Episode 119: Dreaming of a Better World? Your Sleep Matters with Debbie Dekleva

Debbie Dekleva Team Lead at Ogallala Comfort

Show Notes:

In this episode I’m introducing you to Debbie Dekleva, the leader of the dream team at Ogallala Comfort, a luxury bedding company with a mission to lift people out of poverty and save the Monarch butterfly, and we are diving into the fascinating connection between butterflies and a good night's sleep.

Debbie shares her family's second-generation involvement in the business, and the role of milkweed in enhancing the sleeping experience. You’ll also hear how milkweed is connected to the Monarch butterfly and how Ogallala is using it to make an impact in underprivileged communities and save the Monarch butterfly. 

We talk about the importance of not just designing a beautiful bed and bedroom space, but how a great design also means a great night's sleep and how the bedding you choose can elevate your clients sleep experience tremendously. You’ll also learn what sets Ogallala’s bedding apart and what things to look for when you are sourcing bedding for your clients. 

Debbie and the team at Ogallala love to work with designers to customize bedding solutions for their clients unique needs and to make sure their bedding looks and feels luxurious, and they are known for their fairly quick turnaround times in order to accommodate designers and their project deadlines and customizations. 

Thank you for tuning into this episode! I hope that through listening to Debbie’s story you’ll learn the importance of quality bedding and design and a good night's sleep, but also how you can run your business and make an impact in the community. 


It would be very much appreciated if you would leave a rating and review wherever you listen to podcasts. It really helps to keep the show relevant, and I would love to come back to see some of your kind words. Enjoy this fall weather, and take some breathing time for yourself too!


Meet our guest Debbie Dekleva: 

Debbie Dekleva is the CEO and Milkweed Maverick of Monarch Flyway, the longest running milkweed business in history. Second generation milkweed entrepreneur, she worked as an apprentice under her visionary and patent attorney father, learning about milkweed, its uses, the monarch butterfly, biodiversity and how to work with nature rather than against it.

Debbie works with rural communities to implement UNTAMED AG utilizing the renewable, natural resource of milkweed and other native plants already growing in their area.

You can learn more about Debbie and her work here: www.monarchflyway.com

About Michelle: 

Michelle Lynne began her interior design career after spending more than two decades working in Corporate America. She began in the home staging arena and has since built a successful, award-winning, full-service interior design firm, employing talented designers and serving clients across the country.

In the summer of 2018, Michelle began focusing on a big gap she saw missing in the interior design industry: teaching interior designers how to run the business of an interior design business. She now engages in private coaching and leads an in-depth, 12-month group coaching program, both options focus on teaching designers profitable processes, systems, strategies, and mindset needed to run a streamlined, profitable interior design firm.

Her motto is simple: we rise by lifting others.


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A Podcast Launch Bestie production


Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast designed for the creative mind. I'm happy to introduce you to Debbie Dekleva today. She leads the dream team at Ogallala Comfort, which is a luxury [00:01:00] bedding company with an underlying social and environmental mission to lift people out of poverty. And save the Monarch butterfly while clients sleep.

So Debbie, thanks for being here. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this because butterflies and sleep are just things dreams are literally made of. Exactly. Thank you so much for having me, Michelle. Absolutely. I think our audience is going to find this very interesting , because we all love talking about luxury bedding.

I mean a cozy night's sleep is key. What's your background, Debbie? How did you get into luxury bedding? It's really interesting. I actually am the second generation of this business. It is a family business and we're a company that really focuses on milkweed, which is, What helps save the monarch butterfly and the milkweed piece of our down comforters and pillows actually enhance the sleeping experience of clients.

[00:02:00] So a lot of people use it when they use it, especially in warm climates. They're like, this is so hot and sweaty. I'm not enjoying this experience. And with the Ogallala, with that, milkweed in there, it's a plant fiber that's hollow and it wicks moisture away from your body. Oh, interesting. Well, I'll tell you, I'm hitting my fifties, so this is really sounding comfortable. Right? Yeah. 

 So Debbie, so basically milkweed is your secret ingredient that sets you guys from other brands. Right, the fiber itself is hollow and it wicks moisture away from your body. They actually used milkweed in World War II for life jackets because it is hydrophobic.

