July 01, 2024 5 min read

Q & A with Founder, Aaron Ambuske

To kickoff HEST’s five year anniversary we sat down with Founder and CEO, Aaron Ambuske to learn more about his journey to bringing HEST to life.

How did the concept/idea of HEST come to you?

HEST was born out of a personal pain point while I was packing for a float trip on the John Day River in Oregon.  I found myself dreading the idea of coming home tired because I knew I'd have a terrible night's sleep on an unreliable and uncomfortable air mattress. That experience sparked a curiosity in me. As someone with a background in product design, I began researching what we experience in our home beds and quickly realized that the features we take for granted—temperature regulation, point relief, and alignment—were sorely lacking in air mattresses in the outdoor industry.  

I delved into the world of poly foams, exploring their properties and how they could be packaged efficiently for portability. This led me to experiment with creating prototypes that addressed these fundamental sleep needs. The journey was fueled by a personal quest to sleep better, and it ultimately evolved into a business aimed at providing others with the same comfort and support I was seeking.

Tell us about the first prototype and how it evolved into the first product you launched? 

Our journey towards developing the first product, our Sleep System, was an exciting exploration into finding the perfect balance of comfort, support and portability for outdoor enthusiasts like ourselves. We started by experimenting with various types of poly foams, meticulously testing each one for its ability to provide body alignment and pressure relief while still being portable enough for camping adventures. 

As we honed in on the foam component, we simultaneously brainstormed innovative platforms for the foam to always have a stable base. We came up with the dropstitch base,  

Our attention to detail extended to the selection of fabrics and how all the features integrated. Additionally, we developed a specialized bag to transport the Sleep System, meticulously designing it to hold not only the sleep system itself but also the pump needed for inflation, providing a seamless and hassle-free experience for our customers from setup to storage.

Has your initial vision for HEST evolved since it started? How? 

At HEST, our mission has always been rooted in bringing the comforts of home to the great outdoors. Our name, derived from Hestia—the Greek goddess of hearth and home—reflects our commitment to creating products that foster a sense of comfort and security, even in the most rugged of environments. 

We firmly believe that better sleep leads to better days filled with more activities and adventures. This philosophy drives us to continuously innovate and refine our products to ensure they not only provide unparalleled comfort but also enhance our customers' outdoor experiences. 

Reflecting on our journey, we recall the days of car camping before the pandemic and the explosion of overlanding's popularity. Back then, the concept of driving to a campsite wasn't as evolved as it is today. We are proud to say that we were at the forefront of this movement, pioneering the idea of combining comfort and convenience for outdoor enthusiasts who crave the freedom of exploration without sacrificing the comforts of home.

What are the top milestones for HEST in the last five years? 

  • Launching with REI in 2020
  • Launching the Pillow on Kickstarter and learning from our customers that we can continue to develop additional products for them to sleep better in the outdoors 
  • Pulling off the first-ever HESTIVAL in 2022

What do you consider to be the most significant impact HEST has had on its customers/community? 

The most significant impact our brand has is the transformation of outdoor experiences through better sleep. It's incredibly rewarding to hear from customers who return to camping because of HEST, knowing that we've played a role in reconnecting them with the outdoors. It's about creating a sense of positive anticipation for sleeping outdoors after a day filled with adventure, all thanks to the comfort and support our products provide.

What role has feedback from customers played in shaping your products and brand? 

Customer feedback is undeniably our guiding force. We place immense value on the insights provided by our customers. A pivotal moment occurred during our first photo shoots in March of 2019 when customers suggested a double version of the Sleep System, leading to the development of the Dually. Similarly, feedback expressing dissatisfaction with traditional sleeping bags inspired us to create the Comforter. Even now, we continue to develop products based on ongoing feedback from our customers, ensuring that their experiences and preferences shape the evolution of our brand.

Can you share any memorable experiences in the last 5 years that looking back has impacted your business?

The pandemic unexpectedly became a tailwind for our business, as more individuals sought solace in outdoor activities like camping when other options were limited. It provided us with a unique opportunity to introduce our brand and products to those new to camping. Witnessing people continue to engage in outdoor adventures even after the pandemic has been immensely gratifying, highlighting the lasting impact  the experience and our brand has on them. 

What are some of the most significant trends you foresee shaping your industry in the next 5 years, and how do you plan to adapt to them?

There are a few growing trends including the recognition of the influence of sleep on health and wellness. We plan to develop more products aimed at enhancing people's sleep experiences, aligning with their health and wellness goals. 

Secondly, sustainability will remain a crucial consideration for us. We are committed to maintaining thoughtfulness in our products, designs, and supply chains, prioritizing choices that benefit future generations. 

Lastly, the trend of spending time outdoors and disconnecting from technology is expected to continue. As people increasingly seek a balance between technology and nature, camping and outdoor activities will serve as antidotes to modern-day distractions. 

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the next 5 years?

We want to keep growing, building our team and positively impacting our community.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out, what would it be?

If you are going to create something from scratch, make sure it’s something meaningful for you because it is a really difficult endeavor and it’s important to find satisfaction in your pursuit to endure the difficulties along the way.


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