City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
New Showroom, focused on "Designed For Life".

Featured Article

Shawn Nelson's Investment of a Lifetime

"Let Me Save You 25 Years: Mistakes, Miracles, and Lessons from the Lovesac Story."

Article by Stephen Neilson

Photography by Provided

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle

Shawn Nelson is the founder and CEO of The Lovesac Company which he founded in 1998 originally in Salt Lake City, Utah. He holds a BA from the University of Utah in Mandarin Chinese and a Master’s in Strategic Design and Management from Parsons, The New School for Design, in New York City, where he later became an instructor in the graduate program. He is an avid reader, musician, outdoorsman, and outspoken ambassador for sustainability and the “Buy It For Life” movement focused on sustain-ability — things that can actually sustain. Nelson lives in St. George, Utah, with his wife, Tiffany, and their children: Lucky, Duke, Pepper, and Valentine. 

Nelson's company has been an innovator in the home furnishing space, including making furniture ("sactionals") that is completely modular and reconfigurable, even embedding speakers, subwoofers and wireless phone chargers ("StealthTech® Sound + Charge") into certain modules to create an immersive 4D sound environment you can hear and feel, but can't see. His new book, "Let Me Save You 25 Years: Miracles, Mistakes, and Lessons From The Lovesac Story", became an Amazon #1 Bestseller. I contacted him after reading it with questions on behalf of SW Lake's readers, and he promptly responded. 

SW Lake: On first view, I was immediately taken with its neat symmetry: titled “Let Me Save You 25 Years”, celebrating your life-work’s 25-year anniversary with a tightly- yet expressively-written 25-chapter book, each highlighted with 25 matching life lessons (which you’ve coined “Shawnisms”). I found it both a quick read yet an inspirational, thought-provoking testimony to perseverance and commitment to (and discovery of) one’s core beliefs. How did you manage to wrap such a tight bow around this crazy rollercoaster ride of an 18-year-old’s side-hustle business with all its epic highs and tragic lows, as it evolved into your (so far) life’s work? 

Shawn Nelson: Hahahhhaa… Thank you. Well, I began writing the WHOLE story, including all the goriest details to give it plenty of truthful and useful moments. I was 100 pages in and found myself still working on the year 2001… I pretty quickly decided not too many people would read all that, so I challenged myself to write this long story in the shortest way possible. Over so many years I’ve developed these “Shawnisms” that I end up repeating to co-workers and young people, and they’ve all stemmed from real experience, are pithy and I think, useful. Meanwhile, I read EVERY good business and personal development book… and decided I wanted to do something kind of different. So, there you have it, all rolled up into one!

SWL: You tossed your hat in the ring for a chance to win Richard Branson’s globe-trotting, groundbreaking business competition reality show, “The Rebel Billionaire”, and… you won. A million dollars (in 2004 money), at age 27. How do you look back at that meteoric moment?

Nelson: Oh man. When I was handed that check for $1MM I had amassed $2MM in debt having built all of these fledgling stores, etc.; BUT, it certainly didn’t hurt. It of course became a pivotal moment for me and the brand, and I don’t know if we would have even survived without it. Grateful it worked out — but it isn’t all luck. I had unwittingly prepared my whole life to show up well on that show. So, we’ll take the win. Just another day in the story! 

SWL: Mark Cuban's investment in you to revive his dated movie theater location on Dallas's "Lovers Lane" was a pretty significant opportunity. Your lesson in that chapter was, "Talk big, work small"; tell us more about how that came about, and for those of us unlikely to see the name “M. Cuban" pop up on our caller ID, what's our takeaway? 

Nelson: So many of my little "Shawnisms" tie together of course. I've found over and over again that by talking big — just putting even my wildest ideas out there in verbal form for others to hear and react to, has created luck. You may have to put 100 ideas out there to get one that finds soil, takes root, and leads to something, but just by SAYING things you otherwise THINK, you’re putting things out there for others to grab onto, react to, or even shoot down — which can help you revise and pivot, which is also useful. 

