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Changing Lives Through Sleep with Mark Zhang, CEO of Manta Sleep

Mark ZhangMark Zhang is the Founder and CEO of Manta Sleep, a multimillion-dollar direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand in the sleep niche. Manta Sleep is on a mission to give light sleepers control and mastery over their sleep, so they can maximize the enjoyment of life and unlock their full potential. Before this, Mark was the Co-founder of Vansburg, an e-commerce company based in the US and Taiwan. He has experience with affiliate marketing, Amazon entrepreneurship, and more.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Mark Zhang talks about his entrepreneurial journey and why he founded Manta Sleep
  • The pro-nap mission behind Manta Sleep
  • How sleep drives better decision-making and boosts productivity
  • Some of Mark’s favorite brands in the sleep industry
  • How Mark’s Kickstarter campaign leveraged direct-to-consumer Facebook ads
  • Manta Sleep’s transition from a Kickstarter product to a fully-fledged Shopify-built brand
  • How to effectively hire for culture fit
  • The biggest lessons Mark learned while growing Manta Sleep
  • Mark’s dream biography title and why
  • Mark shares his favorite books and his tips for reading faster while still maintaining retention

In this episode…

How many hours a night should an entrepreneur sleep? Is it better to snooze for four hours, like Elon Musk, or a full eight, like Jeff Bezos? While the CEO of Manta Sleep, Mark Zhang, doesn’t have an exact answer, he does believe in prioritizing rest for himself, his team, and his customers.

As Mark says, sleep makes a huge difference in a person’s energy levels, productivity, and decision-making ability. While many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of “hustle culture,” a lack of sleep is most likely hurting their performance and results. That’s why Mark is on a mission to provide his customers with greater success, happiness, and health—through sleep.

Listen to this episode of the eCommerce Profits Podcast with Joshua Chin as he interviews Mark Zhang, the CEO of Manta Sleep, about how ample rest can change your life. Mark talks about the pro-nap mission behind his company, the lessons he’s learned from his entrepreneurial journey so far, and his favorite brands in the sleep industry. Stay tuned for all this and more!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Special Mentions

Books Mentioned:

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Chronos Agency.

If you are a direct-to-consumer ecommerce brand that wants to unlock the optimum customer lifetime value through email marketing, then look no further than Chronos Agency!

Our team of passionate email marketing experts have helped hundreds of brands generate over $70 million in return from email alone, and our clients receive an average of 3500% ROI from our efforts.

Chronos Agency has worked with a variety of brands, including Truly Beauty, Alya Skin, and many more. Our mission is to help real businesses achieve real results. 

If you want to take your revenue to the next level using email marketing, be sure to email our team at sales@chronos.agency or visit chronos.agency to learn more.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the eCommerce Profits Podcast, where we feature top founders and experts in the eCommerce industry and take an in depth look at their struggles and successes in growing eCommerce brands profitably.

Joshua Chin 0:21

Hey guys, Josh Chin here, and I’m the host of the eCommerce Profits Podcast where we feature top experts in the e commerce industry. And we go behind the scenes of the struggles and successes in growing a brand. Now this episode is brought to you by Chronos Agency, if you are a direct to consumer econ brand that is ready for next level growth and to unlock the optimal customer lifetime value through email marketing. Chronos is your company we’ve helped hundreds of brands get over $17 million in return from email alone, and our clients get an average of 3500% ROI from my efforts. We’ve worked with brands like Truly Beauty, Ally Skin, the Udi and many more. And for some reason, we beauty brands are just attracted to us. Nothing to do with my fashion sense. I always wear plain t shirts and jeans of the next step is to email us at sales at Chronos.Agency, you can go to Chronos.Agency to find out more. And today’s guest is someone really, really, really, really interesting. And we don’t actually have a lot of guests that actually went through the Kickstarter route in building your brand and business and then grew a very wildly successful Shopify brand around that product. Mark Zhang is the Founder and CEO of Manta Sleep, a multimillion dollar DTC brand in the sleep niche. They’re on a mission to give light sleepers control and mastery over their sleep, which lays the groundwork that empowers and enables everything else that is good in life. Mark, thank you so much for joining us on the show.

Mark Zhang 2:01

Hey, man, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me, Josh.

Joshua Chin 2:05

Awesome. So to get started, tell me a little bit more about Mark. For those of you who don’t know who you are, how do you get started in entrepreneurship and, and the steepness of all things?

Mark Zhang 2:19

How did I get started an entrepreneurship when I was in college, so I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs, I don’t even know what the heck entrepreneurship was until I was in my early to mid 20s. But when I was in college, the plan was always to be an accountant. And I went and worked at one of the big four companies, Big Four accounting firms. For a little bit, I thought I thought that was going to be my path in life. But as I was working there, feeling that every day as I went to work that my soul was slowly dying. One of my close friends from elementary school, unfortunately passed away from cancer. And that was one of those times where it’s sort of like, you know, in some selfish ways, it kind of kicked me into hyperdrive, where I was thinking, like, man, if I was gonna have another month to live in my life, what was I going to do with the time that I had, and was definitely not accounting. And so that sort of started the journey where I started exploring a journey of self discovery, listening to podcasts, figuring out what it is that I want to do in life. And that eventually, unfortunately, led to me starting a couple of businesses over the years and kind of getting into entrepreneurship.

