Having a degree in business can give you a nice advantage when starting a company, as can previous business experience. But two women prove that those aren’t requirements for creating a business that succeeds. For them it was a selling idea, the grit to keep it going and confidence in themselves that launched their business from a small, side hobby to a multi-million dollar company.
Betsy Mikesell and Angie White founded Beddy’s, a company that manufactures stylish, one-piece zipper bedding. Only a few short years after their initial launch, Beddy’s has made quite a name for themselves. They were recognized recently as an Emerging Elite Company at Utah’s Top 100. The award recognized businesses in the state with 2-5 years of operation that, “show significant promise for future growth and success.” Beddy’s has also been featured on the CNBC show, “West Texas Investors Club.”
What’s incredible about these achievements is that Betsy and Angie have done all of this with no business expertise. But they’ve shown it takes more than business know-how to start a company that makes millions.
In an exclusive interview, Beddy’s cofounders shared with us their recipe for success, complete with some failures mixed in along the way.
Beddy’s Basics to Starting a Business
Before becoming entrepreneurs, Betsy worked as a hairdresser while Angie was a stay-at-home mom getting ready to go back to college. As mothers with busy schedules, they knew that every second mattered, especially when cleaning up the house.
Betsy told us that the idea for Beddy’s came when her twin boys couldn’t make their bunk beds quickly in the mornings. Angie, too, felt the frustration of making bunk beds, eventually getting rid of her bunk beds altogether. Every morning Betsy and Angie went running together, sharing ideas, commenting on what they found annoying and asking, “why hasn’t anyone fixed this problem?”
Betsy searched for a solution to the bunk bed dilemma, but found nothing. So she decided to make her own solution. Drawing up a basic design, with help sewing it from her mom, Betsy created the first prototype for what would one day become Beddy’s signature product: zip-up bedding.
Excited at her design and the potential to sell it, Betsy went back to Angie and asked if she wanted to start a business together. They knew that if this was a product they both wanted, others must want it, too.
Creating the Product and Building Capital
Like most businesses, Beddy’s big break didn’t happen right away. First, they had to come up with the perfect design. Angie said, “We were only happy when we came to a product that we would buy.”
That took a lot of patience. Betsy said that it took “years of going back and forth with manufacturing, fabrics and zippers. We went through hundreds of prototypes before we felt like we had something where we could say, “Yes! This is it.””
Once they had that product they loved, they needed to raise $250,000 to manufacture it. “Last time we checked,” Betsy said, “we didn’t have that.”
While seeking out investors, Betsy posted a video about Beddy’s on Facebook. Overnight the video had over 3,000 views. “In our minds, we thought it was viral,” Betsy said. By the weekend the video had more than 15,000 views and resulted in 3,000 new email subscribers.
Seeing the excitement and demand for their product, Betsy and Angie decided to create a KickStarter campaign. They quickly picked up around $30,000, but didn’t see many additional donations after that. Angie said, “We didn’t think it was going to fund.”
But after showcasing their product on local TV shows, that number jumped up to $70,000 in donations in one night and over $100,000 by the end of the weekend.
Within a year of launching, Beddy’s made back that $250,000 in sales. The following year they made $1.8 million dollars and another $3.4 million the next year. And this was without paid advertisements, which they only started using this year. Today Beddy’s sells most of their bedding online, but also have branched out to sell in a few retail stores.
Not All Fun and Games
Despite the successes, Betsy and Angie quickly learned that some days are harder than others when you start a business.
Their first 3-4 years in business, neither women made any personal income. Betsy said, “When you make that money, you actually just put it all back in to make more products.” To keep up with growing customer demand, they couldn't afford to pay themselves.
To get by, Betsy continued working full-time as a hairdresser. Both women took out car loans, second mortgages on their homes and spent up their savings. On top of this Angie’s husband, Greg, lost his job.
But even roadblocks can turn into opportunities. Greg along with Betsy’s husband, Gentry, started handling shipping and fulfillment for Beddy’s. This move saved the company more money, allowing Beddy’s to “grow more and quicker.”
“Had Greg kept working at his job with all these great benefits,” Betsy said, “he wouldn’t have quit to make hardly nothing doing this.” Now if money is tight, Betsy, Angie, Greg and Gentry all forego their salaries for the month and pay everyone else first, something that wouldn’t be possible if they hired another shipping company.
Besides financial concerns, Betsy and Angie also have to push past negative criticism toward Beddy's and even towards themselves. Betsy said that, “If one customer is disappointed it kills us. It eats at us.” Angie said that what makes the negative responses harder to move past is that, “we know what we put into it.” Not everyone sees what Betsy and Angie sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for the business that they love.
The uncertainty, stresses and pressure of running a business is “draining,” as Angie described it, to a degree neither expected until they were in the thick of things.