Put things out there. Be bold. Fortune favors the bold. 

SWL: You mentioned what you called “the most valuable insight for Lovesac that ever will be”, your dedication to DFL: “Designed for Life”, a concept rooted in sustainability and in investments not only by your company but by your customers as well (as your furniture isn't inexpensive). Your aspirational quote: “We will inspire humankind to buy better, so they can buy less.” Tell us more. 

Nelson: DFL is everything now at Lovesac. It guides all of our important decisions. It shapes our products and our business practices. I can’t believe we lived for 15 years without a real “purpose” — just trying to survive. But it is a testimony that you DON'T need to have found your “purpose” to get going. Just get going. In fact, if you read about HOW we unearthed DFL, I think it’s obvious that it required us living life and having experience and being in the world to discover a purpose that is not just motivating, but realistic and aligned. Put simply, DFL means, “products that are built to last a lifetime and designed to evolve.”  It is the “egg”. But we found it by studying why our “chicken” (our Sactionals couches) were performing so well with customers. I’m not sure we could have started with the egg, honestly. We just had to follow our best design instincts and make a product we thought was good. Then, pay attention and refine. In this day and age of “find your purpose” too many people experience analysis paralysis… Instead, just get going and be on the lookout. Compete. Survive. Pay attention! Your purpose will emerge if you want it. Now, with this “egg” we will birth hundreds of Designed-For-Life “chickens” and grow Lovesac to be very large indeed because designing this way is not just effective… it is difficult. Most won’t do it. They’ll just keep spewing out easy-to-make products with slightly better features. Our purpose guides us, and its outcome, if achieved, will be to have inspired people to buy better stuff, so they can actually buy less stuff! (A strange thing for a company that sells stuff to aspire to — but that is the truth and we’re energized by it). 

SWL: Last question — how does it feel today to have founded a company with a few close friends at the perfectly-semi-ripe age of 18, choosing the word LOVE to anchor its business name, and decades later landing a multi-million-dollar market cap business brand actually listed on NASDAQ as: LOVE. … Seems something close to the core for you? 

Nelson: If you read our story there is no other ticker symbol that would be worthy. It is a story built on grit and heart and LOVE, on the backs of SO many people who I love and care about along the way — most of whom have moved on, but I still feel so much gratitude. Our ambition is huge. Our opportunity is huge. Love is the biggest of all words and is eternal. I think we can do it. But as I share in the book, I felt as vulnerable at $70 million as I did at $7. Now at $700MM I still feel the weight of the opportunity at hand and I just don’t want to mess it up because it is so hard to get an organization to this size and have a shot at building a 100-year brand. But we will.  

Follow Shawn Nelson on social media @shawnoflovesac; his Let Me Save You 25 Years Podcast, which expounds further upon the concepts in his book, is widely available. 

The craziest [ideas] can often lead us down sideways paths to the places where the most novel ideas grow... Brainstorm. Ask people what they think. Don’t be shy. Try things on.

"I’d still give our Lovesac an A+... [it] has held up incredibly well over the last two years." 

- Bailey Berg review, Architectural Digest (2.23.2024)

  • "Principles matter. People matter. You matter. Everything else is dust." Shawn Nelson with wife Tiffany and (L-R) Duke, newborn Valentine, Lucky, and Pepper.
  • New Showroom, focused on "Designed For Life".
  • Built to last; Designed for life.
  • Nelson with Sir Richard Branson after winning $1MM on Branson's "The Rebel Billionaire".
  • Mark Cuban asked Nelson to transform his Inwood Theater; Lovesac complied.
  • In the sac on Times Square: IPO launched on Nasdaq.
  • 25 years.
  • Lovesac Team at Nasdaq launch.
  • In the beginning: Nelson and friends, sac'd out.
  • Lovesac Team.
  • Shawn Nelson with wife Tiffany in Australia.
  • Early sign: "The Alternative To Lame Furniture."
  • Vantastic early days (note Groovy van logo).