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Pillowcase Studies

www.pillowcasestudies.com

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As a student at the London School of Economics, I spend roughly 30 hours per week studying and reviewing material that learned in class. About 2 of these 30 hours are spent scheduling study calendars and finding more efficient ways to analyze and retain information. Last year on August 19th I found yet another efficiency solution by taking class notes and leaving them around my apartment, drawing them on the back of my hand, and writing them on my bed linens! My friends asked me to help them out with these “decorative study techniques” too as my grades had clearly improved and they wanted to repeat the effect. By launching Pillowcase Studies, which is my company that screen prints academic study guides onto pillow cases, I was able to decorate my room with a great looking pillow case, express my love for my academic major (business), and absorb and retain information at the same time. My business prides itself on the functional aspect of design (by seeing the generic principles of their major every night, students can use their time better to digest the material) and the aesthetic principles of design (excellent look and trendy graphics). After using my corporate finance pillowcase, I really got a better understanding of net present value and the capital asset pricing model. Actually I was able to convince my family to pitch in with the financing by pointing to principles I learned from my Pillowcase Study.

Classmates of mine often ask “what are the steps to starting a business?”

I always answer “Find something that you think is annoying in the world and fix it.” This is of course an extremely simplified view of the business aspect of Pillowcase Studies but provides a great general framework for how the business went live. I thought studying was boring and textbooks were ugly. I fixed it and manufactured my first few prototypes.

Pillowcase StudiesI started off with my raw material so I ordered 100 pillowcases wholesale from Florida. After, the design process began which was extremely tough and fairly expensive. To keep costs low I had to use student labor for everything I did. I have no graphic design skill myself so I had to hire out for that task as well. I used one student designer who was cheap to hire but very untalented and forced me to scrap my first two potential prints. I considered calling it quits then but I realized that the problem was not with the concept, but with my hiring talents. I later learned from my mistakes and I got two incredibly talented graphic designers from New York City to redo the designs. Their talents really made Pillowcase Studies the successful product what it is today. Finally, I had both the design and the raw pillow cases but I needed to transfer and fuse them together to create a finished product. I actually ordered a printing screen and attempted to print the pillow cases myself and ended up botching roughly 20 pillows with my horrendous inexperienced technique. From there, I called about 250 print shops to see if they could do large scale printing (a pillow cases is a lot larger than a t shirt) and I found only 1 of them that was able to print large enough for fit the pillow. That being said, 1 was definitely enough and I continue to use the shop I found!

With all of this experience, what advice can I give to fellow young entrepreneurs?

The best two pieces of advice I can give is that finding the right student with the right talent and commitment is a great money saving play and can lead to greater and more reliable outcomes (assuming proper selection) than hiring out to a seasoned professional. Students look at problems differently and are often more likely to take calculated risks than career proven designers. That being said, having an untalented student or a student that is unreliable can truly kill a business and set it back from organizational goals. Recruitment and selection of contractors and interns is vital to a small business’ short term and long term success.

Second, (and this is unrelated to anything that I’ve discussed before) beginning sales are always tough for any business. Even the greatest products ever made have lower sales when they come out (especially if they’re not tied to another brand name like apple or virgin). Small business owners need to resist the temptation to hold sales when starting their companies. Consumers don’t have a reference point to compare prices of unique products so the only reference point for quality really is the price. People will see sales on items and eventually look at the items and equate them to the clearance racks at department stores. Having artificially low prices signals to the consumer that they’re buying a poor product and that’s bad for them and bad for you. Eventually they will only buy when there is a sale happening. Pillowcase Studies is a high quality product so I charge what a college student can afford and what reflects well upon the product. It’s my philosophy that all unique businesses should do the same.

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