Jessica Hulett
Content Manager, Brand @ Yotpo
December 12th, 2022

Leesa Sleep’s CMO gets real about ambition, work-life balance, and how doing good is good for business

“I don’t sleep all that much,” admits Jen Pressley, Head of Leesa Sleep at 3Z Brands. And with good reason — when she isn’t driving growth at the first D2C mattress brand, she’s doing the same for Principle Beauty, the sustainable cosmetics brand she founded. And did I mention she’s also a mom and an Amazing Women in eCommerce 2023 Honoree?

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jen to talk about making an impact through business, entrepreneurship, and how to balance your passions, your work, and your family all at the same time. Here are the highlights from our conversation.

So tell me a little bit about your background.

I’ve been in the D2C mattress industry for quite some time. Before Leesa, I was one of the founding members at Saatva. I named the company and set up the first site. And then we were off to the races. I did that in a consulting capacity, and then joined full-time a few years later as their EVP over design and content, and subsequently launched multiple products for them. And we did it as a house of brands, which a lot of people in our industry do where you’re basically creating unique domains for each product you launch, so it’s not under one brand. It’s a tactic.

Prior to that, I was on the agency side, and I worked for several firms in New York City. So you know, a variety of clients, and primarily focused on nonprofits and mission-driven organizations that needed fundraising campaigns. So I got very familiar and very passionate about organizations, particularly in New York, that were doing extraordinary things for people and underserved communities.

What was the transition like from the nonprofit world to the corporate one?

Well, I saw how much the right message made a difference to being able to effectively run a fundraising campaign. I learned very quickly that donors want to see what their dollars do. It’s wonderful to have soft, happy pictures of people benefiting from what the organization does. But at the end of the day, donors wanted to know that this amount of money built this many schools and allowed this many kids to do XYZ.

So I learned very quickly the power of the right message to compel people to do something and it’s especially nice to be able to compel somebody to do something that’s greater for the world, you know, beyond their own needs. That’s where my passion comes from, and why I ultimately ended up at Leesa. The brand was founded with a mission to give back, and has donated over forty thousand mattresses to date working with partner shelters.

Good is something that’s always driven me in my life, because I kind of think we’re here to make a bigger impact and help others. I’m just a firm believer that if you can do something great in business that helps people, but then also use that business to help people in a wider sense, it’s terrific.

You started on the design side, right? That’s an interesting shift.

I’m a strange animal, because there aren’t a lot of people who started off in creative who ended up in the more tactical marketing side of things. It is an interesting shift. But I’m someone who’s curious about the way things work, and what motivates people. And I think any good creative director is going to want to know motivations over just doing something that’s beautiful or has a set of standards. You want to know what motivates people to take an action. And the deeper I went into that, the more I wanted to know about every marketing channel and what worked, and what didn’t work, and so then my journey started, and I crossed over into marketing.

Let’s switch gears a bit. Tell me about the cosmetics brand you founded, Principle Beauty.

I always wanted to start my own company, and I really wanted it to be around sustainability and solving problems for folks that the wider industry hadn’t solved – the over abundance of plastic packaging in the cosmetics industry. Most of it can’t be recycled. So I thought, let’s go test market something that’s truly different, that’s made from sustainable materials that don’t have to go through the plastics recycling process, are completely plastic-free, and can either be backyard composted or recycled with paper, which has a much, much higher recycle rate than plastics. Plastics are at about nine percent at best. Paper’s about fifty percent.

So I set about creating from scratch a supply chain that did not exist. It was not only about the formulation, making sure it was clean, cruelty-free, and highly effective — it was also about putting it in a package where there was minimal impact on the planet because nobody was doing that.

How has the response been so far?

We got it off the ground in early 2021, and we had a terrific response. There were a lot of lessons learned, too. We learned it’s very hard to acquire customers at a cost that would keep us afloat. So we ended up shifting to a wholesale model, and I always wanted to go that route because I noticed during the pandemic that a lot of zero waste and low-waste and sustainable goods stores popped up everywhere. And so those folks became my customers, and I now have customers all over the US, and a very big customer in Japan.

So how do you manage running your own business, and also having a full-time demanding job?

It’s really hard. As women, we’re always going to try to prove ourselves in so many ways in so many areas of our lives. It’s something that I think about almost daily — how do I get to a place where I’m functioning in a smart way in a way that doesn’t burn me out? Because it can be overwhelming.

So sustainability and doing good are obviously very important to you. What are some of your favorite mission-driven eCommerce brands?

Oh, gosh! That is such a good question. Well, there’s several in the cosmetics industry that I think are terrific, and are probably going to do amazing things. Axiology is one of them. Um, Athr Beauty is another — fantastic site, fantastic storytelling ability. Lush UK does a great job. In the mattress world, Avocado is a terrific brand, really the only one in our industry that’s doing sustainability from end to end with their materials. It’s a very hard industry to do that in, because there’s just naturally a lot of waste in the manufacturing process.

When you aren’t working (are you ever not working?), what do you do for fun?

I love traveling. I love eating. Those are my things. I do epic trips with my daughter. We usually try to get two or three in if we can travel someplace new around the world. And if I can’t travel, I love to just experience other cultures and places through food. And I live in New York City, so that’s a great place to do it. I love going to museums, love going on walks in Central Park with friends, and I love history. There’s a great amount of hidden history in New York City. So I’m always on the lookout for new things to do there.

Do you know any amazing women in eCommerce? Nominate them now for the 2023 class of AWIE Honorees!