Entrepreneur James Higgins leaves high-paying banking job to launch ethical bedding brand focused on sustainability and a ‘good night’s sleep’ 

James Higgins, founder of Ethical Bedding, puts sustainability and luxury at the heart of his business

James Higgins, founder of Ethical Bedding

“My health and sleep began to suffer badly after years of stress and not taking care of my own well-being, in the ways that my body and mind deserved,” James tells me. “‘I think on reflection, after so long in banking and seeing a lot of unscrupulous behaviour, I just wanted to do something good for the planet and helped people feel good.” 

James studied economics at university and shortly after graduating, decided to follow in the footsteps of his peers and pursue a banking career in London. However, the intense work hours and sleepless nights didn’t sit well with him – not to mention the work politics put him entirely off from the industry. “I couldn’t handle the desk time, the slow decision making and the politics. I was still very young at this point and to be honest, I used to rub people up the wrong way almost intentionally sometimes,” James explained. “I have never shied away from calling things out, but there always seemed to be lots of old men in suits who wanted their egos massaged.” 

After a few years in fintech, James realised the corporate world wasn’t for him. The London rat race didn’t feel fulfilling, and James realised he had a bigger purpose than chasing bigger paychecks. “At the time, this was after the 2008 financial crisis and so there was a lot of negative sentiment towards greed in the industry which never really sat well with me,” James said. “I knew that I would not do this forever as I was never really satisfied or happy. However, I kept getting paid more and more money so I sort of become stuck there for longer than I had planned.” 

Working in banking over the years took a toll on James’ physical and mental well-being. He wanted to take his experiences and create a product that could reverse the impact the corporate rat race had on him. James made it a mission to create a product that would make people feel better, spread kindness and reduce the environmental impact on the world. That was when his idea for sustainable luxury bedding brand, Ethical Bedding, was born. 

“After I had reached my threshold in banking, I was constantly thinking about a business that would ultimately help people feel better, and spread kindness in the world, while also providing the lowest environmental impact,” James tells me. “After exploring several ideas, I had a eureka moment after learning about the wonderful sleep properties of eucalyptus. I was so excited; I couldn’t stop thinking about it – I was obsessed.”  

Ethical Bedding prides itself in its sustainable and organic products with environmental sustainability at the heart of the brand. All bedding is infused with eucalyptus, known for its breathability and moisture-wicking properties, making it feel cool against the skin making it ideal for a good night’s sleep. James started the business completely bootstrapped with his own savings. This was his fifth business launch, and despite his experience having run several businesses, James faced several hurdles. 

The first issue was finding a solid supplier for the product and mapping out the financial planning and strategy for the business. To overcome the obstacles his business faced, James looked inwards and focused on his mindset. He practises meditation regularly and focuses on his physical and mental well-being as a priority. “My mindset is quite different to a lot of people’s,” James said. “I have always managed stress excellently and have a very stoic and logic-driven approach to life. I’m relentless in the pursuit of my goals – which helps. I practice meditation daily and exercise ferociously and I have embedded discipline in every area of my life – this is the platform from which I have ultimate confidence in solving any problem that arises. I aim to ensure that I am always in peak physical, mental, and emotional condition to attack things head-on.” 

With a purpose-driven mission and solid strategy, James’ business started gaining attention from investors and venture capitalists. He even had a run on Dragons’ Den and received a lucrative offer from Touker Suleyman. However, he refused to sacrifice the principles and mission of his company for money. James was certain about building a purpose-driven business with a focus on sustainability – and he only wanted to partner with someone who believed in his long-term vision. So, he rejected the offer. “It’s far more important to me that I only get into business with someone who understands the scope and worth of my brand,” James explained. “It’s not a cash-grab opportunity. I only want to partner with someone that truly believes in the long-term vision of Ethical Bedding. My message has always been one of purpose over profit, and just because these dragons may have a bigger and louder voice than mine, does not mean I should sacrifice my beliefs and throw myself at their feet.  I live by the motto ‘If it isn’t an emphatic yes, then it’s a firm no’. By making a ludicrous stake offer – you have not understood the worth of the business and its importance, so that’s a firm no in my mind.” 

Ethical Bedding James Higgins

To grow his business, James looked at other funding options including crowdfunding. Since the launch, Ethical Bedding has skyrocketed to major success. They’ve broken records with revenue of around £120,000 for the first quarter of 2023 – and James revealed he has more exciting announcements in the next few months. “We have the team in place to scale fast after the raise is complete, whilst keeping a clear focus on brand building – with some very exciting things in the pipeline!” James said. “For a long time, I have known what would happen and how big we can grow this business… And now all that hard work is finally coming to fruition.” 

James’ work ethic, determination and purpose-driven mission are clear proof that if you have the right mindset and a strong unshaken belief in your business, anything is possible. In a few words of advice to SMEs who are building their brand, James gave his two cents: “Spend time to understand exactly why your business is struggling, then make the decisions required to rectify it. Put simply, the solutions could include things such as: reducing your overheads, focusing on core products, CLV or service offerings only (double down effort) and retention, as opposed to customer acquisition and price elasticity testing to increase margins. Explore new revenue channels in cost-effective ways… But above all else be grateful for how beautiful the world is and approach every day, or any problems, with the right mindset.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj
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