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Jason Berke

Jason Berke followed an unconventional career path to becoming an entrepreneur and CEO of his Madison Heights based company, Hit Notion. The company offers a variety of items, including sleep and support products for the millions of people with sleep issues or those who simply seek comfort and support while relaxing.

Growing up in Bloomfield Hills, Berke fondly remembers his childhood. “I was born in the '70s and grew up in the '80s, which meant I rode my bike all day and made my way home for dinner. It was a time when kids were not tethered. It was wonderful.”

He attended Andover High School for a year, and then transferred to The Darrow School, a boarding school in upstate New York near the borders of Massachusetts and Vermont. “At Andover I was hanging out with older kids – the wrong crowd. At Darrow, there was a real sense of community, small class sizes of five rather than 30 kids. It was a good move for me in many ways...We had trimesters, and I was often able to snowboard on early days.”

Berke returned to his home state to attend Michigan State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and computer science. During his college years, he was able to experience a half-year in England at London School of Economics and Political Science and had an internship with Reuters, an international news agency.

According to Berke, following graduation, he moved to Chicago, where he worked in system engineering and web development before landing a job in the mid-1990s as a multimedia specialist for Playboy Enterprises.

“My job involved programming and keeping visitors to the website engaged. I produced videos and did a lot of traveling in the U.S. and internationally.”

After leaving Playboy over two decades ago, Berke began his distinctive journey as an entrepreneur by becoming a spammer for several years. “At that time, there were no laws. Today it is illegal. I’d send hundreds of thousands of emails a day...and eventually had my life threatened, so it was time for something different.”

That “something different” turned out to be developing consumer products with his father, a retired neurosurgeon, and a move back to Michigan where warehousing costs were more affordable.

"One of the first products we created was the Boyfriend Pillow – a one armed man and chest in a dress shirt. It started out as a gag gift, like something you would see at Spencer’s and ended up on the TV show ‘Glee,’ and became really popular. We followed it up with the Husband Pillow, which is a comfortable backrest pillow that has been very successful,” he explained. “Over the past 15 years, we learned from customers what they like...In our evolution of pillows, we most recently launched the Wife Pillow, which keeps selling out – it has five zipper pockets and is completely adjustable.”

The company plans to increase their innovative product offering with mattresses and mattress toppers which are “in the works,” according to Berke.

The Bloomfield Hills resident enjoys life with his wife, Stephanie, eight-year-old son, and two stepchildren. “I like being active and happy. I’m a foodie and enjoy all the great restaurants in Michigan. We love the lakes in Michigan and traveling in early spring and winter.”

When it comes to advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Berke offers up some well-earned wisdom: “Make sacrifices. Focus. Utilize the 80/20 rule in business [80 percent of outcomes come from 20 percent of causes] and focus on the products that consumers want and that make most of your profit. Don’t try to chase shiny objects – you can’t do everything.

“Focus in and solve a problem.”

Story: Tracy Donohue

Photo: Laurie Tennent


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