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Why This Headphone Maker Wishes it Had Never Done Retail

When a sales plan was all wrong, the company had to pivot.

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This story appears in the April 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

This July, thousands of LSTN noise-cancelling headphones will roll out in Delta’s business-class cabins. (Note to fliers: You’re not supposed to take them home.) The partnership is a coup for any entrepreneur, but especially so for co-founders Joe Huff and Bridget Hilton. It’s the result of them rethinking their business -- and abandoning everything they thought they knew about how to sell headphones.

Max Fronek

When they launched their West Hollywood, Calif.-based audio company in 2012, they thought retail was the surefire route to customers. “We figured, naively, that it was the only true way to scale,” says Hilton. Their first deal was with Whole Foods, even though most of its stores had never sold headphones. (“It was a mess,” Hilton says.) They hustled, went on the Today Show and Good Morning America, and landed Best Buy and Nordstrom, plus others.

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