So that's one of the ways that it makes you more comfortable as it gets that moisture out from under your covers and into the air rather than having you be. Uncomfortably warm. That makes sense. And how does that, how does that actually help the monarch butterfly? And how did you guys figure that [00:03:00] out?

Yeah. So, my father actually purchased the milkweed company from standard oil of Ohio. So there was a lot of back research done and we knew it was a great insulator. And we knew that it worked moisture away. And so what we needed to do as a new company , 35 years ago was figure out a way to stay in business and, down comforters and pillows seem like a great luxury item that had high value and low volume, which is where we needed to be at the time.

So, yeah, so it was just like merging. Down and the milkweed fiber together actually makes it a better product than down alone or milkweed alone. So it actually is like a synergistic blend of the two materials. The best of all worlds and , for the butterfly aspect, which really intrigues me because I've just recently recognized that there are so fewer butterflies flying around right now than there were when I was a little girl, I have a [00:04:00] five year old and she was out chasing them this weekend.

And I was like, you don't see nearly as many as when I was little. Trying to play with them. How did you guys make that connection between the

milkweed and the monarch? So the monarch actually uses milkweed plants as its host plant. So it's the only, they're considered a specialist. So it's the only plant that they'll lay their eggs on.

So in order for the monarchs, , to migrate from Mexico to Canada through the United States, , they need supply of milkweed the entire route. And , protecting that milkweed because in America, we have actually eradicated a lot of the milkweed and then also the nectar sources. So milkweed is considered a flagship species.

Because people recognize them. And so when you don't see a lot of monarchs, they go, Oh, I haven't seen a lot of monarchs. But all of the insects, all of the butterflies are kind of in the same boat because we've been destroying that [00:05:00] habitat. So there really aren't nearly as many butterflies now as there was back in 1902 when I was a child.

Right, right. So your observations are spot on. They were having a crisis in the butterfly pollinator category. So are we growing more milkweed in the States? How are the butterflies making it from Mexico to Canada? Well, there's been a lot of people who are actually putting milkweed in their gardens right now because they have heard about the problem.

it's. Something where if you want to help the butterflies, you want to teach your five year old about butterflies. Milkweed is a great plant to be putting in your backyard just because. You will bring the butterflies to it. I'm going to be shopping as soon as you and I are done with this.

Halloways. com or something. It's not an ad, but we're going to be looking at a month. So one of the things in your introduction is that you also have a social and environmental [00:06:00] mission to lift people out of poverty. You're saving butterflies and you're bringing people out of poverty.

This sounds like a really strong foundation. Tell us about that part of the company. Yeah. So we work with communities that are at or below the poverty level and we monetize their milkweed. So they will actually go out and pick it like they did in World War II and we pay for it. So these communities that have a lot of underemployment, they will actually, , be, for about six weeks out of the year, very short amount of time, they can go out and pick milkweed pods, and then we bring them to Nebraska and we separate them and turn them into different products.

Oh, well, that was really cool though. It's a win-win for everybody. Where does milkweed grow? It grows along the entire United States. So any state in the United States has milkweed and also has [00:07:00] monarchs. Awesome. And designers, just hang on. I know you guys are wondering “how does this relate to interior design”, but I'm just so curious about the whole underlying mission that you guys have.

I think that's really, it's important as a business to have. A reason other than, simply profits to, to share with others, but also in order to operate. So I think that you've got a two prong approach with that and it's admirable. How do you approach the communities in order to assist lifting people that are underemployed or out of poverty?

Yeah. A lot of times actually communities reach out to us. And so they'll be people who are looking to earn extra money, and they will find us in one way or another, or heard that people pay for milkweed pods and then contact us and we go from there , usually the first collections are pretty small.

As they're like, do we really want to do this? And then there are communities that really get behind it, which,[00:08:00] , will actually bring in tourists into their area because then they have a lot of nature that they're protecting. So it also helps, not only are they getting paid for the pods, but they can,  do tours and show people where it's cool.

There's great Monarch habitat. So it's still interesting yet. And it's Well, yeah, it's full circle, huh? So how do you work with designers? Well, designers are probably our favorite clients that we work with. And the reason is that they have a lot of requests that are not normal, right? As far as producing down comforters and pillows.

