How These 2 Friends Disrupted the World of Bedding While Beating the Odds of Success
How to be part of the 35 percent of startup partnerships that succeed.
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Beantown Bedding co-founders Kirsten Lambert and Joan Ripple are on a mission to help the world live laundry-free. Like many first-time founders, the friends had no previous startup experience and held not desire to start a business.
"Ironically, neither of us had any intention of starting a business. We simply saw a need for a product that didn't exist and decided to find a solution," says Ripple. The founders joined the Disrupters Unite! Facebook Live March 2, 2018 episode on Entrepreneur Magazine's Women Entrepreneur page to talk about growing a business while growing a friendship. Lambert and Ripple identified five key factors that enabled them to go from solving a challenge for their college kids into a thriving high-growth startup.
1. Solve your own problem.
The friends-turned-business-partners met when their high school teens began dating. Almost a year and countless dog walks later, the founders unwittingly began a journey toward creating a viable business. Soon after their kids left for college, Lambert and Ripple were surprised to find out that a full course load meant making trade-offs on time-consuming tasks; laundering sheets fell to the bottom of the priority list.
After months of researching disposable, economical and eco-friendly sheets that did not compromise comfort and quality for convenience. There were none to be found. A few years later, Beantown Bedding is now a business-to-business player in the wholesale college, large events, conferences, camps markets and has entered the retail industry, selling through Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
2. Start in stealth mode.
For over a year, Lambert and Ripple intentionally did not share their idea for Beantown Bedding with anyone other than their immediate families. This allowed them to be laser-focused on gathering as much information as they could about the market, customers, competitive landscape, products and pricing.
"We interviewed everyone who would talk to us: textile industry experts, entrepreneurs and business owners. We read articles, attended events and held focus groups with college students, and parents of college students, around the country," says Lambert.
The founders used their well-researched insights to create a solid business plan from which to launch in an industry that they had not known a year prior. "Priorities were to get the product developed and establish a supply chain and distribution channel for it so we could roll it out nationally right from the start," says Lambert.
3. Make your working partnership and personal friendship a priority.
Co-founder and management team issues account for over 65 percent of business failures. Although the response from friends and family has been mostly positive, there have been a few vocal naysayers who warned about putting too much trust into someone else's hands.
"Since then, mutual trust and respect have formed the backbone of our partnership," says Ripple. The secret sauce to the partnership's strength lay in the understanding that there is no business without intentional behavior based on the right partnership culture.
During good times and bad, learning to compromise for the good of the company and the good of the friendship is a muscle the founders intentionally practice. "Mutual trust and respect have formed the backbone of our partnership," says Ripple.
4. Find the yin to your yang.
The founders each have business backgrounds, one in management consulting and the other in consumer research. Bonded by the vision to disrupt the disposable bedding industry, the founders were mindful of playing to their individual strengths and areas of interest as part of their partnership modus operandi. "Our working relationship has always been so positive because we have always been able to balance each other," says Ripple.
That balance mindset has held true as the business has grown and the leaders have refined their roles in order to scale the business. "Eventually we began to specialize based on our skill sets and interests. Joan is operationally focused and I'm more strategically focused," says Lambert.
5. Leverage your local startup ecosystem.
Once the startup was formed, Lambert and Ripple found help in their local entrepreneur ecosystem. They applied for and were selected to part of the Boston chapter of MassChallenge, a four-month global accelerator. Through building the founders' social capital, exposure and experience, the founders were able to create a big vision for a business and not be pigeon-holed into one product idea. "MassChallenge really helped us understand what disruptive impact could be beyond what we originally envisioned," says Ripple.
With a laser focus on building the company's brand recognition and worth, the founders rolled up their sleeves and became their own PR agency. The founders received a lot of publicity through national channels such as The View, Today Show, HSN, and the Primetime Emmys.
The partners are now focused on their next strategic objective by strengthening their supply chain and carving out a solid footprint in other industry verticals. "Our end goal it to find the right partner to take our business to the next level," says Ripple. Every startup starts with an idea and continues to thrive through specific goals, innovation, focus and prioritization and grit. Lambert and Ripple are well on their way.