The Ecommerce Influence Podcast

JT Marino wanted to build a company that would disrupt an industry.

With Tuft & Needle he did just that, bootstrapping his way from nothing to the largest online mattress retailer in the world.

JT, co-founder of Tuft & Needle and now the Chief Strategy Officer for SSB Phoenix, joins us today to share his incredible story.

We talk about why customer-centricity was one of Tuft & Needle’s core principles from the beginning, and the role it played in their eventual merger with Serta Simmons. JT shares his thoughts on the importance, as a founder, of having an intimate understanding of how every aspect of your business works, and why they decided not to take any outside investments when they first started out.

This is one of my favorite founder interviews we’ve done and I hope you enjoy it!

Episode Highlights:

  • 3:52 Introducing JT Marino
  • 5:41 How the friendship and partnership started between the founders of Turf & Needle, JT and Daehee
  • 10:07 How the Tuft & Needle co-founders maintain a strong friendship while running a business together
  • 11:45 How JT’s prior experience with heavily-funded, but unsuccessful, Silicon Valley start-ups influenced Tuft & Needle’s decision to not take outside investments.
  • 16:15 The importance of identifying “the problem” when you’re building a business, and how this led to the creation of Tuft & Needle
  • 18:22 Some of the other principles the Tuft & Needle founders committed to before starting their business
  • 20:05 How JT and Daehee used a problem-solution approach to determine whether they had product-market fit for Tuft & Needle
  • 26:53 The benefits of being highly involved with and having an intimate understanding of every aspect of the business, from manufacturing to supply chain to marketing
  • 29:57 How Tuft & Needle moved through the pit of sorrow and started to scale
  • 34:06 How a Hacker News blog post contributed to explosive growth ofTuft & Needle
  • 36:51 The importance of customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth to Tuft & Needle’s success, especially when they had a limited advertising budget
  • 38:34 The various channels that helped grow the business over time
  • 41:39 JT's approach to tracking attribution across a variety of channels
  • 44:49 How Tuft & Needle developed advertising techniques and targeting that span across digital and non-digital
  • 49:28 The unconventional reason Tuft & Needle started selling on Amazon
  • 52:33 The Net Promoter Score target T&F set before making the decision to list on Amazon
  • 55:04 JT’s advice if you’re considering selling on Amazon and the importance of looking at the market picture as you start to grow
  • 58:29 The role customer-centricity played in Tuft & Needle’s decision to merge with Serta
  • 1:05:40 The future of the mattress industry
  • 1:08:42 JT shares his hobbies and what’s in store for him in the next year

Links and Resources:

Become a Member:

If you've been a podcast listener for a while and you've yet to join the Brand Growth Experts Membership, now is the time to do it. It’s my online coaching community, and it’s an incredible resource for you. We've got about 120 members, all ecommerce business owners and marketers. And in that community, I work with you one on one to help scale up your business.

That could be scaling up advertising, hiring a team, or diving into marketing strategy. We go really in depth every single month on topics that we also talk about on the podcast. So, if you've enjoyed the podcast, you're going to love the Brand Growth Experts Membership. Head over to for more information. Can't wait to see you guys on the inside.

Sponsor: Klaviyo

If you’re looking to grow your business, there’s only one way. By building real, quality customer relationships. Most marketing software will claim that they do this, but they’ll never deliver on those promises. Klaviyo, though, is different. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening to and understanding cues from your customers, which allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages that’ll help grow your business and make more money. That’s why over 10,000 innovative brands have switched to Klaviyo.

If you aren’t already a customer, head over to and you’ll get a free trial + priority on-boarding.

Direct download: EI_199_JTMarino.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am CDT