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Q&A with Kirsten Lambert: Take the leap

Kirsten Lambert graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with a bachelor of business administration degree in marketing. After a 20+ year career in consumer research, Kirsten and her business partner Joan Ripple created Beantown Bedding, an innovative bedding company specializing in Eco Disposable sheets that are 100% compostable and biodegradable.

We asked Kirsten a few questions about her career path, what the start-up process was like and what advice she'd give to others who are considering starting their own business.

Tell us about your career path. Did you always envision that you’d be doing what you’re doing today?

Not at all! Although I was always drawn to business, I never dreamed that I’d start my own. Prior to Beantown I had a 20+ year career in consumer research, first working on the supply side for large CPGs and later as a consultant. It was my role as a researcher and a mom that led to creating a business to solve a problem I discovered when sending my first child to college. My business partner Joan Ripple and I learned that our kids in college rarely took time to wash their sheets. Our answer was to come up with eco-disposable “laundry-free” sheets to keep them healthier and save them time in the laundry room. It turned out to be a disruptive solution for universities, camps and hospitals as well.

What was the start-up process like?

I’ve never been skydiving, but imagine it’s similar. You can prepare, but then you have to jump. After a year of research, formulating a business plan, and establishing a supply chain, our launch was like hurling ourselves out of the plane. It felt out of control, exhilarating and pretty scary. USA Today put Beantown on the front page right out of the gate, which led to a wave of media attention and a steep learning curve. Then we were a part of the MassChallenge accelerator; much like college for startups. It was a game changer that fueled our vision and gave us tools and guidance to grow. Seven years in it’s still exciting, and a little less scary.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of entrepreneurship? The most challenging?

Building something from nothing is extremely fulfilling. It’s been a journey of professional and personal growth, pushing me well out of my comfort zone. Learning new things every day keeps it interesting and makes us better. It’s proof that grit overcomes a lot of shortcomings.

One of the most difficult aspects of doing something new is staying focused on a single strategy in the face of so many enticing opportunities. Since we essentially created a new category, there were many different potential paths, and it’s risky to commit all resources to a single direction. Our B2B business grew quickly out of the B2C business and became the driving force. Vector is just as important as velocity.

What’s one message you’d like to pass on to students considering starting a business?

Fail until you don’t. One of the most true maxims I’ve heard is, “I never lose. I only win or learn.” Failure is redefined in hindsight when you can look back and see what was gained from an experience. Tenacity is an absolute necessity.

How did your time at UH prepare you for your career?

The most valuable takeaways from my UH business school education were the hands-on experiences to apply academic teachings. Those opportunities taught problem solving, team building and leadership skills that prepared me for any career path. The rich cultural diversity of the students made it even more relevant to today’s global business community. One class project even allowed us to create our own startup company. We entered inputs into a model that predicted success based on our decisions. It was great practice for the real thing! 

After living and working in many different states and countries, I’m now blessed to call Hawai‘i home again.

To learn more about Beantown Bedding, visit www.beantownbedding.com.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni