Every startup has a story, and entrepreneurs who share their stories help inspire other ventures. The story of Bob the Pillow is a classic tale of an idea and the challenge of bringing that idea to life.
We recently sat down and spoke to Matthew Burwick, co-founder of Bob the Pillow, to hear all about what it takes to scale a startup and bring an idea to fruition.
1. Why is trying to start a business worth it?
As anyone who has attempted to start a business knows, it can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. It can also be one of the most challenging. However, for better or worse, it will be one of the most educational experiences of your life.
I had the genius idea to attempt to start a business during a global pandemic. While trying to build a business, you will run into 100 things that will go wrong when you least expect it. Trying to build a business during a difficult economic time adds its own element of unknown factors.
At the end of the day, the education you receive from trying to start and scale a business during a strong or tough economic time will make it all that much easier if you are fortunate enough to do it again. The value of the attempt comes in the form of knowledge gained in the failures and the sense of pride in the successes.
2. Is it really that hard to start a business? Explain why or why not.
People might think this is an easy question, but it really isn’t. There are elements to starting a business that are far easier than they should be; on the other hand, there are elements to starting a business that you would think would be easy but are, in actuality, extremely difficult.
With no law experience at all, I was able to set up a legal corporation in about 10 minutes using resources on the Internet. However, even with an extensive financial background, figuring out how to properly collect and/or pay all the different types of taxes, duties, and tariffs involved made me feel like a fish out of water.
If I could recommend anything here, I would say to use the resources available on the Internet to get as much done as possible on your own. When you hit roadblocks, head back to the Internet, and seek out experts in that field. As an entrepreneur, a wealth of resources and information is available to you. You just have to know where to look.
3. How stressful is it to start a business?
I would say the stress is based on the type of business that you’re trying to start. In my example, there were no deadlines to meet or investors to keep happy, as it was a single idea that I hoped to produce one day. But as time passed and expectations began to grow, the stress started to build. As with most things in life, low expectations equal low stress and high expectations equal a higher level of stress.
4. How long does it take to start a new business?
The act of starting a business is rather quick. It’s the act of successfully executing your business plan which will take time. Although your business is your baby, and will consume all the focus and free time you have, that isn’t the case for those you will rely on as you build your business. It is imperative to stay patient with anyone who is working on and/or in your startup.
In the beginning, I had expected to go from idea to operation in approximately six months. That would be the scenario in a perfect world. In reality, you can just about double — if not triple — any original timelines. I expected my business to be producing products within six to nine months, but it ended up being approximately 26 months from idea to first product delivery.
5. What’s the hardest part of starting a business? Explain why and how this obstacle can get in your way.
The hardest part of starting a business, especially in an industry you have never been part of, is discovering worlds you didn’t know existed. These unfamiliar worlds become an integral part of your business.
For my business, the most challenging part was the logistics of producing a product in a foreign country and importing it to the United States. Although one may think it would be easy to place an order for a product and have it shipped to the United States, there are about 20 steps involved throughout the process. Everything from getting the product packaged, labeled, weighed, and appropriately measured to getting it to the exporting port. Then, you must get it overseas, correctly imported, pay the necessary taxes, and then move the product to a warehouse. Logistics brings its own set of obstacles.
6. How does one overcome those obstacles?
A hefty dose of patience. Producing a product overseas and importing it proved to be the most patience-testing experience of my entire life. Every step along the way took at least double the expected time.
Additionally, as I had mentioned earlier, to many people along the way, your business is just a drop in the bucket for them. We always found ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. To overcome this, I would check in frequently with all players. When my back was against a wall, I fired two companies that I felt were not acting in our best interest and replaced them. This decision resulted in future delays, but in both cases, much higher quality end results.
About the Author: Amanda Reseburg is a staff writer with Otter PR and has been a freelance journalist since 2016, with work featured in Scary Mommy and the Beloit Daily News. She was a creative entrepreneur for 13 years and founded her own hospice photography volunteer program, profiled by PBS. She lives in Orlando with her husband and three children.