So everything is made to order. , we just recently did a designer called us and said, I have a round bed and we made a round comforter. And so we made a 128 inch [00:09:00] round comforter, which is huge. If you can imagine, like it did. Oh my gosh. I'll have to send you the video that we took of it, like on our packaging table.

But , it's like these different requests that they have, which helps make you use your brain a little bit more. It's not just absolutely in and out. Using my brain to do the math. That's a 10 foot comforter. It's huge. Yeah. Yeah. Holy cow. Yeah. , so we've done that and then we've also cut corners out for four poster beds, , and had it so that.

You don't have the comforter bunching into the four coaster bed area. You just, , so we're really big into custom and our designers are the ones that really , use that. Come up with those ideas. And it's just based on needs, right, right. So if everything's made to order, is there a standard ship time So our custom is [00:10:00] made to order. Actually everything's made to order, but we have pieces that, like a king size comforter, are standard size. And a queen size comforter is a standard size. So we have pieces that are ready to go. And we ship really quickly, which is another thing that designers like when they're like, I have an install next week.

Yes. And I forgot to get a comforter and I'm not going to bed, bath and beyond. Right. Right. Because , the thing is customers come to you, clients come to you for something different and something that they can't get at Bed Bath Beyond and can't put it together. So, they're basically, when you're working in their bedroom, they're firing their bed, right?

They're firing. And because they're not comfortable, it's not just the look, it's the feel of it and it needs to feel luxurious. Exactly. And so, the down comforters and pillows that we do, , even if you were to [00:11:00] buy, say a soft pillow and you're like, , so my client is not happy with this pillow and really wanted a firm.

And we can bring that back and get it so that you are the superhero of the client, because we will make it. Whatever you want , so if you have a pillow that's too soft or too firm and you reconnect with your client, we can adjust that. So your client is thrilled. Oh, I love that idea. And just out of curiosity, how do you make a soft pillow, firm or a firm pillow soft?

Is it different content that you put in there or more? It's actually more or less. So we will use different down qualities based on the specifications. And then,, we will either put more down in it for a firmer pillow or less down in it for a softer pillow. So, yeah, all of the behind the scenes stuff that you don't really think about.

. I love that. So you guys have pillows and comforters. Is [00:12:00] that your line list or do you have more items? We also like mattress enhancers. So it's a down bed, So , we work in the high end of the market.

And so people who are wanting a luxurious bed do not want to be poked by feathers. Exactly. So there's the feather bed,  but we actually do a down bed. So it has that soft, same as what a down comforter has, but you lay on top of it instead of underneath it and get it poked. It makes, yeah, and it makes it just.

More cushiony and it's like a hug. It does feel like a hug. Perfect word. Oh, that sounds great. I'm ready for a nap right now, Debbie.

I love that. , so. If I'm a designer, our audiences are designers. What benefits would you say we bring to the client by helping them with their bedding selections? Not just the aesthetic. So as designers we [00:13:00] get, Oh yeah, we're going to make it pretty. So I'm going to choose your, what the comforter looks like or whatever, but then there's the insert that goes into it.

 It truly for me, if I was using your product, it would be not only are my clients getting the benefit and I look like a hero, but we've got the impact of bringing people out of poverty and some of those more rural communities and then saving the Monarch butterfly, like literally from extinction.

Yeah. So there are actually, On the, they're not quite on the endangered list yet, but they are looking at putting it on the endangered list. So, but the big thing is you want your bed to look, to feel as good as it looks, right? Yes. So it looks gorgeous, but if you get in there and. It doesn't feel as good as it looks.

 Like it looks great, but it feels like I'm not comfortable or I'm too, [00:14:00] my pillows aren't fitting right. Kind of like a sexy shoe. It might look really good, but it's not comfortable. You're not going to be happy with it and you're not going to want to wear it for an extended period of time.

Exactly. That is the perfect analogy, but yeah, so you want something to look great and you'll be even better because the purpose of your bed is that you can sleep well. And so a lot of times. , we've seen people that have that outside of it all looking great and then kind of chance and do go to pad bath and beyond for the inside and then it doesn't fit right and it doesn't do this and it is not great quality.

