Hong Kong schoolfriends become kings of online ‘mattress-in-a-box’ business
Having followed each other since school, the two now sell compressed mattresses in a box through an online site to avoid high shop rentals
Jason Da Rosa and Alex Ma Kin-heng are inseparable most of the time. They went to the same primary and high schools and got into banking together.
The duo, both 28, also quit their well-paid banking jobs around the same time to set up their own business, Skyler, which offers mattresses that are vacuum-packed into a box. They only take online orders.
Starting from scratch, Da Rosa and Ma spent a year visiting different mattress stores around Hong Kong, looking for manufacturers and talking to experts. Through these, they came up with the concept of compressing mattresses into a box.
“By utilising vacuum compression technology, we discovered that we could solve another Hong Kong-specific problem, which was getting a large-sized mattress into an apartment even if lifts are cramped and unaccommodating,” Ma said.
“All of our mattresses come packed in a compact box with wheels and handles that easily fit into any car or lift or up any staircase.”
The idea for creating Skyler came when the pair were shopping for mattresses in Hong Kong.
They said the mattresses that they found in the city cost around HK$15,000, which was two to three times the price for the same type of product in the United States.
“When I was moving back to Hong Kong from the United States, I was looking for furniture, a new apartment and a mattress. I came across these shockingly high-priced mattresses,” Da Rosa said.
“It turns out the reason why mattresses are so expensive is not because the quality is better here, but because rents are so high.
“Mattresses take up a lot of showroom space and retailers have to mark up the price so much in order to cover the rental cost and salaries of salespeople.
“So we figured if we could do this as an online business, we could take out all the excess costs,” he said.
Since launching their website in February, their business has been “growing pretty fast”, as they offer free delivery on the following day and cheaper mattresses costing between HK$5,000 and HK$8,800.
Their success does not come only from their exposure to entrepreneurs in their old jobs, but also trust in each other.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Da Rosa and Ma took university courses in the United States and Britain respectively. After graduation, Da Rosa spent his days on Wall Street as an investment banker, while Ma came back to Hong Kong and worked as a corporate banker.
Ma said: “It was a little daunting when I decided to quit ... But, more importantly, we have trust in each other. We’ve been quite a good match.”
Sitting next to him, Da Rosa said: “When I first made that change, it was a very nerve-wracking experience. You suddenly don’t have this corporate ladder that you are working up. Both of us followed a traditional path in the past.
“I think it’s a matter of how well you and your business partner know each other.
“Alex and I went on trips together, attended class together and did work projects together. Even when I was getting married, Alex was there the whole time helping me out,” Da Rosa said. “We became very involved in each other’s life.”
In the future, the two directors aim to maintain sales growth and expand the company.
Apart from Da Rosa and Ma, the company has one employee handling customer services and another who delivers the mattresses.
“We started with just the two of us. As you start bringing outside people in, you need to make sure they fit in and will continue to uphold the culture and standards that are part of your company’s visions,” Da Rosa added.