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The inspiration behind Pluto Pillow was, quite literally, a pain in the neck.
In 2017, after suffering through a series of ache-inducing nights of sporadic slumber, Susana Saeliu launched her pursuit of the perfect pillow. She conducted hours of online research, squeezed and snuggled dozens of cushions in retail stores and browsed hundreds of online reviews before buying and ultimately returning seven pillows.
That’s when a frustrated Saeliu — a successful entrepreneur who founded and sold a leading bamboo bath tissue brand — took matters into her own hands.
She polled shoppers about their pillow purchases, interviewed somnologists and physical therapists about the fundamentals of quality sleep and potential pitfalls of subpar bedding and consulted with material suppliers. This database powers an algorithm that calculates the optimal Pluto Pillow for individuals based on their preferences and needs.
And UPS, meanwhile, powers the fast-growing company’s distribution channel, freeing up the Pluto Pillow team to stay focused on its brand and customers.
“We definitely wouldn't be where we are without UPS,” Saeliu said. “When we started the company, we looked around for different shipping carriers that not only would provide us cost-effective pricing to get our product safely to customers but that also would support us as we continued to grow. Everyone at UPS rooted for our brand from the beginning and was proactive in ensuring the shipping experience to our customers was fast and smooth, even as our volume continued to increase.”
“Startups — particularly e-commerce enterprises — partner with UPS to put the power of logistics to work.”
Pluto Pillow is not alone. Since its early days, UPS has helped countless small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) adapt and grow via tailored shipping and delivery solutions, operational expertise, order management tools and more. Startups — particularly e-commerce enterprises — partner with UPS to put the power of logistics to work.
“Entrepreneurs are amazing,” said Mark Wright, a marketing manager on the UPS startup strategy team. “But many founders are so focused on perfecting their product and raising capital that they fail to prioritize getting their product to customers until it’s too late. We help get them set up and aligned early on so they’re ready to ship at scale.”
We Craft Box, a subscription-based service providing families with curated craft kits, credits UPS with helping them achieve their goals.
“We outgrew our first two shipping partners and have been able to scale with the competitiveness and flexibility UPS was able to offer us,” said founder and CEO Betsy Wild. “We are in the business of experience, as we’re an experience-based kids’ product, and we consider shipping a big part of that experience.”
In addition to working directly with companies like We Craft Box, UPS partners with accelerators like 500 Startups. The Silicon Valley-based organization is the world’s most active early-stage venture capital firm, having backed more than 2,400 pre-seed companies (including Pluto Pillow) in 75-plus countries over the last decade.
“UPS partners with accelerators like 500 Startups. The Silicon Valley-based organization is the world’s most active early-stage venture capital firm.”
Our team can’t possibly connect with the more than 30 million SMBs in the U.S. So our goal is to identify companies we know will succeed and onboard them early in their lifecycle. We know that only 3 percent to 5 percent of applicants to accelerators like 500 Startups get accepted, which puts us in a position to work with highly vetted founders who are likely to succeed. Plus, this allows our team to establish a connection at the onset of their journey as a business.
500 Startups invests in and nurtures tech-enabled companies spanning an array of industries, most with more than $1 billion in potential market cap value. Its four-month accelerator program, which has gone entirely virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, gives founders access to an ecosystem of government resources and corporate partners like UPS.
“Partnering with UPS is such a huge value add for early-stage startups, who are wearing multiple hats as they try to help their business take that next big step,” said Caitlin Glazebrook, innovation and partnerships program manager at 500 Startups. “Many become frustrated when they realize it’s much harder to send out 500 packages versus five. They need a logistics partner to help them scale quickly and efficiently.”
“Connections to resources like web developers, angel investors, venture capital firms, law firms and even shipping providers offer much-needed support to entrepreneurs.”
Wright also holds virtual office hours with the 500 Startups community, providing founders with one-on-one coaching.
“I serve as a direct point of contact to help these businesses — whether they’re doing one shipment per month or a million per year — navigate UPS and ultimately achieve their goals,” he explained.
Networks like the 500 Startups ecosystem serve as a critical lifeline for startups and SMBs, especially given the challenges of COVID-19.
“Connections to resources like web developers, angel investors, venture capital firms, law firms and even shipping providers offer much-needed support to entrepreneurs in such a critical phase of their growth journey,” Wright said.
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