As the world begins to return to normality following the effects of the recent Covid-19 Pandemic, many companies are following the transition phase to follow suit, trying to recover from the impact of the last 12 months.
James Leinhardt, founder of Levitex, a leading pillow and mattress company whose core focus is around sleep posture and recovery, has faced the challenges of the pandemic in lots of different ways and here he opens up about how this has impacted his business and his plans moving forwards.
The calm before the pandemic
As we advance into a post-lockdown world, businesses are continuing to tackle the impacts Covid-19 has inflicted. Specifically, start-ups and smaller companies have felt the effects most drastically, trying to fight against the knock-on effects of the restrictions, which have ultimately forced many to close for good.
James Leinhardt encountered these difficulties early in the life of his business after setting up his company Levitex in 2019, just before the pandemic hit. To secure funding at the time of launch, James led a Kickstarter campaign, with the business smashing its target within a matter of days. International support and backing helped James oversee one of the most successful campaigns in the site’s history, finishing more than 330% over target.
But then 2020 came and the challenges of a worldwide pandemic had to be met head on. James and the Levitex team have been able to navigate the storm of Covid, but it’s not been plain sailing. The team had to pull together to face each wave of infections, but from this the company culture has developed massively, uniting the Levitex family further through tough times.
Becoming a fighter against Covid-19
The company was still largely in its infancy when Covid struck leaving James with two options; sink or swim. Rather than seeing the pandemic’s restrictions as a hindrance, James used it as an opportunity to give back to the community in a time when people needed it the most.
In partnership with sister company Posture Care, Levitex developed and created a unique device that helps Covid patients breathe and sleep more easily. This was deployed earlier this year at Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire, delivering some amazing results for patients that were critically ill.
Understanding this was a key priority amidst the current pandemic and the rising struggles for healthcare staff, the new device was being used in just 12 weeks – a remarkable timeframe when you consider that the average intervention in the NHS can take around 20 years to implement.
Dr. Ilan Lieberman, the medical director at Levitex, helped to identify the need for a pillow after he had returned to Wythenshawe Hospital to support ICU staff and giving everything to help people from the local community.
During his time on the front line, he found one of the critical interventions being used to help patients with Covid is the use of pillows to position patients in ‘prone’. He identified the benefits of proning to aid those suffering and help relieve their symptoms. This initially inspired James to donate pillows to ICU units to help, with the more bespoke pillow being created and manufactured shortly afterwards.
Working with Dr Lieberman, the Levitex team created a dedicated guide to self-proning to try and provide more education and awareness for the general public in relation to proning and the positive impact it could have on those suffering with Covid. It ranked as the number one search result on Google at the time and has been viewed thousands of time.
Instead of dwelling on the negative impacts of Covid, at every turn James has made sure he has been at the forefront of helping others.
“The reality of it is that we were facing tripling costs for shipment and the mounting pressure of meeting increasing orders at a time that was very uncertain,” said James.
“Dealing with this was testing but we could see the growth the business was starting to make and the potential for the future, so a few sacrifices had to be made along the way.
“Despite the impacts we were facing from Covid, it was key for me to give back whilst the world was facing testing times. We wanted to help the fight with Covid-19 in Intensive Care Units by donating over 200 pillows across Greater Manchester hospitals to aid patients’ recovery from the virus.
“Ilan returning to the front line to support local ICUs was also an amazing thing for him to do and it aligns with our overriding desire to help people.”
The strategy paid dividends when James’s work caught the attention of the UK’s leading bed manufacturer, Dreams, which now stocks Levitex pillows. High street retailer Next is another retailer to have taken on the Levitex range, with a deal concluded in lockdown.
A range of other household names are in touch with Levitex too, with some exciting plans in the pipeline for the next 12 months.
Going for Gold
Due to James’ history, he has always had a keen ambition to educate people around sleep posture – specifically with those whose lives are more physically demanding on their bodies.
