Throughout the past decade, entrepreneurship has become a popular trend as more and more people are willing to start their own businesses and turn their ideas into reality.
However, the journey to success is often filled with obstacles and challenges that require a great deal of perseverance, hard work, and dedication.
Matthew Burwick, the founder and owner of Bob the Pillow, is a prime example of an entrepreneur who faced several challenges on his journey to success, but managed to overcome them and create a successful business.
Bob the Pillow is an orthopedic leg pillow designed to improve anatomical alignment and reduce discomfort during sleep, and it is becoming increasingly popular in the market.
The idea for Bob the Pillow came to Burwick after years of experiencing discomfort and pain in his legs while sleeping. Like many budding entrepreneurs, he began by researching comparable options and found that many of those available did not provide the anatomical alignment he was looking for.
So, he decided to create his own leg pillow that would not only reduce discomfort but also improve the body’s anatomical alignment.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing
One of the main challenges that entrepreneurs face is starting a business from scratch, including acquiring funding, building a customer base, and creating a strong brand identity. Within the first year, 38 percent of startups run out of cash, while another 35 percent fail because no market need exists for their product or service.
Another challenge is the need to balance risk-taking with careful planning, as entrepreneurs must make critical decisions that could make or break their businesses.
Despite these challenges, successful entrepreneurs like Matthew Burwick have proven that with the right mindset, hard work, and determination, it is possible to overcome obstacles and achieve great success.
“It hasn’t been without its challenges,” shares Burwick.“One of the biggest roadblocks I’ve faced is talking with a larger company, thinking they were going to help us out, but it turned out that they were just trying to steal our ideas for the leg pillow.
Since we had a patent-pending, they couldn’t use our exact formula, which left their product virtually worthless,” Burwick says with a smirk. “I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny then.”
After his run-in with the larger company that tried to steal his idea, Burwick learned two crucial lessons.
“First, in the process of commercializing good ideas, wolves often wear sheep’s clothing. And second, when a leader in your industry tries to rip off your product, that’s validation you’re on the right path.”
The importance of protecting IP
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “fewer than 9 percent of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) owned at least one of the three main IP rights (a patent, trademark and design). By contrast, the figure is close to 60 percent for larger firms.”
The key takeaway here is that most small businesses often do not have the resources necessary to protect their product in this way.
Considering the high stakes involved and the overwhelming evidence that SMEs with intellectual property rights tend to prosper more than those without — coupled with the fact that SMEs often fail to complete the application process on their own — it is evident that SMEs must prioritize the protection of their IP assets to foster and expedite their growth.
By safeguarding the value of their IP and developing intangible assets, SMEs can establish a strong foundation for various business models, with innovation as the cornerstone.
Planning helps to overcome the challenges
“After years of not finding a pillow for my legs,” recalls Matthew Burwick, “and after a very sleepless week during the pandemic, I knew I needed to do something about it.”
The first stages of Bob the Pillow’s design were rudimentary, “with some foam and a hot glue gun,” shares Burwick. “Our first iterations were laughable, but the idea was there, and the goal was clear.”
Research is the cornerstone of success for startups. “You don’t need to hire anyone at the beginning,” Burwick clarifies, “Just get on the internet and research the problem.”
After the initial research stage, Burwick and his business partner reached out to CAD designers to design and create a 3D-printed prototype. They then started to source in China while also working with a patent attorney to ensure their intellectual property is protected.
As the product was being developed they built their website, logo, and continued to protect their product by trademarking it.
“Everything we’ve done has been strategic and to ensure success,” notes Burwick.
“For example, the last step is to spread the word. We have decided to launch slowly and gather feedback, which helps us address customer input, and improve as we scale. Because we took things slowly, we were able to fund this endeavor ourselves and stay on board during the creative process, which is personally important to me. Through careful planning, we’ve been able to conquer the challenges we’ve faced, and I know it will help us face more as we continue to grow.”
Burwick started Bob the Pillow during the pandemic just three years ago, and still feels like a nascent entrepreneur, but has many lessons learned to share. “One of the biggest, not-so-obvious lessons is failing doesn’t feel good,” he shares.
“Yes, it creates opportunities for growth, but it still stings. It’s okay to step back, breathe, and let the failure soak in before you react. Refocus, pivot, remember your goals, and move on.”
Starting a new business can be challenging, but it’s incredibly rewarding and worth the trials and tribulations. If all else fails, it’ll be one of the most educational moments of your life. With hard work, perseverance, and the right mindset, it is possible to overcome obstacles and create a thriving business.
Successful entrepreneurs learn valuable lessons throughout their journey from all kinds of people, which is why it’s important to listen to anyone and everyone in the industry to help build your business successfully.
The road to success is never easy, but entrepreneurs who stay focused, adapt to change, and never give up can achieve great things.
As Burwick’s success journey demonstrates, with the right strategy, mindset, and execution, entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into reality and build a legacy that will last for years to come.