So, you know, the customer, the client, in the end, it's like, Oh, it looks so beautiful. They're not going to rave about the way it sleeps. Yeah. And that makes sense because you think about it , I didn't know that there were other options. Like before I got into this industry, I thought that was the only place you get to get comfort or that.

And there's a catalog I used to get from Amazon of course, but now as you learn [00:15:00] more, it gives better opportunities because I would go to. You know, a fancy or swanky hotel. And I'd be like, Oh, this feels like, what's the difference between this comforter and mine. And it's just different resources and better quality materials.

Right. So out of curiosity, just thinking about that, the low end inexpensive comforters.

 Compared to the high end, obviously years has the milkweed, which really separates you from the pack, but what's the difference like with some of the others in between? Is it just, I mean, are there cheaper goose geese?

They just don't feel it as much. Yeah, so all of it actually. So each piece of the down comforter, whether it's the ticking, the outer covering of it, , you want it to be sure that it's down proof. , and that's what keeps it from poking down in. Okay. So the difference between down and feathers, is down is for warmth.

For the [00:16:00] bird and feathers are for flying. So as that quill in there, that's structural and it helps it fly. The down is like the soft under the feathers. I didn't know that. Yeah. So it keeps the bird warm and then also. So the down quality is a big deal. So there's a content of like how much feather you're allowed to have in something, , and still call it down.

And some companies really , take advantage of that. It might be a little over, but that's one of the big differences is feathers are a lot less expensive than. The down piece and then so the down quality is a really big deal. , you can have down qualities that are anywhere from like 450 to 900 fill power.

So, which means it's basically if you think about it, and you kind of look at it like Eminem, so it might [00:17:00] be like a mini Eminem is that 450 500 fill power. Right. And then the plain M&M might be your 650 or, you know, and then a peanut M&M. So the down clusters get bigger and that is, will keep you warmer with less weight.

So a lot of people, they look at it and they go, well, this down comforter has 90 ounces of down in it. And I think, well, if you've got 90 ounces of down in it, I can tell you it's not good quality down. Yeah. There you go. It's just, because you need less weight as the higher end goes. It's, yeah, how we, a lot of times equate more is better.

Right. And without assistance. Yeah. And down, it's like the less you need to give that fluff or keep that warm. The better the quality. Oh, very cool. I see. I love these conversations because I always learn something new and [00:18:00] I never would have thought through the content and the quality because it makes sense.

It's like they're going to put more feathers and they can still say it's down, but you're not getting the actual benefit. Right. The down because it's, it's water. It's watered down. It's watered down. Very interesting. So this is the second generation to your family. Is that what you said earlier? Because you bought it from standard oil and needed to, what an interesting transition.

Right . Yeah. Yeah. Just thinking about that aspect of it, it's not something that I think most people find themselves inspired to get into different spaces, but it has to be filled, yeah, so , my dad was actually vice president of New Ventures at Standard Oil.

And they were initially trying to make a biofuel out of milkweed. So that kind of goes into where you know, standard oil had an interest in milkweed because it can be turned [00:19:00] into a biofuel. It's just not economical to do so. And so then they were like, okay, well, what else can you do with it? And they, and he said, I don't know, let me sleep on it.

right? . Sorry, I'm on a roll. . So , as they were looking at the fiber and the different things that it did like that moisture wicking and the warmth quality, . . We don't have enough milkweed to make a full down comforter, , that's all milkweed.

And then we learned that , when you combine milkweed and down together, it actually works better than either one of them alone. So , this is perfect. Yeah, no kidding. And how did the name Ogallala? Where did that come from? That is actually where we are located. It's Ogallala Nebraska. Oh, no kidding.

Yeah. Well that makes it easy. Yeah. And . , you know the other thing about the name Ogallala is that it is a Native American tribe. Ogallala Sioux. Mm-Hmm. and Native Americans [00:20:00] used milkweed for warmth. And , betting like hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago. So it's not a new thing to Native Americans to be able to use milkweed.

We just forgot about it. Over the years. Yeah, or discounted it until we figured it out for ourselves again. Exactly. Interesting. I love that. So it's literally come full circle. Right. Yes, it has. So do you have a trade program where you work with interior designers, or do we just give you a call and say, Hey, we need something custom.

