Name: Alli Truttmann
Business: Wicked Sheets LLC, a maker of moisture absorbing sheets
Location: Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Reason for starting: It was Easter 2008 and I was home for my family’s Easter Brunch back in St. Louis, MO. I had recently finished up playing college soccer and was getting ready to graduate with a Master’s degree in psychology from the University of Louisville. While I was home, my cousin was asking me about how I coped with my night sweats since she was just starting to experience them, and they are a particular family disposition. In that same moment, her husband walked past wearing a Nike Dr-Fit golf shirt. I jokingly suggested that he was going to come home some night to find Cori and I cutting up all of his wick-away golf shirts and sewing them into bed sheets. The room burst into laughter and this random suggestion, but I looked over to my Dad who was carrying an inquisitive grin at the time and he simply said to me, “That’s not a bad idea…” Boom. The idea was born a few months later and I had my first set of Wicked Sheets ready to be put to the (sweat) test.
From there, I began using my psychology degrees to derive a business plan for people who were suffering from night sweats. I turned hi-tech wick-away shirts into coping mechanisms. A near 6 years later, we’re a fully-operational bed sheet manufacturer in the U.S. with an e-commerce site, as well as many other bed sheet and specialty medical products. We have our first patent filed this month and will launch our newest product in the next few weeks! And it all started from a joke about sweat…
How do you define success? The shortening of your learning curve. In my opinion, success is only achieved when you’ve learned something. Whether it’s from an experience gone sour or an experience that went exactly your way, once you’ve had the experience you’ve had the ability to learn from it. If you don’t learn quick and “pivot” as all the business guru’s like to say, you’re already 50 steps behind your future competitor. The more you can shorten your time spent on the learning curve, the more successful you will become.
Biggest Success: I hope that there are many more to come for Wicked Sheets, but thus far, I would say that our transition from one custom manufacturer to another has been our biggest success to date. When I first started this company, I didn’t know the first thing about manufacturing, sewing machines or even stitch types and patterns. I made it my personal mission to understand every step of the process and every one of the people who played a role “behind the seams” so that I could help us grow bigger, faster, and stronger in a responsible way. So the transition to a larger manufacturer that could scale with us was a huge, successful, and necessary milestone in the growth of Wicked Sheets.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? When you are starting a company from the ground up with little capital you cannot afford many luxuries. One of those is hiring people for all of the specialized jobs that your company needs. To that point, my top challenge is wearing one of the many hats that are required of a company in order to be successful and grow. For instance, one minute I could be answering a customer’s inquiry about shipping or allergens in the fabric and the next making an investor pitch to a board room full of people. It sounds oxymoronic to admit this, but it’s one of the top challenges of Wicked Sheets, but it’s one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur: you don’t have the luxury of choosing your role at any given moment, the moments and roles choose you.
Have you ever heard the expression, “Cautious Optimism”? In the past 29 years of my life I have tended to make decisions from this cautiously optimistic perspective. Meaning, despite the fact that it might look like I’m taking some big risks in my life, like starting an e-commerce company with only one business class on my transcripts, I’ve actually done some pretty comprehensive safety-net planning in order to back me up in the event that something goes awry. Some might say that this behavior or response would indicate that I’m operating out of fear if I have a “back-up plan,” but I’m fairly certain that if you asked any true entrepreneur about the risks they have taken to get to the places they’re in at present, they would say that they have been pretty calculated.
Who is your most important role model? Any parent of a child with special needs is a role model for me. I started my post-college career in the field of Autism and behavior therapy. In the past 9 years what I have learned from each of the children that I’ve been lucky enough to meet is that their success and quality of life is dependent on their family systems. The divorce rate for parents with children with special needs is 87%; typically one parent takes on the “bread-winner” role and the other the “stay-at-home” role. How isolating and indignifying is that? It is the most inspiring and selfless role that I have ever witnessed and for that, I look up to each and every parent that I meet.
Edited by The Story Exchange
Posted: April 2, 2014