Meet the Brands: Obasan Organic – A Man and His Mattresses
Jean Corriveau is passionate about helping people get good quality, restorative sleep on the mattresses he produces. Quality organic materials, ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and helping people enjoy optimal health are all essential to the Obasan brand. What follows is the story of a family-owned business that grew from a neighborly friendship!
It all started with a summer job-
When Jean was around nine years old, a neighbor was selling mattresses door-to-door. His family formed a relationship with that neighbor – a relationship that would prove to be very important in Jean’s life.
The mattress salesman moved to Quebec and opened his own mattress factory in 1970. As Jean’s parents continued their friendship with him, he offered Jean a summer job when he was 16 years old. Jean loved it and worked there for six summers, living with the factory owner’s family, and getting to know selling, accounting, and suppliers. He found that he was very successful at selling.
Jean moved to Ottawa for university. As he progressed through university, he grew to be bi-lingual. As Jean says – during this time, he learned to speak English and learned to make mattresses! When he graduated, he noticed that there was no one doing that kind of mattress business near Ottawa. So he started a small-scale factory to make mattresses, which at this time were made from foam, springs, and not necessarily organic materials
The transition to organic mattresses in the 1990s
In the 1990s, Jean began meeting people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and he wanted to make a mattress they could use. He was still making regular mattresses but would sell two or three each month of the chemical-free mattresses. A customer helped him find certified organic cotton. Jean researched various types of equipment that would work well with natural materials as opposed to synthetic. To do this, he needed to find old equipment from years ago when mattresses were made from materials like cotton and wool.
Jean started researching and traveling in Europe; he found they were way ahead in terms of using natural materials – natural rubber, wool, organic cotton. So he learned from them the best ways of sourcing and working with these pure materials.
A New Century – All Organic!
In 2000 Jean started making mattresses out of of rubber. Finally, in 2002 – he let go of everything synthetic and pursued acquiring the best quality of all-natural materials.
He looked for purity, but also for superior comfort. At first, he was making organic mattresses under the Green Sleep brand. But since 2009, he has constructed only Obasan and private label mattresses (what was formerly known as Oyasumi on our web site).
Working with organic rubber allowed Jean to start doing much more with customization. He made mattresses taking into account sleeping position, body shape, and weight distribution, as well as alignment of the spine. His goal was to help each customer to get deep sleep and REM sleep. When your mattress is proper, then you can breathe properly and have support in your chosen sleeping position – all of which leads to good health! Natural materials absorb moisture so sleep is more comfortable, and there is no off-gassing of chemicals to impact health.
Our bodies change over time – through pregnancy, aging, or other factors. Latex mattresses can be readjusted as you age, during pregnancy, or as your needs change over time. The layers are encased in a zippered cover so that they can be switched out as needed. During the 15 years or more that you own a mattress, you may need to swap out a layer in order for the mattress to meet your needs.
As Jean searched for natural materials, produced in the most humane way, he traveled around the world and over time developed friendships with those who produced materials for his mattresses.
Only the best and most ethical organic materials
Jean loves raw, natural materials and has traveled the world extensively to find the best quality materials in the world. He also has a passion for farms and factories that treat both workers and the animals well. He has traveled to Sri Lanka every couple of years, since 2007, and has found that the best rubber is there and that it is molded on the same day it is harvested, eliminating the need for chemicals that prevent destabilization.
Seeking the best wool, he traveled all the way to Argentina. No herbicides are used on the vegetation there and sheep are treated humanely. Because of the harsh climate, the sheep produce coarse wool that is resilient and springy and insulates well. Jean has visited there several times and is friends with some of the shepherds that take care of the sheep that produce wool for Obasan’s mattresses and comforters.
Wood is sourced in Canada and is only FSC wood. FSC — Forestry Stewardship Council — is an international certification and labeling system dedicated to responsibly managing the world’s forests in a way that is environmentally appropriate and socially beneficial.
A family-owned business with high standards of craftsmanship
Along with the workers and animals being treated well, Jean treats his workers very well. Obasan’s organic mattresses are made in Canada – he does not outsource his work to cut costs, so his workers have wonderful job security. Some of the people who have been working there have been there for 20 years as it is a family-owned business and very family-oriented.
Craftsmanship is very important to them. It takes 15 people to handcraft an Obasan mattress.
Their values are very important to their family-owned company: high quality, organic materials. They look for the humane treatment of animals and fair treatment of workers both in his plant and in the places where he sources his materials. Customization of mattresses to help people be able to sleep well and pursue good health. They strive for efficient production while also honoring the craftsmanship that is needed. Their business has grown and they also offer comforters, toppers, and pillows to completely serve individuals and families.
This is an amazing story of a company that began due to the personality, kindness, charisma, and helpfulness of a neighbor. And the neighbor that started it all with his friendship with Jean? He is now in his 70’s and Jean still keeps in touch with him.