people hear the term “performance bedding”, Walvius is getting used to it.
“Yeah we get that. There may be times you need a moisture wicking product, so it makes sense for that purpose” she laughs. “But it really developed because of how luxurious the fabric felt and quickly evolved into the science of optimal sleep.”
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