Joshua Chin 3:34

That’s awesome. And I understand that you started your first venture online, on affiliate marketing am I wrong was that right?

Mark Zhang 3:44

yes, way back in college. Yes.

Joshua Chin 3:47

That’s That’s amazing. Was that the time when things were still pretty profitable on Google? Where are you kind of just arbitrage and

Mark Zhang 3:57

so the man, the entrepreneurship journey was was was mega success at the beginning. And then it just dropped off for like five years of nothing before it came back again, back then. Google Ads was this was like in 2005. When I did the first one. Back then Google Ads was like two cents a click to all the money keywords. So I did like these affiliate sites that did wholesale deals. And it was just so easy. I mean, anybody could have done it. And I was just at the right place, right time, and was able to pay off my college tuition as a result of that, but then it sort of just got more competitive and harder, and I didn’t, didn’t know what to do, and that that fizzled out.

Joshua Chin 4:37

That’s incredible. You paid off your college tuition, just from that one venture. Yes.

Mark Zhang 4:43

But but also it’s Canadian college tuition. So not the same as us tuition. Not exactly the same. Not exaggerated. Yeah. Okay. Not as expressive.

Joshua Chin 4:52

Makes sense. And for what I’ve seen on you know, on your site and what you do, the conversations that we’ve we’ve had Prior to coming on the show, it seems like you’re on a very mission oriented journey with the company. But your beginnings in, in online marketing was kind of very just money focused and revenue focused. How did that transition happen?

Mark Zhang 5:18

It was it was it I made the first. The first step was really just to figure out a way to make enough money. So I don’t have to work and or not to starve and have no place to live. Right. So does that make sense after that initial thing with the affiliate marketing afterwards, none of the businesses that worked on really took off and wasn’t even making enough money for me to feel comfortable and to be able to quit my job for some time. But the so we got we were also fortunate in early 2014, end of 2014, early 2015, when we started a an Amazon business doing a bunch of other products. And at that time, Amazon was still relatively easy to work on. And so it’s really helped that business take off. But after about a year or two of that my business partner and I woke up one morning, we just sat there and thought to ourselves, like, we had to go onto Amazon and create another rolling pen or something like that, just for the sake of growing revenue, that we were going to just bang your head against the wall. And we just couldn’t do it anymore. It was getting, it was getting to a point where it wasn’t like we were making a ton of money, but we were making enough money so that it was comfortable. And then that’s when we decided, Okay, for the next 510 years of our lives, we got to do something that actually has a purpose that actually has a meaning that something that we can actually believe in, that’s something that we’re excited about. And that’s how Manta Sleep kind of grew out of that.

Joshua Chin 6:48

You know, what I, I’ve I’ve actually had a very similar start, it was survival first and then mission. It’s always survival first figuring out, you know, does this work? Can I actually quit my job and make this a full time thing? Right, then you find a purpose around that. And I think that’s what a lot of we’re a lot of entrepreneurs, including myself, get caught up with, what’s that whole purpose behind what I’m doing? And, you know, even when the business isn’t necessarily mature yet to start thinking about things like that. But talk to me about what is next for Manta Sleep, you spoke to me about the pro nap movement. Talk about that.

Mark Zhang 7:31

So yeah, as our company, as our company Manta Sleep has grown over the past five years. It’s it’s a, it’s an evolution process. right at the beginning, it was like, hey, let’s, you know, I’ve been a light sleeper. For most of my life, I’ve been using sleep masks for most of my life, I always thought we could do something better. So the first step was, why don’t we just create a better sleep mask than was available? And then as the company grew? The the mission evolved with the company as well. So the next step for us was to, how do we figure out how do we go from a sleep mask company to a company that actually empowers and enables people to prioritize, sleep and rest. And so in the recent years, especially going to 2021, beyond one of the core focus we have is getting behind the pro nap movement, which is really to not only encourage and enable but to give people almost in a way permission and to champion the cause to say that when and if you prioritize rest, by getting enough sleep and taking a nap every single day, it’s going to enable you as an individual to be able to achieve much more than you could thought you would have been able to achieve. And we want to do that by by through three examples right to to demonstrate to the world with our own sort of growth and progress in the company as a result of the team prioritizing rest. And every single day, you know, in the afternoon, when the lesser after lunch in the office, we turn off the lights, everybody takes like a 30 minute power nap. So we really love it. And we want to show like just how we’re able to succeed as a team as a result of prioritizing risk and focusing on sleeping now, not in spite of it. And this is sort of you know, you and I’ve talked about it. This is I think especially important because I grew up in the West. And in Canada in the US napping, I’ve worked in the corporate world before it’s still very much seen as something that’s lazy or frowned upon. Things are changing a little bit. But really, I don’t think it’s changing fast enough. And so that’s something that we really want to behind as a purpose and mission driven company.

