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Casper’s CEO has a turnaround plan after its lackluster IPO. It involves selling mattresses to Midwestern moms

August 4, 2022, 11:45 AM UTC
Casper CEO Emilie Arel.
Courtesy of Casper

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! President Joe Biden signs an executive order protecting interstate travel for abortion, a congresswoman is killed in a car accident, and Casper’s CEO has a turnaround plan. Have a thoughtful Thursday.

– Sleep tight. When Emilie Arel stepped into the CEO job at Casper in November 2021, it wasn’t your typical corner office transition. The former Gap Inc. and Target exec joined Casper as chief commercial officer in 2019 as the mattress company prepared to go public—but that didn’t go as planned.

Casper IPO’ed in February 2020, a month before the pandemic. In February, the private equity firm Durational Capital Management took the company private at $6.90 a share in a deal that was announced as Arel became CEO and as the last of Casper’s five founders left the company.

So far, her tenure as chief executive has focused on transformation—a task she’s deeply familiar with as the former CEO of Fullbeauty Brands and Quidsi, the now-shuttered Amazon business that housed Diapers.com. Arel and I spoke last month in her first interview since she assumed the CEO role.

“This isn’t like selling diapers on the internet, which is almost impossible to make money on,” she says. “It’s very possible to make money selling mattresses.”

Casper CEO Emilie Arel.
Courtesy of Casper

Her first priority was cutting costs, from closing a San Francisco office to shipping items ordered together in one box instead of as separate shipments (Casper sells products like sheets in addition to mattresses).

Her next priority is to ensure that Casper is reaching its highest-potential customer: women. The Casper brand was founded in New York and originally marketed to young city dwellers, who are likely only buying one bed. Mothers who live in suburban or rural areas, however, are more likely buying mattresses for the entire family, plus guest rooms. Securing those customers requires improved distribution. “We’re very focused on female consumers,” says Arel, who is from Minnesota. “And we’re very focused on making sure we’re speaking to the entire country.”

Arel is a straight-shooter, and she’s preparing her employees for an economic downturn, which typically hinders mattress purchases. Consumers are less likely to move during a recession—the biggest impetus to buying a new mattress—and are more likely to hold onto their old bed than make a big-ticket purchase. “I want my team to be prepared,” she says.

Arel acknowledges that her approach to running a startup can be less motivating to employees who may have felt more galvanized during its mission-driven early days. “It’s a very different thing to say, ‘We’re going to be the Nike of sleep,'” she says. “We’re in a different time now and frugality is important.” As part of her pivot, she’s hired L’Oréal alum Chesen Schwethelm as CMO and S’well’s Robin Helfer as CFO.

“It’s just a different skillset, taking a company from zero to $100 million than from $500 million to $1 billion, and getting profitable,” she says. “But we have the right team in place to do that.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Under fireTinder CEO Renate Nyborg is out as the leader of the Match Group dating app. Bernard Kim, the new CEO of Match Group, cited "disappointing execution" on new products and lowered expectations for revenue growth for the rest of the year. Tinder is the largest dating app within Match Group. During her time as CEO, Nyborg prioritized women's experiences on the platform and international growth. Wall Street Journal

- Untimely tragedy. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and two of her staffers were killed in a car accident on Wednesday. A passenger car crossed into the opposing lane and crashed into Walorski’s car head-on; the other driver was also killed. Walorski was first elected to Congress in 2012 and was appointed as her party’s top-ranking member on the House Ethics Committee last year. NBC News

- Executive order. President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday protecting individuals traveling out of state for abortions. The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to "consider action to advance access" to reproductive health services, including encouraging states to apply for Medicaid waivers for those traveling out of state. Axios

- Messy merger. The Discovery-Warner Media merger has come for HBO Max. The streaming platform is facing layoffs and a major restructuring, as are other Warner franchises. Among the projects that have gotten the axe? Batgirl, the $90 million D.C. Comics movie that was reportedly almost complete. The future of several Max Original series is also uncertain. Deadline

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: As part of the executive shakeup at Match Group, OkCupid CMO Melissa Hobley will become CMO for Tinder. ThredUP hired Lulus chief marketing officer Noelle Sadler as its CMO. Pegasystems has hired former Anthem Inc. medical director Kikelomo (Dayo) Belizaire as its first chief medical officer. Bravado Health has hired Mallory Tai Taylor as its new CEO. Former K1 Investment Management vice president Heather Engel has joined Juxtapose as head of investor relations. The CFP Board Center of Financial Planning has appointed former TD Ameritrade Institutional managing director Kate Healy as managing director.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Battleground state. Businesswoman and former conservative media host Tudor Dixon won the Michigan GOP’s gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, setting her up to compete against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November. Abortion is a key issue in Michigan—Whitmer and other parties are engaged in a legal battle challenging a pre-Roe ban on abortion—and the outcome of November’s gubernatorial race will likely determine the future of abortion rights in the state. NPR

- Tax break. Fetuses are now legally considered dependents under Georgia state law. The state’s department of revenue announced on Monday that pregnant individuals can claim their "unborn child" on their tax returns, allowing for a deduction as high as $3,000. It also allows fetuses to be included in population counts and mandates fathers pay child support for the mother’s medical and pregnancy expenses. Unsurprisingly, the law has several gray areas, including uncertainty over pregnancy losses, couples who use surrogates, and responsibility for child support in the case of sperm donors or unknown paternity. Washington Post 

- Here she comes again. Dolly Parton is among this year’s Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipients. The country music legend earned the honor, awarded by the family of Carnegie institutions to innovative philanthropists, for her funding of COVID-19 vaccine research in 2020. Philanthropist Lyda Hill is also among this year’s recipients for her donations to the research and development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. ABC News

- Turning to prevention. India has made immense progress in reducing its maternal mortality rate. Between 2004 and 2019, the number of maternal deaths reduced by over half to 104 per 100,000 live births. But one key issue has been overlooked: high rates of suicide among pregnant women due to early marriages, domestic violence and pressure to give birth to sons. Experts say early intervention is key to reducing high suicide rates. Fuller Project

ON MY RADAR

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It’s getting harder to be a woman in America Bloomberg

The bargain BBL business is booming, but patients are paying the ultimate price Marie Claire

Netflix’s lawsuit against the ‘Bridgerton Musical’ could change online fandom TechCrunch

Jennette McCurdy is ready to move forward, and to look back New York Times

PARTING WORDS

“If I'm not getting great roles, I come to the conclusion that people think I'm incapable of that. And then I make the decision that I am incapable of that. You actually have to have a [White Lotus creator] Mike White that comes in and says, 'I think you can do this.’”

-Actress Jennifer Coolidge on being overlooked in Hollywood and landing her Emmy-nomination earning performance in HBO’s The White Lotus.

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