Betsy Mikesell – Co-Founder, Beddy’s

Betsy Mikesell was a full-time hairdresser and mom of three kids. One day, she saw a need for her kid’s bunk beds and decided to create her own type of zipper bedding. After hearing from her friends that they all wanted the bedding, she decided to bring on her friend Angie White and create the product now known and patented as Beddy’s. Betsy oversaw a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 which funded $108,000 in 40 days. Since then, she has managed the order fulfillment process for over 100,000 units of bedding while handling day-to-day operations. Beddy’s has continued to see 200% growth year-over-year. She has enjoyed watching the business grow and experiencing the opportunities that have come along with it.

How did the concept for Beddy’s come about?
I have twins and they had bunk beds. I was going insane trying to get them to make their bed. I finally got on their bunk bed to show them how to do it and realized it’s nearly impossible. I went downstairs and Googled “how to make a bunk bed” because clearly there had to be an easier way, but I couldn’t find anything so I just created my own zipper bedding. After my friends started telling me that they wanted the bedding for themselves, I decided to ask my friend Angie to be my business partner and from there we went to work!

How was the first year in business?
We spent a ton of time trying to find manufacturing and perfecting the design. We finally found a manufacturer but the minimums were so high that we couldn’t afford to start. We ended up doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund our first order. We still had to borrow money from our homes to finish paying for our first order, but we were ready to go!

What was your marketing strategy?
We didn’t have a budget for marketing so I spent hours and hours on social media and collaborating with influencers. I felt like I was our target market: a mom with kids. So I always kept that in mind when creating ads for social media and collaborations. I always asked myself, “Would I buy it? Would I look at that ad? Would I be interested in that?” We grew our business for the first three years, organically. It wasn’t until a year ago that we decided to pay for Facebook ads. We did a lot of collaborating with influencers and other similar brands. We tried to collaborate with people who had a similar audience to us.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
It was shocking how quickly we grew. We couldn’t keep up with the orders and had to take on an investor the first year. We were doubling every month. We were constantly restructuring things. We had no idea what we got ourselves into.

How do you define success?
Both Angie and I laugh when people ask this question. To be completely honest, we had really low expectations of ourselves in business. We told ourselves that if we made bedding for our kids, it would be a success. Maybe that’s a good thing, because if we had tried to have a huge goal, it might have been too overwhelming for us. Success is so hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. I remember last year standing on the Great Wall of China and looking out and thinking, “Maybe we are successful!” Every step of the way we were proud of ourselves, but we didn’t take time to congratulate ourselves because we were so busy trying to get to that next step.

What is the key to success?
Our success has come from so many people who took a chance on us. From the Kickstarter campaign and the people who helped fund the initial order, to the brands and influencers that were willing to work with us. We always wanted to connect with people and their brand and to help others grow while we were growing. We were constantly meeting with other brands and we would all help build each other up. I think the key to success is BE A GOOD HUMAN. Help others and they will help you.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Contracts. I hate them, but you have to have them. We started out early with some crappy contracts. We didn’t realize they were bad until we had issues. I’m grateful we made those mistakes early. At the time, it seemed like it was such a big deal, but I’m now realizing that it could have been much worse. We learned some very expensive lessons early on. Someone once said to me, “No one will ever feel the lows that you feel, but also no one will ever feel the highs that you feel.” Running a business is hard work!

What are some quotes that you live by?
Manifesto of the Brave and the Brokenhearted by Brene Brown:
“There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fear-mongers
Than those of us who are willing to fall
Because we have learned how to rise
With skinned knees and bruised hearts;
We choose owning our stories of struggle,
Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending
When we deny our stories they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free.
So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.
We will not be characters in our stories.
Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.
We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.
We craft love from heartbreak,
Compassion from shame,
Grace from disappointment,
Courage from failure.
Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong.”

What are some of your favorite books?
Rising Strong by Brene Brown and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. I have so many favorites but these are my most current favorites.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Wow. There are so many! I think that is why that quote speaks to me. As an entrepreneur, we have to keep going. I love the part of the quote that says, “Those of us willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.” How many times do we have to fall?! But that’s what is so great about being an entrepreneur, WE HAVE LEARNED HOW TO RISE! We don’t give up. They say not to take things personally in business, but my business is so personal to me. When people aren’t fair or honest, it is really hard for me because it hurts. I’ve learned to protect myself through contracts and lots of previous hard lessons.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
As dumb as this might sound, something my mom said to me the day I left for my first business trip just repeats in my mind. She said, “Betsy, you’re going to have so many ups and downs. Some days are going to be so hard, don’t give up. This is such a great product. I believe in you!”

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Ask others for help! We are all in this together. Reach out. Send that email! Ask lots of questions. Keep plugging along. Believe in yourself. Now in saying all of that, I still want to be realistic. There are some ideas that just aren’t good ideas. It’s okay to have to give up on something to make room for something better. Ask others for their advice. Is this something you can continue doing? Ask yourself what your worst case scenario is. Can you handle it? If not, cut your losses early. Don’t risk your family and everything you have trying to make a dream a reality. That probably sounds harsher than I mean it to. I just don’t want to tell people that the harder you work, it will eventually pay off. Some ideas just don’t pay off. That’s a little bit nerve wracking for me to type. I just hate giving false hope. BUT if you know it’s a good idea, then STICK TO IT! Don’t give up!

Jason Navallo

Jason Navallo is the author of five books: American Dream, Thrive, Never Give Up, Success, and Driven to Succeed. He has an M.B.A. in Human Resource Management from Louisiana State University and lives in NYC.