He found the item when he purchased a beanbag chair with his pregnant wife. “She was looking for something to lay down on,” he recalls, noting that the fact that the bag molded to the body and provided the perfect solution.
After they were born, Levy’s children used the chair to play on. When his friends commented that they too enjoyed the chair, Levy and his wife, Noa, saw potential for selling the product in the United States. Since then, Yogibo expanded the line and launched many other products.
In 2009, he formed Yogibo with Partner Giora Liran, who has extensive experience in textile engineering. Initially, Levy and his wife sold the product to friends and people at outdoor events and craft shows.
Levy and Liran also made changes to the Yogibo beanbags. “The original product from Israel didn’t fit the market,” he recalls. “We had to develop a different inner layer that would be stronger [and] fire resistant as well as [use] different filling beads. We wanted the products to comply with codes for hospitals, schools, dorms etc. These were great markets for us. Another thing we realized is that since it’s a demonstrational item we have to start focusing on a direct selling and give the products the attention they need.”
In May 2010, Yogibo opened its first store and has since grown to operate nine locations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine and New York. It plans to open few more next year. “The increase in sales is an outcome of a great interactive demonstration by our associates,” Levy says.
Levy aims to be approachable to his employees. “I treat each one of the members like they’re one of my family,” he says. “I want them to know my door is always open, and they can talk to me about anything,” he continues. “If something bothers them, I want to know as soon as possible, so I can learn how we can get better.”
Yogibo hosts employee get-togethers and takes their suggestions for products. “Some of the names for the products came from the staff,” Levy says, noting that a staff member suggested a tie-dyed beanbag that the company is now manufacturing.
When hiring, “We’re looking for people that wouldn’t be afraid of hard work,” he says. “We’re [also] looking for people that would be flexible and keep up with the growth to be creative, be positive and enjoy what they’re doing.”
Levy praises several members of his staff, including Retail Manager Mary Pat Joseph. “She’s doing a wonderful job creating the very unique shopping environment at the stores, whether it’s merchandising or having a staff that will provide a very unique shopping experience to the customers,” he says.
Other key members include Customer Service Manager Peter Harris. “We’re proud of [him] doing the best to make sure our customers are happy,” he says, adding that he is also proud of Matt Pentasuglia, Yogibo’s new operation manager and Cathy Berse-Hurley, the designer. Levy also praises Yogibo’s store managers: Kelly Wood, Michael Sauvageau, Zoe Gawlik, Tracey Miller, Ben Provost and Gerard Planas. “Each one of them is just wonderful,” Levy says. “They are putting a lot of efforts in training [a] great sales staff and making sure that our customers are having a very positive, personal and fun shopping experience.
“Lastly, Judy Liran and Debra Damaris, our wonderful accounting associates, who do an excellent job,” he adds.
Yogibo has many projects in the works, Levy says. “We’re designing many new, exciting products we’re about to launch,” he says. These include a new line of pillows with characters and some other animal shape yogibos.
Other products in development will fit into the light furniture category. “[They’re] going to be more contemporary furniture,” he says. One example is a YogiBox, “a great combination of an Ottoman storage box and a table.”
Although Yogibo has a web site, www.yogibo.com, “We haven’t promoted [ourselves on it that] much,” Levy admits. “That will change next year as the company continues to grow organically. [There will be] more to advertise and promote on our website to increase our business even more.”
For instance, “We are going to invest more in wholesale next year,” Levy predicts. “Until now, we were mainly focusing on the retail aspects, but we have been receiving many inquiries and calls from different stores that want to sell our products and now, when we have expanded our products’ offering, we are putting a very lucrative wholesale program in place.”
Additionally, the firm wants to expand its retail presence to the rest of the country, Levy says. “We’ve [opened] several stores and we haven’t really made any effort [to reach the other states],” he says, naming the West Coast and Southeast as markets for it to target.