We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonathan Kunke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonathan, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind our success as a brand actually stems from 2 qualities that can sometimes be seen as a detriment – our obsessiveness and our unwillingness to compromise. In a typical workplace setting, these qualities can be problematic, but they have been our compass and our saving grace. When we started Honeydew, what we were doing fell somewhere in between a hobby and an experiment. In our sleep stores, we carried over 50 pillows, and literally all of them were sub-par. None of them seemed to be designed with the human body in mind, they were all the same – boring rectangles made from the same 3 materials, and somehow they were always too soft or too hard for us. We began using our knowledge of support and anatomy to make ourselves the perfect pillow. We never thought we were building a brand, or starting a business, we were just crafting, which we love to do. We started with the shape, and obsessed over all the minute details. We debated for hours amongst ourselves over things that most people would consider silly: what makes the “perfect” cover fabric, the weight and dimensions of the ribbon running around the side, what the degree of curvature needed to be. More importantly, we made pillow after pillow after pillow. We literally tried hundreds of combinations of fill materials, tweaking the ratios of different components like mad scientists on the verge of a breakthrough. Because we were making this for ourselves, we had no pre-determined budget, no oversight, and no one to tell us that we were being crazy. We simply wanted to make the perfect pillow, and as we got closer with each prototype we made, we knew that we would be able to do so. When we finally decided we were finished, we were so in love with our “Scrumptious Pillow” that we started making them for friends and family members, and before we knew it, we were inundated with orders. People we had never met began reaching out to us, begging us to make them a Scrumptious Pillow because a friend of theirs would not stop raving about it. We decided to make them available in our stores, and before we knew it, we had people driving over an hour to our stores specifically looking for a Scrumptious Pillow. We knew that we had a truly special pillow, and we knew that we had only gotten there because we were so uncompromising in our vision. When we decided to open up sales online to the general public, we made a conscious decision to never sell a pillow that wasn’t perfect, and we still hold true to that today. Each of our pillows is still hand made one by one, right here by us. We thoroughly inspect every single pillow we make, and we make a point to never send out a pillow that couldn’t be considered flawless. Our customers have come to expect that from us, and I think it is our greatest asset as a brand. We have a very dedicated group of customers, who are always excited when we create something new, and with good reason – they know that if it isn’t truly special, we would never put our name on it.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
One of the things that sets Honeydew apart is how people-driven we are. Our business is built on our love and trust in each other, and we extend that to our customers as well. For example, although this started as a way for us to create something for ourselves, now our job is to create something for the world. We are always trying to improve as a company or refine our products based on the feedback we receive. One of the ways we do this is by being the direct points of contact for Honeydew. What I mean by that is if you call us, I personally am the one picking up the phone. If you send us an email, we are the ones answering it. This ensures that every suggestion is heard, and every question gets answered. We have given people advice on how to adjust the fill in their pillow, and even added additional color options to our line of pillowcases based on suggestions from our customers. Being a family, we also always make sure that we are enjoying ourselves as well. Not only do we love what we do and believe in the products we are making, but we try to infuse every aspect of our business with that joy. I think this is evident with the commercials we made last year. We set out to answer some of our customers most frequently asked questions, and ended up with some really fun videos, and a mock-umentary style commercial as well.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We are HUGE lovers of the arts. In a pre-covid world, we would go to multiple shows a month, and there are a lot of great little places in LA for this! One of our favorite venues is The Hayworth Theatre/Dynasty Typewriter. This is a theatre owned by Jenji Kohan (of Weeds and Orange is the New Black fame) where Dynasty Typewriter puts on amazing shows all the time. Some of the highlights that we have seen there range from a John Lennon retrospective/concert show called Just Imagine, and most recently an excellent stand up comedy show put on by Josh Thomas (we were actually at the very last performance this theatre had before shutting down for the pandemic). We also love Largo at the Coronet and Hotel Café. If we had someone visiting, we would definitely bring them to (at least!) one of these venues. We are also huge sushi lovers, and so we would definitely go to Sugarfish or IZAKA-YA on 3rd st. Sugarfish has multiple locations and always delivers on incredible sushi, but IZAKA-YA is kind of a hidden gem that we never miss when we are in that part of the city. We can also lose hours in a book store or music store, and the Last Bookstore in downtown and Amoeba on Hollywood are great places to do exactly that. Finally, we go to the beach almost every week. One of the great things about living in Southern California is that even when it is cold, it’s still not too cold for the beach, and we find endless inspiration there. Evita loves taking photographs of the birds and the waves, and scrounging around for interesting shells or stones to turn into art projects later on. I love to explore, and the beaches here always make me feel like a kid again. There are huge rocks jutting out of the sea covered in Mussels, and bridges and underpasses that lead to trails that you can only get to when the tide is low. Also, it is a great place to meet people for a fun, relaxing day. There are tons of picnic benches and fire pits, and you can easily social distance, yet still socialize.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This is an easy one – definitely our parents. Evita was born in Warsaw, Poland to two parents who had bigger dreams for their daughter than having her grow up in then-Communist Poland. With the future of their growing family in mind, the promise of the American dream, and the ambition to create a better life, they set out to immigrate to the United States. Leaving communist Poland with a small baby was no easy feat, and they left knowing that they may never be able to return to their family, friends, careers or home country again. They took night classes to learn English, and despite having engineering and psychology degrees and established careers in Poland, they were forced to start over here in the states, working any job they could to support their family. They have always inspired in Evita to follow your dreams, no matter how difficult the road may be, and in the beginning of this, it was Evita’s mom who taught us how to sew. Jonathan’s parents were also self-starters. When Fred started his own business, it was years before he was able to start taking a regular paycheck, which is incredibly challenging when you have two kids, and all of your savings has gone into your business. During this time, Jonathan’s Mom remained incredibly supportive, working tirelessly to keep the family afloat on the salary she was earning as a Nurse. Their unconditional support of each other, and their dedication to pursuing their dreams regardless of the adversity they faced along the way is a constant inspiration.
As a married couple that also works together, our dynamic is a little different than most people’s, because we spend so much time together. Knowing that we have each other’s backs no matter what is a great source of comfort, and that mutual trust is also liberating in a way, as it allows us to explore whatever ideas come up without the fear of rejection.
Facebook: Honeydew Sleep (@honeydewsleep)