Matt Jung: Comfort Research & The Ultimate Beanbag
A beanbag chair, two college friends, and an out of this world experience — literally.
Some say getting out of your comfort zone makes for a better life but ask Matt Jung and Chip George, owners of Comfort Research, and they’ll tell you keeping things comfortable is how they became successful. When the dynamic duo were undergraduates at Hope College in Michigan in 1996, they were looking for a better way to lounge. Tired of bruised elbows and sore tailbones from their woefully uncomfortable beanbag chairs, Jung and George were determined to change dorm life from roughing it to comfort zone. Their creation was the Ahhsome Fuf — part beanbag, part mattress, part couch, and 100% comfortable.
Initially, the sales of the Ahhsome Fuf were just as remarkable as its name. The two began selling the product out of the trunk of their cars during college welcome weeks. They managed to get a few into a local furniture store, which were sold out within days. As they expanded, distributors ordered larger quantities. The rest is history.
Fast forward 22 years, their college comfort solution is now a multi-million-dollar enterprise with sales all over the world. Jung and George created the Big Joe product line offered through their Comfort Research company. They now offer comfy patio furniture, pool floats, and children’s furniture sold through top retailers such as Walmart, Meijer, Pottery Barn, Target, and online retailers around the world.
The Light Bulb Moment
College is full of students stuffing their heads with knowledge all for the sake of higher education. But there are some things class can’t teach, like following your heart, or pursuing your passion relentlessly — you just have to do it. Ask Jung, while studying accounting and business management at Hope College, he was sure the economic theories he was learning were essential, but he needed practical, real-world application.
On an otherwise uneventful day in 1996, Jung and George decided to put their knowledge to use. They were fed up with their droopy beanbag chair in their dorm room and they decided to fix the problem once and for all. A few hours and a few beers later, the old chair was stuffed with shredded mattress pad foam and the Fuf was born. This ingenuity is the basis of what they do today: find a problem, fix it, and make the solution comfortable and lovable. Sales of the Fuf were brisk from day one. Dorm rooms all over campus were soon sporting their new and improved beanbag chairs.
As Jung says, “It was textbook Economics 101. We had a product. There was a need for our product. So, we took the show on the road.”
Jung and George started taking regular road trips to other college campuses, taking their Fuf to the comfort-deprived masses. Soon, the pair found a better way. They convinceda local Meijer store to purchase 50 Fufs. They sold out in only eight days. The next order was gone in 12 days. Then Meijer ordered 1,200 units, and Jung and George’s product began to make a name for itself throughout Michigan. It wouldn’t be long before their product would hit national and global markets. Today, millions of Fufs have been sold across the globe in places like China and Europe. All the while, Jung and George have become the poster boys for home-grown entrepreneurship.
Find a Better Way
Comfort is a way of life for Jung and George. They want their customers to feel comfortable in their chairs and products, and they want their staff to feel comfortable being game changers. Jung and George inspire every employee to “Find a Better Way,” which has become part of their company’s core values.
Employees are encouraged and supported, and that’s one of the reasons why the company has won the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For competition multiple times and won the Outstanding Growth Award by Grand Rapids’ Association for Corporate Growth. These recognitions are earned because Jung believes corporate culture is essential to making good products — it’s all about innovation and exploration.
Last year, a team of five interns sent a Comfort Research beanbag chair into space using weather balloons. Over 8,000 people watched as the two-pound beanbag chair ascended 20 miles above the Earth before coming back down.
Jung says, “We’re not afraid of failing; instead, we are ready to make mistakes that we can learn from—individually and as a collective team.” Even though Jung and George are making large corporate moves, they’ve never forgotten who they are. While most million-dollar corporations have mission and vision statements filled with corporate jargon, Jung and George are different — their mantra is simply “Be Awesome.”
Living Life to Its Fullest
When Jung arrived at Hope College, he had dreams of setting the art world on fire – not turning corporate culture on its ear. In high school, Jung practiced welding and enjoyed making art projects out of steel. As an undergrad in the arts, Jung was introduced to one of his life’s great passions: sculpting.
“I love to create and engineer new things. I have been lucky enough to do that my entire professional career…engineering new products, processes, and machines to make awesome products,” Jung says. To this day, Jung and Comfort Research regularly submit pieces to art and photo contests that test the boundaries of sculpting, engineering, and art. One recent submission to an international art contest was a sofa large enough to span a river.
Jung is fueled by creativity and challenging the status quo. On the home front, he instills these principles in his three children by living an authentic life filled with ingenuity and expression. For those outside his family unit, he regularly travels the world hosting public speaking engagements where he helps people live a life that they can be proud of.
Jung’s groundbreaking ideas on how to build better businesses, teams, and products are featured regularly on his Mold Your Own blog at www.moldyourown.com where he encourages everyone to give it the old college try. Learn more about Jung and how he fosters a unique award-winning culture at Comfort Research by visiting his website at comfortresearch.com.