Charlottesville, Virginia –A disillusioned but determined survivor of 20 years in a yoga ashram has landed on the “Inc. 500” list of America’s fasting-growing private companies.
Michael Penny, founder of an organic mattress manufacturing company in central Virginia, is profiled in Inc. magazine’s September issue. Penny’s company, Savvy Rest Organic Mattresses, ranks 450th in the new “Inc. 500” list of America’s fasting-growing private companies.
Savvy Rest organic mattresses are made of all-natural latex rubber, organic wool and organic cotton in Crozet, Virginia, and sold in a growing network of independent stores across the country.
The Inc. article emphasizes Penny’s background as a former devotee who had to make his way in the business world after decades living in isolation from contemporary society, ruled by the strict demands of the ashram. When the guru was felled by a sexual abuse scandal in the mid-90’s, Penny moved his family to Virginia and started over, with little formal work experience and even less money. “We had lived for so long on nothing that we had nothing to lose,” he says.
One short-lived path for Penny was selling satellite dishes, an awkward fit for a man who had not watched television for 20 years. He worked at a senior center, delivered newspapers, and finally took a job at a futon store.
Learning about the mattress industry, Penny experienced more disillusionment. Flimsy manufacture and deceptive sales practices were rampant. At the same time, he became aware of increasing health concerns about indoor air quality and the toxic chemicals used in most conventional mattresses.
In 2003, Penny opened his own mattress store, The Savvy Sleeper, outside Charlottesville, with a small showroom and one employee. He encountered a latex manufacturer from India, and on the strength of a handshake and their shared affinity for yoga, persuaded him to issue a line of credit so that Penny could start his own line, Savvy Rest Organic Mattresses.
Today, Savvy Rest employs 15 people and has built a network of over 60 independent dealers around the country. These eco-themed businesses range from small sleep shops to large urban “green” home stores. Penny orients each new dealer personally, and advises many store owners on how to grow their businesses in a difficult economy.
“I wanted to create an environment that was safe, warm, and inviting to everyone,” Penny says, “including employees, suppliers, dealers, and customers.”
Perhaps because he knows what it’s like when such promises are broken, Penny’s vision has carried Savvy Rest to success.