Denny Boyd emerged on the specialty sleep scene 40 years ago with a single waterbed store in Columbia, MO and a desire to improve the specialty sleep industry as a whole. For 40 years Denny Boyd has been focused on developing quality sleep products that meet the company’s singular mission – Quality Sleep for a Better Life.
Boyd’s journey as a specialty bedding pioneer is rooted in a personal and profound belief that everyone deserves a great night’s sleep. His own history with sleep issues is what initially drove him into the waterbed business, but as the years went by Boyd has expanded his product line to include all major types of specialty bedding.
"Fortunately, everybody has to sleep because it's been my whole career."
Denny Boyd knows all about the importance of a good night’s sleep. A world class competitive swimmer, Boyd suffered from tendonitis in his shoulder that began in childhood. The only thing that gave him relief was…you guessed it….a heated hardside waterbed mattress. The warmth of the heated bed and the pressure free support for his shoulders and back made such a difference that he was able to stop taking cortisone shots. But it wasn’t until he was a junior in college that he was able to really take his intense belief in the therapeutic value of waterbeds and turn it into an actual business model.
Entering the University of Missouri’s Business School, Boyd knew that his days of competitive swimming would soon give way to the world of business. Even though he was ranked 17th in the world, swimming, like business, is very competitive. At the time, most of the top 20 in the world of swimming were in the US, and the US Olympic team only recruited the top 2…Boyd was 14th. Boyd however was in very good company in those days. He was on the same swim team as Mark Spitz. “I say I swam with Mark Spitz, but he actually swam slightly ahead of me”, Boyd laughs. But Boyd’s athleticism did earn him a scholarship to Mizzou, where he continued showcasing his skills in the pool by setting several school records.
It was just a business class, but then one day it wasn’t. The assignment – Develop a plan for a viable business. Boyd knew he wanted to start his own company, and he know exactly what type of business he was ready to start. He wholeheartedly believed in the benefits of waterbeds, but at the time, “Only ‘head shops’ sold them. I wanted to open a waterbed store you could bring your parents to”, says Boyd. “They felt great, they slept great, so why not.” Why not indeed. It seems the concept of a waterbed store in the middle of Missouri was a bit too far-fetched for his professor and classmates. When they were asked to vote on Boyd’s plan, all 30 students gave it a thumbs down. “They were thoroughly convinced that Missouri was too conservative for a waterbed concept,” laments Boyd.
If at First You Don’t Succeed
Fast forward close to 2 years later and Boyd’s dream of opening a waterbed store became a reality. But it was not an easy road. Boyd visited 23 banks for a small business loan after he graduated, but he was rejected by them all. They were not inclined to loan money to a college senior whose only job experience was life-guarding. So Boyd got a ‘real’ job as a buyer for Ralston Purina, headquartered in St. Louis. It was here that he learned management, leadership and negotiating. He then returned to those same banks and one loan officer from a local Boone County Bank was not surprised to see Boyd back at his desk. He still had Boyd’s loan application sitting in his top drawer. You see, this banker’s wife was a pediatric nurse and she worked in a hospital where waterbed cribs were used for premature babies. She knew first hand of the medical and health benefits a waterbed could provide. “It took some guts on his part,” Boyd says of the banker.
No Risk, No Reward
Boyd was ultimately granted a $10,000 SBA loan and when combined with all of his savings he was able to open his first waterbed store, Royal Waterbeds, on November 17, 1977. Boyd sold beds during the day, then closed the store at 7:00 and delivered at night. He sold his car and bought a van so he could make these deliveries. After 6 months, Boyd hired his first real employees. “It’s exciting when a dream becomes a reality. Even though I was successful in a relatively short period of time, it was not easy. There was a lot of risk involved,” Boyd recalls.
Every Kick is a Boost
Boyd remembers his Dad telling him that every kick was a boost. “At the time I did not understand those words,” Boyd says. Unfortunately, it was not long before Boyd experienced his first real kick. As a waterbed retailer, Boyd heard a common complaint from his customers…”I cannot get my sheets to stay on my bed.” So the entrepreneur put his mind to the problem and came up with a solution…the first pocketed waterbed sheet design. He contracted workers to make his sheets at a small factory in Columbia, MO, and sold one or two sets with each waterbed. Soon he was selling to other waterbed stores and retailers around the country. However, it was not long before his sheet suppliers decided that they too wanted a piece of this new market. So they cut him off. “I was desperate to fill orders”, says Boyd. “Then, I looked at the label in my shirt and saw made in Hong Kong and thought to myself if they can make shirts, why not sheets”. So Boyd flew to Hong Kong and lined up a supplier to manufacture his waterbed sheets and things started to look up.
Waterbeds and Such
Soon after, Boyd‘s business experienced another boost. Boyd began designing the next generation of waterbeds with fiber fills. Boyd’s patented designs reduced motion by varying degrees, and it was not long before he began to manufacture and import his patented waterbed designs from Taiwan. It was a natural move, as 80% of waterbed vinyl comes from Taiwan. He started selling his waterbeds in not only his store, but to other wholesale accounts. Those strategic moves in the early 80’s made Boyd a pioneer on the import side of the wholesale business. Boyd has been importing ever since.
At the height of the waterbed boom in the late 70s and 80s, Boyd operated 33 waterbed stores around the country. And through the years, the industry has always looked to Boyd Waterbeds for innovation and leadership. Today Boyd is one of the last manufacturers and retailers of waterbeds.
Quality Sleep for a Better Life
In 1998 Boyd converted his waterbed stores, Royal Waterbeds, to The Bedroom Store. The Bedroom Store has 15 locations in the St. Louis, MO, metro area and sells a full line of mattresses and bedroom furniture. So Boyd, who in college dreamed of running a retail business, is still running a retail business today. Not to mention running a wholesale business as well. Boyd Sleep has remained a leading manufacturer and wholesaler of all types of specialty and hybrid beds and sells over 800,000 mattresses worldwide each year. Boyd continues to develop and innovate in response to market needs, just like he did in the waterbed days when he saw a demand for waterbed sheets but no supply. His list of patents has grown to over 30, and is solid proof of Boyd’s dedication to his company’s mission statement…Quality Sleep for a Better Life.