What's Happening With: the Zenbivy sleeping system
Sales of backpacking, camping bed doubling this year to top $5MAugust 17th, 2023
Zenbivy LLC, which produces a line of camping and backpacking beds, is growing faster than anticipated, says Spokane entrepreneur Michael Glavin, the company founder.
Glavin says Zenbivy will more than double its sales this year, with revenue expected to reach $5 million.
“We were planning to grow at 60%, and we are growing 200%,” he says. “It’s starting taper off as we start to run out of stuff.”
Zenbivy also ran out of stock last year. When new inventory was on the way for 2023, Zenbivy launched preorders to satisfy requests.
“It was a blowup. We did $600,000 in sales in one day. Our previous record was $60,000,” he says. “We presold all the inventory I thought was going to run many months.”
Zenbivy has obtained enough additional inventory from its manufacturers in Vietnam to fill four shipping containers.
Glavin had expected growth rate to slow down as the market gets saturated.
“But the opposite has been the case,” he says. “The idea has begun to take off.”
He attributes much of the sales trajectory to online influencers who have raised awareness of Zenbivy through their YouTube channels. One such video posted in May 2022 had 2.9 million views, as of earlier this week, and another posted last November had 740,000 views.
“The Zenbivy bed is interesting because it’s weird,” Glavin says. “We just send Zenbivy to experts. They need new gear to show people, and people go to experts to see what they have to say about this thing. Now there’s a lot of content out there.”
Glavin, who has more than 10 years of prior experience marketing outdoor products for companies such as Spokane Valley-based GSI Outdoors LLC and Seattle-based Sierra Designs Inc., founded Zenbivy in 2016. Much of the company’s initial financial backing was raised through crowdfunding.
When the Journal last reported on Zenbivy five years ago, Glavin was the only employee, and the company worked with 10 independent contractors spread throughout North America and Asia.
“Back at that time, I wasn’t even working (for Zenbivy) full time,” Glavin says. “Since COVID, it’s been my main gig.”
Operations were only shut down for about a week as the pandemic emerged in the U.S., but because the company was already set up for remote operations and online sales, there was never a hiccup in revenue, he claims.
Since then, key contractors have been converted to staff, and the company has five full-time employees and a handful of part-time workers.
Some roles, including bookkeeping and some product development, are still handled by independent contractors.
Glavin works from his South Hill home, and the company has never had a conventional central office.
“Team members have home offices,” he says. Employees are based in Western Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.
Shipping, receiving, and inventory is handled by a third-party logistics company in Boise, Idaho.
Zenbivy only sells its products directly to consumers through its website.
“We think we can tell a better story online than in retail stores,” Glavin says.
While COVID rocked the industry, Zenbivy only continued to grow, he says.
During the pandemic, other companies that sell wholesale outdoors products to retailers halted production initially, then tried to restart production to catch up, but had to cancel orders when retail sales didn’t return.
“Since we weren’t in traditional wholesale, we plowed right through it,” Glavin says. “Now we’re significant and legitimate player in this category.”
Throughout the pandemic, down—the lightweight, fluffy feathers used to fill the quilts and hoods—plummeted in price.
“I just bought and bought down during that period,” he says.
Zenbivy’s main product line is fundamentally different from conventional mummy sleeping bags, Glavin says.
“It’s not a bag,” he explains. “It’s a backpacking quilt that attaches to a sheet that is fitted on a mattress.”
The system allows the user to move freely while sleeping, without the draftiness of a conventional backpacking quilt.
Together, the system has the thermal match of a mummy bag and comfort features of sleeping with a blanket.
Because the system takes advantage of the insulation value of the mattress, the quilt doesn’t lie underneath the user, which means the quilt can have less weight than a comparable sleeping bag that surrounds the user.
“It doesn’t put waste insulation underneath you,” Glavin says. “And our hood is big enough for your head, a pillow, and your elbows. It changes the sleeping experience.”
Prices start at just over $200 for a full synthetic-insulated Core Bed model and runs up to over $450 for a high-end down-insulated Light Bed.
The most popular price point is the Core Bed with down. At less than $300, it weighs 2 pounds, 6 ounces, not including the air mattress. Zenbivy’s sheets that come with a built-in hood fit most camping and backpacking mattresses.
Glavin says he came up with the idea for Zenbivy beds, because he sleeps on his stomach, which isn’t compatible with a conventional mummy bag design.
“Most people don’t sleep on their back with their arms by their sides all night,” he adds.