Ergomotion's Clenet enjoys building from the ground up

Kelly Clenet is a man with a mission. Although people may think the odds are stacked against him, he plans to build his adjustable frame and bedding company into a $100 million operation. And he is more convinced every day that he will reach that goal.

To appreciate the scope of Clenet’s ambition, it’s important to understand that he and his father, Alain Clenet, started Ergomotion just five years ago. Neither had previous experience in the bedding industry and they don’t think that hinders them. They have a product they believe in and, Kelly Clenet says, a receptive market.

Ergomotion offers adjustable bed frames, as well as visco–elastic mattresses and pillows.

The frames are at the core of the company’s strategy. Ergomotion draws designs for its frames from automobile technology, something that Alain Clenet, who serves as the company’s chief executive officer, knows a good deal about. Before starting Ergomotion, the elder Clenet had spent his entire career working in the automobile industry as an original equipment manufacturer. He holds numerous patents, including one for the Quadra–Drive system for Jeeps.

When Alain Clenet’s company went public in the late 1990s, he sold his position and began spending much of his time in Africa, where he was involved in several nonprofit organizations.

“My dad had a friend who manufactured mattresses in China. He suggested the adjustable bed idea,” Kelly Clenet says. “Dad didn’t want to start another company. He liked the idea of the opportunity, but didn’t want to work full time again so he approached me about starting it together.”

The timing was good. Kelly Clenet had been a hair stylist for 17 years, running his own shop and working as a manager and trainer for Rusk, a distributor of hair care products. In his “spare” time, he bought and sold real estate and ran a brokerage that traded in high–end used cars. He was growing tired of keeping all those balls in the air.

“I wanted to build something that created equity,” he says. “I knew that if I put 100% of my effort into it, I could build something substantial. This opportunity was not going to come again.”

Clenet has worked hard—and, he hopes, smart—to take advantage of the opportunities Ergomotion presents. A self–described “big picture guy,” he says he has surrounded himself with “the most seasoned people in this category in the industry.”

Ergomotion’s resources, Clenet says, are allocated to where they matter most: Research and development, distribution and customer service.

“Ergomotion operates from an incubator building, so we’re not locked into a long–term lease or capital expenses for furniture and equipment,” he says. “We like being nimble.” All Ergomotion products are currently manufactured in China.

Clenet’s focus is paying off. Ergomotion manufactures adjustable bases that Serta sells under its own brand and has agreements with two large distributors. Hickory Springs Mfg. Co. handles the company’s distribution to large retailers and mattress manufacturers, while ArchBrook Laguna facilitates the Serta program and Internet sales. The company sells in eight countries, with international sales accounting for about 23% of total business, up from 8% a year ago.

Other than occasionally missing the creative aspects of doing hair, Clenet knows that he has made the right career choice.

“We started this company with $25,000 and a $1 million line of credit that my dad and I personally guaranteed,” he says. “There are times when we thought the whole thing was going to implode, but we’re profitable, we own the company and we’re projecting that we’ll be debt–free by year–end. Things are good.”

At home on the water — Clenet grew up on the water in Michigan and California and currently owns a 23–foot Donzi, a high–performance powerboat. “When I’m on the water, it’s like turning off a switch,” he says. “I shut down every care in the world and am totally in the moment.”

Perpetual motion — Clenet has two speeds—on and off. “I’m a doer,” he says. “When I’m not doing something, I’m sleeping.”

Fantasy destination — “My dream vacation is to go to Fiji with a group of friends and family who all dive,” Clenet says. “The diving there is just amazing, so we’d sail around the Fijian Islands, diving and eating fresh fish.”

An active life — Clenet enjoys a broad range of sports. He runs every morning and says that walking his 120–pound dog, a Leonberger, also is great exercise. In the winter, he skis and snowboards with his son, Alexis. In warmer weather, he boats, scuba dives, hikes and spends as much time as possible at the beach.

Street smarts — Clenet has no formal business training, but says he acquired the savvy to run his venture by asking questions and listening carefully to the answers. “I’ve learned the most about business and people from doing hair all those years. This area (in California) breeds entrepreneurs. I picked my clients’ brains and learned a ton,” he says. “The first year Ergomotion was in business, I was being counseled by my clients constantly.”

Navigating a new industry — Ergomotion became a member of the International Sleep Products Association shortly after opening its doors. “We use ISPA as a resource for all sorts of information about the industry and the shows have been very valuable to us for picking up new business, particularly international business,” Clenet says. BT

Bio in brief
Name Kelly Clenet
Company Ergomotion
Title President
Location Goleta, Calif.
Age 40
Education Santa Barbara City College and Vidal Sassoon Academy
Family Clenet and his wife, Heather, have been married for 11 years. He has a 14–year–old son, Alexis, from a previous marriage.

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