We had the good fortune of connecting with Derek Hales and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Derek, what do you attribute your success to?
Authenticity is the most important factor behind the success of NapLab. Over the last decade product reviews have become increasingly crowded, dishonest, and artificial. It’s hard to tell what reviews are honest, genuine, unbiased thoughts, and which are artificially curated by a marketing company or other nefarious actors.
At NapLab, we strive to create a the most objective, unbiased, and honest reviews we can. We personally test everything we review and use that data to inform our recommendations, comparisons, and best of lists. We do our best to separate objective facts from subjective opinions.
We want to create reviews that are transparent, helpful, and ethically beyond reproach. We document each step of our testing process, explain our scores, and publish our comprehensive data set. We want our users to trust us, but trust is earned, not given. As a result, we do our best to explain every step of our process so our readers can decide for themselves if our work should be trusted.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our company size is what sets us apart from so many other competitors. There are plenty of big players and big brands. Websites and platforms that create 10-20 new content pieces each day and have teams of dozens or hundreds of employees.
By contrast, our team is small. We have just 3 full time employees, 1 part time, and a handful of contractors who help on specific projects. Because are so relatively small we cannot compete with other companies when it comes to content volume. Instead, we focus on content quality. We create such high-quality reviews and comparisons that despite our size, we’re able to bubble up and compete with much larger sites that have much bigger budgets.
We’ve achieved a level of success over the years by consistently focusing on fewer high quality pieces instead of quantity.
Our road to where we are now hasn’t been easy. Over the years we’ve faced a number of setbacks and challenges, including:
Legal threats – often from brands who receive less than great reviews
Cyber attacks – attempting to take down, slow, or penetrate our website
Negative SEO – when a 3rd party actor takes actions to attempt to cause Google to reduce rankings in search engines
Stiffer Competition – from large marketing agencies creating websites in our industry
Overcoming these challenges has simply come down to preparation and consistency. None of these challenges are easily defeated through quick action. Instead, we’ve focused on building a resilient foundation in terms of our legal structure, our website security layers, and in our content production with strict adherence to the highest quality possible.
As a result, we’ve been better protected from those who intend to harm us.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that trust must be earned. Over the years, many companies and individuals have done wrong to us. Many of those were people I previously trusted. Early on, perhaps naively, I offered many individuals more trust that was wise too. Ultimately, it hurt me, my employees, and my company.
I do my best to not let my increased guard dissuade me from being good to the people and companies I work with. However, I have found it helpful to reserve a deeper level of trust for those who have truly earned it.
Ultimately, I would love the world to know that NapLab is built from a small team of passionate regular people. We’re not a big marketing company. I started testing mattresses from a 1 bedroom apartment with my new wife and a living room that was stacked end to end with mattresses. Over the years we’ve grown up, but fundamentally we’re the same down to earth team. I test all of the mattresses, my sister, Kayla, researches and drafts content, my good friend Kyle creates the photos, data, and charts, and my wife keeps our books organized.
We all feel very fortunate to get to help others improve their sleep. And we take what we do seriously. We will never sacrifice our ethics to make a few extra dollars. We’re creating mattress reviews unlike any other. They are tedious, time consuming, and expensive, but, they are also better. Our reviews are honest, transparent, direct, and objective in ways that no others on the market are. And we will always push to create the absolute highest quality and best reviews we can.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
No one should come to Phoenix without experiencing a hike. There are numerous mountain hikes within the greater Phoenix valley area. Some are as short as 20 minutes and others are a full day trip. I almost always take my out of town guests hiking to a mountain that’s appropriate to their fitness level. Lookout Mountain is perfect for a less strenuous hike (do the circumference trail for beginners, the summit for a 90 minute round trip at a modest difficulty), while Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain are great for more intense adventures. But those 3 are just the tip of the iceberg, there is tons of hiking to explore in Phoenix!
Phoenix is a bit of a culinary melting pot. There are transplants from all over the USA and the world. As a result, you’ll find a wide range of restaurants and food to enjoy. I could do an entire interview about the wonderful places to eat in Phoenix. A few of my favorites include:
La Grande Orange Pizzeria – incredible pizza from a scratch kitchen. Their Gladiator pizza is a heavenly mix of sausage, pepperoni, and a cheese blend on homemade crust.
Joe’s Farm Grill – it’s a bit south of Phoenix into the suburbs of Chandler, but if you’re okay with the drive it’s well worth it. They offer a wide menu of burgers, shakes, pizza, sandwiches, and other American staples. Next door to the restaurant is their farm, where they grow much of what they sell in the restaurant. What they don’t grow themselves they order from other local, organic vendors. Just an incredibly rich and fresh experience.
Bobby Qs – If Cracker Barrel had a 5 star version, Bobby Qs would be it (and I mean that in the nicest way possible!) A mix of BBQ, steaks, chicken, potatoes, mac and cheese, sweet tea, and more. Their darker atmosphere adds to the experience. After the restaurant closes Bobby Qs becomes a nightclub. Whether you’re just coming for the nightlife or want to stop in for dinner it’s a must-see. Make sure you make a reservation!
Lastly, Phoenix is absolutely a gun-town. There are a number of indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. For my guests who enjoy shooting it’s a fun time, one that many don’t often experience. C2 Tactical Range in North Scottsdale is by far my favorite range. Lanes are well spaced out and the range officers are on top of it, so you can feel safe while shooting.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I believe everything happens for a reason. There are no accidents. I am a man of faith and I believe that God has been with me through my personal and professional journey.
I look back over the years and see countless times a door has spontaneously opened and how my paths have been laid before me even before I could see them.
In 2014 I got married in May and my wife and I needed a new mattress. 2014 was the launch year for the D2C bedinabox industry and just by providence I was standing on the launchpad without even knowing it. If I hadn’t married when I did, hadn’t needed a new mattress, or hadn’t been working where I was (where my friend Corey recommended I try out the new Tuft & Needle) I would have completely missed the opportunity to jump into the world of mattress testing.
In my view, that didn’t just happen by accident or through luck or through any foresight on my part. My heavenly father put me in the right place at the right time with the right skills.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many incredibly individuals, from ethically minded, forward-thinking mattress industry execs to the passionate members my small team of testers, writers, and editors, to professional consultants that help us navigate the complex legal and financial hurdles of running a business.
God makes men what they are, and I thank him for what he’s blessed me with.
Other: For questions about mattresses or a personalized recommendation please email us directly here https://naplab.com/contact/