Everyone knows Tuft & Needle for their uber pillowy-soft mattresses. Not everyone knows, however, the philanthropic philosophy the company has worked so hard to create. We chatted with Tuft & Needle’s Social Mission Lead, Gloria Cutter-Shore, and asked about her background in urban planning and global studies, how she found Tuft & Needle, and how the company has built a mentality around giving back to the community.
Tell us about yourself and what drew you to Tuft & Needle?
Well, my story is a little different than most. It all started almost three years ago when I was a sophomore at Arizona State University. I knew that I had to find an internship for the summer, so I started my search by sending my resume to all listed employers (yes, literally all 200+) on the ASU career site. I figured it doesn’t matter who I work for, all I was going to be doing is getting coffee and running errands anyway. Boy, was I wrong. When I heard back from Tuft & Needle I decided to research the company and although the idea of a mattress company threw me off a little bit, I was amazed by the social mission. I’d never heard of any company allowing their customers to return a product by donating it to a local charity for a full refund. So, I decided to take their offer for the interview and I haven’t looked back since.
What is the Tuft and Needle mission? How does the mission help T&N stand out above the competition?
Tuft & Needle’s philosophy is that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep. It sounds simple, but when you think about how many aspects of our lives (for example: health, education, and daily performance) are tied to getting a good night’s sleep, then this idea of everyone deserving a good night’s sleep becomes essential to a thriving community. Like the heartbeat to a body, our social mission has always been embedded in our DNA, and is what keeps our team rooted to our community.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me involves meeting, arranging, and planning with local charities in the greater Phoenix community. I typically start each morning answering charitable request emails and preparing for a lunch meeting, phone call, or tour I have scheduled in the afternoon. The majority of my day is spent organizing and planning creative ways to engage my teammates in volunteer opportunities, upcoming mattress donations, and making them aware of community resources. No day is complete without catching up with at least one of my colleagues (lots of laughs and good stories) or sharing one of my wild ideas for employee engagement.
People love the fact they are able to give back to their community in an unconventional way.
T&N gives returned mattresses to local charities or non-profits. What started this tradition? Was it implemented from the beginning or did it start after the company began to gain traction?
We have donated our returned mattresses to local charities and non-profits since day one. At first, JT and Daehee tried returning a mattress to several local charities, but at the time, they would not accept them. They happened upon a local charity here in Phoenix that accepted the mattress without any hesitation, and that’s where it all started. As we continued to grow, donating returned mattresses became essential to our business model and our brand values. Since then, we’ve worked with several local charities to donate all of our returned mattress and it’s now become an industry standard.
How does the donation process work? Do employees take a day to deliver mattresses themselves or do you ask volunteers?
Our return donation process is quite simple. All we ask is that if our customers decide that they would like to return a mattress, they donate it to a local charity in their area. Once they donate the mattress, they email us a picture of the donation receipt, and we refund their full purchase.
This process doesn’t just work because it’s “easy,” but because people love the fact they are able to give back to their community in an unconventional way. In the same respect, our team donation days are unconventional too! For example, we worked with a local Phoenix charity called UMOM New Day Centers. They were in need of brand new mattresses, so I worked with their executive director to coordinate a day for our team to bring in 100 new Tuft & Needle mattresses. It took months of planning out that one day, but seeing the excitement from both our team and those receiving the mattresses on the day of donation was oh so worth it!
What kinds of charities do you donate to?
Generally, we only donate to organizations that hold a current 501(c)(3) status and that align with our brand values. A prime example of this are some of our current partners: Chrysalis, UMOM, and Homeless Prenatal Programs (San Francisco) who all are unique and innovative in our community.
Our approach to donating is unique because we’re not a stereotypical company that wants to funnel money down our pipeline only to write a check for x-amount of dollars for a golden plaque on the wall—that’s just not who we are. We believe every contribution we make to our community should have a meaningful and lasting impact on those we are helping. I mean honestly, money is a commodity—it comes and goes so it’s the easy way out to give back to the community. However, by making a conscious effort to bring our resources (time, product, people) to the community and bringing community resources (workshops, community advocates, local events) back to our team, we’re able to give back in a holistic way.
The level of selflessness I’ve experienced from community leaders transcends into my day-to-day work.
Why do you think giving back to the community is important in a business? How do you think it has helped T&N?
Giving back is important in business because you have to be aware of the people your business influences within your community. The very same people that are your consumers are your neighbors. I believe for us, giving back is second nature because it’s who we are at our core. People inherently look for those who they can trust and because we have been genuine in both our business and in our social mission, our community trusts that our motives are pure. The notion of corporate responsibility goes farther than just being an ideology, but has to be put into practice if businesses expect to thrive in our interconnected society.
What has been your greatest learning lesson since working at T&N?
The greatest thing I’ve learned since working at T&N is regardless of what I’m putting together for an organization or what engaging team opportunity I’m looking for, I’m always learning, growing, and evolving. Every day, I get the opportunity to learn about new organizations and meet individuals in my community that are doing really awesome things to make our community better!
The level of selflessness I’ve experienced from community leaders transcends into my day-to-day work and I can see how our giving back to the community has become infectious to our team. The fact that every team member has the opportunity to find new learnings around every corner allows us to constantly be on this wavelength of growth and evolution. We’re just always trying to achieve the next best thing we can orchestrate to have a positive impact. That’s what helps me to #wakeupbetter each morning!