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University of Iowa News Release

Release: Feb.21, 2003

Minnesota Mattress Entrepreneur to Speak Feb. 28

Robert Walker, who invented and successfully marketed the top-selling "Sleep Number Bed," will speak Friday, Feb. 28 as part of the Sandage Entrepreneurial Speakers Series hosted by University of Iowa's John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC).

Walker's luncheon presentation is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room S401, the Tenneco Colloquium of the John Pappajohn Business Building.

Walker is a well-known inventor and entrepreneur in Minnesota. In 1987, he founded Select Comfort Corporation, the national maker/marketer of the "The Sleep Number Bed," an adjustable comfort air mattress system that he invented. From its modest start, Select Comfort has grown to a company with more than 320 wholly-owned stores and more than 1,300 employees.

Last year, with annual sales of more than $250 million, Select Comfort sold its 1 millionth mattress system. Furniture/Today Magazine ranked the company as the No. 1 mattress retailer and the 27th largest furniture industry manufacturer in the United States. Walker retired as chairman and CEO of Select Comfort several years ago, but he is still an active mentor and advisor to current management.

Walker is currently president and CEO of Bixby Energy Systems, a maker of high tech biomass furnace systems and biomass fuel pellets located in Rogers, Minn. Although the company is less than two years old, Bixby is expected to have sales at the end of its second year approaching $10 million.

The UI JPEC hosts the Sandage Speaker Series Luncheons throughout the academic year. This event is sponsored by the I-Envision: Iowa Entrepreneurial Network (the UI student entrepreneur group) and the Sandage Charitable Trust. Charles Sandage earned three degrees from the UI and was a successful entrepreneur. The Sandage Trust supports research and programs in marketing, business, and economics with an emphasis on free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

This event is free and open to anyone who wants to learn more about building a successful business. For more information, contact Dawn Bowlus at (319) 335-0985 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

PROGRAM CONTACT: Dawn Bowlus at UI JPEC, (319) 335-0985 or
MEDIA CONTACT: George McCrory, University of Iowa News Services (319) 384-0012,

OTHER INFORMATION: See for more entrepreneurial resources available through JPEC.