More recently, James has teamed up with numerous Olympians and Paralympians, analysing the most effective sleeping positions to support them with their training and recovery regimes.
Levitex played a vital role in aiding sleep posture and recovery at this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with more than 80 Olympians taking their own Levitex foam pillow. It was key for James to highlight the importance of focusing on what they lie on at night and the connection between their overall health and well-being.
Collectively, the Olympians with Levitex pillows managed to bring home 16 medals. Fantastic results for the Levitex team and the real winner of the Olympic Games according to James was sleep posture.
He said: “We were really proud to be working alongside so many amazing Olympic athletes and helping them with their sleep posture during the run up to the Games.
“There are lots of important factors that contribute to elite level sport performance and preparation, but sleep continues to be the missing piece of the puzzle for so many sportspeople that come to us.
“Optimising sleep posture is the single most meaningful thing you can do, without doing much. We have all been affected in different ways during the pandemic, and our mental as well as physical health, is something many of us have forgotten to take care of.
“It was important for me to help those athletes who’ve trained non-stop to achieve their Olympic dream in any way I could, helping them understand how their sleep posture affects their everyday lives, especially during heavy training spells.
“We’re glad to have played an important role in the performance levels of the athletes competing – especially those who took home a medal!”
The entire Team GB Paralympic squad has also been equipped with Levitex pillows thanks to the partnership between Dreams and Levitex. With the tournament taking place between late August and early September, Levitex are hoping to inspire more strong performances and another medal haul for the nation.
Health and wellbeing in the workplace
Despite struggling with increasing shipping costings and keeping up with increasing demands through restrictions, James continued to innovate the business and look for opportunities to help people.
This saw him take on a series of wellbeing talks and deliver sleep consultations and webinars to help improve sleep posture and overall health at a time when everyone was working from home and needed it the most.
Some of the largest banking firms, including HSBC, NatWest, Lombard and Coutts, turned to James to deliver sleep consultations to thousands of UK staff, who were dealing with posture issues after working from make-shift home offices over the previous 12 months.
Not only has the recent pandemic affected businesses financially, but it has also put a massive strain on employees, who have had to adapt to working from home life, where most of the time their workspace has not been adapted to meet their posture needs.
“Dealing with more than a year of this pandemic and the consequences people and businesses alike have had to face, there have been hardships both mentally and physically we’ve all had to overcome,” said James.
“Blurred work-life boundaries and working from home offices became the new normal and blew our daily routines out the water and brought uncertainty into our lives.”
“My goal throughout these troubling times has been very clear – to remain positive and spread my expertise to helps others in any way possible. Running sessions centring on sleep quality, how our out-of-sync routines have affected our posture and the right interventions that can be the solution.’
A post-pandemic world
As businesses are learning to re-adapt in a post-lockdown society, it’s learning to deal with the challenges and flipping them to create a positive outcome that has set Levitex up well for the future. James is adamant that he will take what he has learned over the last 12 months and continue to adapt this into his company, which he is projecting will only continue to grow.
Reflecting on the hardships and using these problems to mould the future evolution of the brand, James believes this should be the way forward for many companies who have found the last year difficult.
James said: “We shouldn’t remain focused on the past, dwelling on the negative times will only become a hindrance – a fear of ‘what if’ this was to happen again. Instead, taking this experience and pushing forwards with how we’ve adapted, overcome challenges, and grown is the key message which I think we should all be taking away.
Sleep posture currently is very low on the healthcare agenda, with most people not considering the impacts sleeping poorly can have on their bodies. But the fantastic impacts of good sleep posture have already been proven in studies we’ve carried out with universities and other experts, but sleep posture still isn’t something everyone’s aware of. We need to put it on the map, and we won’t stop until we do.
“We’ll continue to look at the future and the opportunities it will bring, building on what I’ve learned over the last 12 months to the company’s advantage. The pandemic was an obstacle that many of us had to overcome, but it’s how we deal with these issues that will ultimately make us stronger.”