DMTV Milkshake: Lovesac’s Shawn Nelson Shares How Entrepreneurs Can Save 25 Years
Lovesac founder Shawn Nelson’s entrepreneurial journey began when he was 13 years old, a kid on a bus on the way to middle school, when, he says, a transcendent moment alongside his classmates made clear the principles that guide his brand today: “They are equally worthy of every opportunity, accolade, or award. These are people with dreams no less than mine, and I need to love and respect them. I need to love and respect everyone for that matter, just by virtue of their existence.”
How that became the ethos behind Lovesac – the furniture company selling bean bags and modular furniture around the globe, feted by Richard Branson, and more – is Nelson’s life story, one he shares in his new book: Let Me Save You 25 Years: Mistakes, Miracles, and Lessons from the Lovesac Story. It’s part memoir, part business case study, part photo scrapbook. Some of the book’s best moments show how Nelson’s experiences have walked the line between “lucky” and “exceptionally well prepared.” Before getting the company off the ground, Nelson was working toward a “high-paying international consulting job now waiting for [him] back in Shanghai” – and part of that prep was interning in China and graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Mandarin. Those language abilities came in handy when he was able to source supplies for an exceptionally large order in China, avoiding markups and middlemen, and walking into those negotiations with those suppliers already speaking their language. It covers the business from its DIY birth at a Salt Lake City JOANN Fabrics in in the 1990s through the brand’s next 25 years, instigating a “‘buy it for life’ movement among all consumers everywhere” and “achiev[ing] our stated mission to build ‘The most beloved brand in America’ someday.”
In this Milkshake, Nelson takes a brief break from those ambitious goals to talk to us about his hopes for the brand and hardwiring sustainability into its products. “Our stated purpose is to inspire humankind to buy better stuff, so they can buy less stuff,” he says. “And that’s how I intend to spend the balance of my life, if it takes it. It’s hard to find really, really good stuff anymore.” He also shares the books that sustained him on his own entrepreneurial journey, as well as what he feels is the most important lesson of the 25 he shares in the book. It’s the final one. “Maintain top ambition with infinite patience,” Nelson says. “As someone who is ambitious, being patient – or sometimes telling people to be patient – feels really unambitious. Being forced to take it slow, I’ve learned great patience – it’s become a superpower. Don’t take your foot off the gas – but take the pressure off that [idea] that ‘By this age, I have to be so wealthy’ or ‘By this age or by this year, we have to accomplish so much.’ You can just say, ‘Look, here’s what we’re trying to do – inspire humankind to buy better, to buy less’ – and we’ll take as long as it takes to get there.”
Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.
Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.
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