We can do both. So, we do have a trade program where we work with interior designers and. There are a lot of jobs that need to be going and it's not a one off, , then you're a consistent customer, then you end up with better pricing than if you want one, for a job that's coming up, we can certainly accommodate that too.

But there's a loyalty factor to it, right? Yeah. That makes [00:21:00] sense from a business standpoint. Yeah. He's bringing us back, Debbie. Keep bringing us back for any of us, right? Any of our businesses, those repeat customers that they know you and they love you and nobody can design like Michelle. It's just, you have that loyalty factor and it makes their relationship more pleasant for everybody.

Absolutely. And then as designers get to know your product, we can sell it better and have that experience and so forth. So yes, I do agree. The repeat factor makes a big difference. Right. And extend it to, , let's say they love the look and they love the feel of their bedroom. Like, okay, now I need to do this room over here and I want the same, or I'm in a guest room and I need to feel swanky, right?

Or I'm going to move my bedding that I did with you a couple of years ago over to the guest room and I want new, there you go. That's another thing that a lot of our designers [00:22:00] do. So. Yeah, I can understand that completely. Oh, fun, fun, fun. Well, Debbie, I, I love the things that you're talking about and the fact that you can buy a product and not only help people, you know, lift themselves out of poverty, but, saving the Monarch butterfly is just such a unique twist to a business.

So, , I love talking about all things. Business, but I also like to have a little bit of fun. So we're going to transition this into a quick rapid fire Q and a. So hold on, put your seatbelts on, right? All right. Okay. , we'll start off easy. What was your favorite subject in school? English. If you couldn't be in the profession you're in now, what would you be doing?

I would probably be a like environmental restoration person. So that's interesting. So there's still a string between the two. That keeps you getting up in the morning. Do you have an innie belly button or an outie belly button? Innie. And what is your biggest pet peeve?

Littering. Yes. [00:23:00] No kidding. Littering. Stop it. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I don't know. I think Spider Man is pretty cool where they can like climb up all the different walls and even upside down. Right. And swing across from building to building. I think the swinging is really, that would be fun. That would be a lot of fun. Right. Oh, what would you pick for your last meal, Debbie?

I think cedar plank salmon. Oh, that does sound good. Between that, the M& Ms and a nap. This might be my favorite conversation.

Okay, if you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be? So, I just really want to get this milkweed business launched, right? I feel like this would be my milkweed maverick.  I feel like I'm setting the stage for future generations and that there are so many different uses and like, let's do this.

We can save the mother butterfly for all communities. [00:24:00] Do all the things. Oh, I love that. I think that's a hell of a legacy to live behind. Yeah. Well, on that note , thank you for being on the show today. I think our audience probably learned a heck of a lot. I hope they did. I did. , and I think they've loved everything that you've shared.

How can they connect with you? Websites, social media, all the things. Yeah. So we have OgallalaComfort. com and that is our You're down. And then, of course, you can always give us a call, um, 308 284 8403, and tell them, , heard you on Michelle's podcast, and we would love to work with you. How do I set up an account?

And Marlee's really great at walking people through it. Giving different options on, on how you can work with us. We've got a Facebook page and Instagram. We do a little bit on LinkedIn, but it's. In the beginning stages still, well, I think [00:25:00] most designers, which, you know, if you love designers, that's where we are is on the gram and Ogallala y'all it's spelled like this O G A L L A L A Ogallala.


 I will make sure that all of those details are in the show notes. So, you guys can all find them and again, Debbie, thank you for being here and designers for those of you who can benefit from even more resources surrounding the business of running your interior design business.

You can check out our paid program. It's called the interior design business bakery. We have a. Free Facebook group where I go live once a week. And that's called the interior designers business launchpad. And also if y'all wouldn't mind, I could really use some reviews for the podcast. It helps keep us relevant and I would be very indebted.

For any of you who would just drop a thumbs up or five stars or whatever the rating system is, wherever you listen to the podcast. So thank you very much [00:26:00] until next time. And Debbie, thank you again for being here. Thank you, Michelle. This was really a fun conversation. Oh yeah. We try to keep it fun over here.

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