Yet they continue on. Betsy’s mom told from her from Beddy's earliest days and on, “Don’t give up on this. It’s going to be hard, but don’t give up.” These words still keep Betsy and Angie moving forward. They haven’t given up and they don’t plan to.
Stresses still come and go, but Betsy said, “It’s night and day different from what it was a year ago.” After hiring more employees and earning more revenue, Angie feels like she and Betsy they can “focus on the big picture.” Betsy agrees that they can, “Work on the best business rather than in the business.”
Their Advice for You
We don’t always hear the full story when we hear about successful entrepreneurs. But Betsy and Angie authentically shared the ups and downs to creating a business and what’s helped them.
On Not Knowing What You’re Doing
Angie and Betsy both admit, “We were very naïve,” when they first started. But not being experts in business never stopped them from creating something extraordinary.
One funny experience Angie shared was when she received a call about a shipment, asking about who was their customs broker. Like a true professional Angie said, “Let me get right back to you,” then proceeded to Google, “What’s a customs broker?”
Similar situations have happened countless times. Betsy said, “We don’t have a degree in a business, we don’t know what we’re doing. But I feel like we are willing to work harder than anyone else.” That hard work carried Betsy and Angie through to see Beddy’s success. It can do the same for you.
On Having Your Friend as Your Business Partner
Not every entrepreneur can start a business with their friend and come out on good terms. But for Betsy and Angie, they needed each other.
Angie noted that she and Betsy are “so different, but we’re on the same path and we have the same goals.” Together they balance out ideas to make them a reality. Betsy usually comes up with new ideas while Angie “gets her thoughts on paper.”
In the same way, they provide help and support when the other is struggling. They understand that not everyone wants to or can run a business with someone else, but they feel lucky that they do.
Betsy thinks that one key element to making their business partnership work is that they trust each other. Without that trust, some risks wouldn’t have been taken to make Beddy’s what it is today.
“FIND A BUSINESS PARTNER OR SOMEONE YOU CAN GO TO WHEN YOU’RE LOW. LOOK FOR THE RESOURCES AROUND YOU BECAUSE THEY’RE OUT THERE. IT WILL HELP.” – ANGIE WHITE
On Raising Kids while Running a Business
Betsy and Angie continue to sacrifice a lot to make Beddy’s a success. They give up vacation time, relaxing on the weekends and time with their children to keep the company running. Some nights they have to focus all their attention on their business. As a mother, or for any parent, that can be a real challenge.
But remember what you are giving your kids. As Betsy said, “Our kids see how much work has gone into our business and they appreciate that.” Angie added, “They’ve seen us work hard and watched us build a business that was nothing to what it is. And that’s a good example to them.”
You may not see it now, but the example of hard work you are setting for your children will inspire them to fulfill their own dreams. Angie told us, “I have three daughters and they tell us frequently that they’re so proud of us.” Ask yourself what legacy you will leave for your children on the days when you want to give up.
“PART OF BUSINESS IS HAVING CONFIDENCE IN WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND SAYING.” – BETSY MIKESELL
On Failure and Making it Work
Betsy and Angie also honestly admit that they’ve made several mistakes. But they are beginning to learn how to accept those failures.
What helped was when they brought on an investor two years back. They thought the best benefit of this investor was the money he brought the company that they desperately needed. But it turns out, he brought with him a lot more than that.
Betsy said, “Not only did he give us more money to make more products, but he gave us more confidence.” Where Betsy and Angie were hesitant to pitch Beddy’s to big-name stores like R.C. Wiley, this investor told them to go for it. Angie pointed out that she’s “not one to take risks,” but taking risks like that helped Beddy’s to get past a point of high stress.
Angie compared this moment in their business to climbing a mountain. She and Betsy were struggling to reach the peak when their efforts would pay off and they could begin to pay themselves. That’s when their investor told them, “It’s just money.”
This was a huge mindset shift for Betsy and Angie, one very difficult to adopt, especially when they were risking their homes, their cars and their family’s livelihood on their business working.
And yet, “He was right,” Angie said. What amazed her was, “He wasn’t afraid of failure. He could see the peak where it would get easier.” They, on the other hand, couldn’t see that peak yet. But when they trusted in the security he saw and took more risks, they finally reached the peak.
Believe you Can
Sometimes you need someone to believe in you, especially on days when you hardly believe in yourself. Betsy’s mom did that for Betsy and Angie. So did this investor, their husbands, their supportive staff and more. Angie rightly said that “everyone needs to hear that they’re not crazy in doing what they’re doing.”
But you also need to remember that “you can’t focus on the failure,” as Betsy pointed out. Expect to fail over and over again. Then use your mistakes to make your business something better than it ever was before.
Betsy and Angie didn’t know what they would create when they founded Beddy’s. They didn’t see the peak. But they kept on climbing. And so should you.