December '14 Venture Spotlight: Nugget Comfort

December's venture spotlight features Nugget Comfort, a furniture company created by David Baron when he was a student at UNC. The company recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that reached its goal of $20,000 in less than 24 hours. Nuggets will soon be available on roomstogo.com and they are prominently displayed throughout the 1789 office on Franklin Street.

Describe Nugget Comfort in 50 words or less.

Nugget makes the easiest, funnest, most versatile couches ever. We make them from pool noodle foam (here in NC), and for work-hard-play-hard spaces.

What was the original inspiration for Nugget?

The college futon. The one many of us had. It broke, and I got another. I lost pieces putting it together. It was difficult to turn from couch to bed and back, so I left it as one or the other. It felt like sitting on a grill. It sure as hell wasn’t worth taking to my next place, even if I could fit it in my car (which I couldn’t). So it ended up in the dumpster. The whole thing was the inspiration, and that dumpster was the final straw.

Did you plan on becoming an entrepreneur when you arrived at Carolina as a freshman?

I didn’t. I wanted to care about something. Didn’t know if that would be medicine or nutrition or conservation or storytelling or politics or something else. Once I started to really care about certain things, I learned that I didn’t know enough. So I got addicted to immersion. There’s a lot about business and its affects on people (customers and workers and indirect contacts) that I wanted to study, and so going into business was the best way. Couches were the excuse to do it.

You make your couches out of the same material pool noddles are made from. What inspired you to use that stuff? Did people think you were crazy?

I initially was designing these things with a mushroom material. In line with a sustainability agenda: it would’ve been biodegradable. But I had to put idealism aside. I wouldn’t sell too many couches that smelled like yard waste. So I switched my sights from biodegradability to recyclability, and set out to find the right plastic. The synthetic wine corks that are in Barefoot wine bottles are made here in NC, and I met the guy whose family owns the place. Boom. He didn’t think I was crazy; his family has been innovating with foam for years, but everyone else involved within the operation did. That was an uphill battle for buy-in…

You've added Ryan Cocca of Thrill City to the Nugget team. What made you decide to bring Ryan in as a partner? What does he add to the team?

He adds really high intellect coupled with creativity. A lot of people are intelligent. And a lot of people are skilled in the arts. And a few people are both. But even then, I only decided to bring him on because we see eye-to-eye on the important things. He doesn’t have dollar signs in his eyes; he has an intense focus on making products for people, not numbers. And he aims, first, to build a business that cares. Whatever it produces will bleed from that core. I saw that in Thrill City, and I wanted it to be a part of Nugget.

A few days ago you reached your Kickstarter goal of $20,000 in under 24 hours. How did you do it? Were you surprised? 

I worked hard, and imagined we’d hit our goal. But I was pleasantly surprised at the rate. Guess I didn’t give the product enough credit. I knew I loved it, but I had also poured myself into it for 2 years. It’s unconventional, and I didn’t know if other people would “get it.” They got it. Ryan and I put a lot (too much?) time into a video that could communicate it well. So I think it worked.

Where do you see Nugget 5 years from now?

Making the easiest, funnest, most versatile furniture ever…

What's your favorite thing about the entrepreneurship community in Chapel Hill?

Entrepreneurship in Chapel Hill benefits from academia, and vice versa. Students can take what they learn outside of the classroom, and ground it in what they study in the classroom or in what they discuss with professors in office hours. Ideas usually come from that kind of thing here, from what I’ve seen. That interaction of getting exposure to new worlds and ideas and even the nitty gritty in the classroom with working in the community or just living a life and having experiences.

What's your favorite part about running Nugget Comfort?

It’s the most comfortable job in the world.

An abbreviated version of this interview originally appeared in the 1789 December 2014 newsletter. To read more stories like David's and stay updated on 1789 news and events, sign up for our newsletter here. Learn more about Nugget Comfort and support their Kickstarter campaign here.