Joshua Chin 9:41

That’s incredible. And I can really relate to that. And growing up in Singapore in an Asian culture is the idea of rest is just generally not not not a great thing. And

Mark Zhang 9:55

probably maybe worse in Asia.

Joshua Chin 9:57

Yeah, it’s probably a little bit worse in Asia. I remember Growing up in school, I would spend pretty much all like almost all my waking hours, studying, doing work, finishing assignments and stuff like that till like 10pm at night, and then I’ll go to sleep and wake up for school at 8am the next day. So, like 80 90% of my waking lives were basically around schoolwork and work in general.

Mark Zhang 10:23

Right. And I think I think that there’s I mean, you, you may have seen this little sort of Twitter back and forth between Elon Musk and some of his followers. And it’s like, I think, a lot of times, public figures like Elon Musk, who, for some reason only sleeps four hours a night. I don’t know how he does it. Exactly. There’s this whole, like, we’re all about that anti hustle culture, you know, like the hustle culture in the last 510 years. Yes, it’s a real thing. restall like young people, just work as hard as you can. But the more as our business and organization has grown, the more I realize, and also in my sort of journey, as an entrepreneur, it’s not really about working hard and going, like, I’m just gonna like willpower through this and work 20 hours a day and get myself to succeed. It’s really about good decision making. And taking the right path. It’s not the absolute amount of hours you spend on a task. And so yeah, I just, I don’t agree with what you Elon Musk is saying and so that’s one of the things that we’re we’re kind of

Joshua Chin 11:34

I agree 100%, I was a, I was in the camp of just hustling, putting in the hours and doing as much as I could. And it made it made sense at that point in time, when I basically had no direction when I was kind of just exploring, right? Basically, anything that worked and anything that stuck. But But you’re right, I mean, boils down to religious good decision making. And it’s much better to spend one good hour, generating a ton of results than it is to spend 10 hours being zapped 20% of your capacity.

Mark Zhang 12:07

Exactly. And so like you, you get some good sleep at nighttime, you wake up, you got a fresh morning, a couple hours of high quality work, right. And then I basically double that by taking a nap. And so when I wake up after my 30 hour, 30 hour, 30 minute power nap, in the afternoon, I basically get another hour or two of super high quality work done drink because I’m just very fresh. And so if anything that makes that has made a much greater difference in the trajectory of our growth than me trying to work, you know, like, like, but after 6pm It can’t be making like strategic decisions, right? You just hired it’s exactly yeah,

Joshua Chin 12:46

you know what this? Is this something that’s really interesting to me, because I’ve been tracking my sleep much more consciously now. Not as a Whoop band, that’s telling you exactly how much time I’m, you know, I’m productively sleeping. And it’s, it’s been a massive game changer. I feel much more alert. I’m much more present in meetings. I’m less Moody, I’m making better decisions and all that it just boils down to just sleeping one extra hour every night. Are there any brands that you look up to? In that that is aligned in? What are you trying to achieve with this movement?

Mark Zhang 13:21

You know, one of the things I noticed there’s a lot of sleep brands out there. Not so many. Not so much. So not so many brands focused specifically on sleep mask, I feel like we’re we’re dominating the space at the moment. But if you were to look at other product categories, like mattresses, there’s tons Casper, there’s Purple. And I feel like I really love the branding of Purple by the way. But across the board, I feel like the message that I get from the sleep brands that I come across is mostly here’s how to sleep better. They use you know, calming language, it’s blue, it’s got the little pillow, you know, look basically what you can think of when you envision asleep company, we took a very different approach. That was a result of sort of how I felt about this because for me sleep, optimizing sleep is really about what you’re able to do with the energy that you get from sleep. So if you take a look at our brand is very, it’s counter intuitive, intuitive, in the sense that it’s, it’s it’s it’s very real, it’s powerful. And it’s action, you see people happy and inaction after they’ve used or is in the process of using our product. So that’s a that’s what the empowerment kind of angle comes from. And so I feel like we’re taking a very different approach in sort of communicating sleep compared to many of the brands that I’ve seen. So there are some brands that I do look up to, but they’re not directly related, like Oura Ring is something that I’m fascinated by trying to get my people have been telling me to get it for for a while. And now I’m looking forward to getting it. It seems like you can do a lot of compared to like the risk tracker that you have, you can you can get a lot of actionable insight. Like it tells you when to go to bed. How and all this kind of stuff went to wake up. That seems to be a little bit more actionable. So then something like a fitness tracker, or what the Apple Watch is able to do in terms of sleep tracking.

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