What leads a dentist to invent the "perfect pillow"? Where do you even start on that quest as an entrepreneur? And why is everyone going crazy about it? Find out in this exclusive Small Biz Spotlight interview with Dr. Dawn Jones-Sylla...
By trade, you are a dentist and own your own practice, which means we have to ask, what led you to embark on a mission to create the “perfect pillow” (where both comfort and hairstyles are concerned)?
I had always struggled with preserving my own freshly done hairstyles. I had even trained myself to sleep a certain way at night. A few years ago, while watching the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, I envisioned the solution to this lifelong struggle.
Let’s go back to the start of your business: how hard is the pillow industry to figure out and break into? Where did you start the process?
The pillow industry has not been too difficult to navigate. It was challenging sifting through all the information regarding state regulations for registration and sales tax, but we got through it. It was also very challenging to connect with a manufacturer that was willing to fabricate a uniquely-shaped pillow.
In your journey to produce the Hair Pillow, what were some of the tasks you could figure out and complete on your own, and what were some tasks you have to call on others for support in order to do them correctly?
My personality is such that I think that I can do anything. For instance, I attempted to create my own pattern for the Hair Pillow and sew it (Note: I do not have any prior training in pattern making or sewing). I soon came to the conclusion that, although I could probably do this, a trained professional could create the prototype quicker and better than I could. The same held true for submitting my patent application.
Although I have hired a patent attorney to properly submit my patent application, I have been able to successfully submit my trademark applications.
What makes your Hair Pillow different than other pillows on the market?
The obvious: It is uniquely shaped, comfortably supportive, and attractive.
The most important: It really works! (Beauty bloggers agree)
How do you balance both businesses – managing your practice in New York City with a growing product-based business? Any tips for other “dual entrepreneurs” who may be reading this?
Balance you say? Did I mention that I have a five-year-old? There have been times when I have had to sacrifice and put one business on
the back burner while I nurtured and grew the other business. I have found that in order to maintain a certain degree of balance, four things hold true:
- You must make it clear to yourself what you want to happen, or rather, clearly define your goals.
- You can’t do it by yourself: You must hire good workers to fill positions and actively delegate.
- You must put yourself on a schedule and stick to it.
- You must decide to believe that what you want to happen will happen.
I have found that simply making a decision can cause doors to open, sometimes immediately.
What – if any – have you found is different in terms of running a service business (your dental practice) as opposed to a product-based business (the hair pillow)?
There is definitely less overhead associated with my product based business. Marketing efforts for both businesses are completely different. There are patient referral services established that
dentists can sign on with and patients will come. Marketing the Hair Pillow requires me to be more creative and consistent. Marketing the Hair Pillow and completing the administrative work for my dental office is where balance sometimes gets thrown off.
What are some of your entrepreneurial dreams for the Hair Pillow – and in general?
My entrepreneurial dreams for the Hair Pillow are:
- To truly improve the quality of life for all those in pursuit of maintaining good hair and/or attaining a good night’s rest.
- To have the Hair Pillow featured as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things and in other major media.
- To have the Hair Pillow endorsed somehow by a major influencer.
- To have strong online sales every month and a strong presence in major and minor retail stores.
My entrepreneurial dream overall is to grow Lifestyle Pillows by developing and bringing to the market other concepts created to help one live a better quality of life.