Mike Lindell talks with Barry ZeVan about his entrepreneurial beginnings, inventing and selling the MyPillow, his addictions, and the Lindell Foundation. As Barry ZeVan says, Mike's story is "beyond Horatio (Alger)". Here are some of the bullet points:
Mike Lindell's early work
- Mike started his work life in a grocery store in Chaska, MN and at a drive-in theater in Flying Cloud, MN.
- Mike then became an entrepreneur, starting with a carpet cleaning business, and never worked for someone again.
- He then owned bars and restaurants in Carver County, MN.
Inventing the MyPillow
- Mike started MyPillow because Mike couldn't get any decent sleep and kept waking up with a sore neck.
- So, he decided to invent a better pillow and called it MyPillow - a name he got from a dream he had.
- Inventing MyPillow was a family venture - Mike and his children all worked for more than a year and a half, shredding all sorts of foam to find the right product that would be adjustable.
Selling MyPillow - the beginning
- Mike was so proud of his MyPillow that he just assumed that the big box stores would jump at the chance to sell MyPillows. But, he was turned down.
- So he tried selling the pillow at a kiosk, where Mike only sold 80 pillows, which put him further in debt.
- Then a miracle occurred: one of the customers who bought a pillow at the kiosk asked Mike to sell the MyPillows at the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show, where Mike found that talking to people directly led to selling success: he sold out of all the MyPillows he had.
- Based on the success of the Minneapolis Home and Garden show, Mike spent the next 6-7 years selling the MyPillows at the Minnesota State Fair and a variety of other fairs and events throughout the US.
Mike addictions and his answer to a prayer
- During this time, Mike was also a drug addict, doing cocaine and crack cocaine.
- Mike quit all his addictions overnight based on a prayer to God where he said that he wanted to wake up in the morning and never have the desire for drugs again. And, he woke up the next day, January 16, 2009, with his desire for drugs totally gone.
- Based on God's answer to his prayer, Mike determined that MyPillow was a bigger platform for a much bigger purpose. And it was at that point that Mike started seeing miracles happen.
MyPillow sales start taking off with print ads
- The Minneapolis Star Tribune did a human interest story on Mike in their business section, and the MyPillow sales went through the roof that day.
- Based on seeing the success of this article, Mike wrote his own ad in the form of a MyPillow article. PR companies called him and told him that the ad "was terrible". But, despite what the PR companies told Mike, the ad was very successful.
- Mike had a dream of doing an infomercial, based on his success selling MyPillows by talking directly to the customer. So, he decided to take his product right to the people through an infomercial.
- Mike did the infomercial in St. Paul, MN. He didn't have a teleprompter and, although he says it was "nerve-wracking", the infomercial was created and went live October 7, 2011.
- Mike was living in his sister's basement at the time, and only had 5 employees plus his kids. 540 days after the infomercial went live, MyPillow had 500 employees. Today, MyPillow now has over 1,600 employees.
Made in America
- Mike has a strong philosophy of making the MyPillow products in the USA. In fact, the products are made in Mike's home state - Minnesota.
- This summer, Mike was at the White House for a Made in America Roundtable, where he sat right next to President Trump and emphasized the benefits of products being made in the USA.
- Mike created the Lindell Foundation based on trust since people don't really trust many foundations anymore because they don't know how much of their money really goes to the cause versus how much of their money goes towards people simply paying themselves.
- With the Lindell Foundation, you know that whenever you donate to a need, 100% of your money goes directly to the need, since Mike is paying all the overhead. And, you get to hear back from the need you donated your money to so you know the difference you made.
- The Lindell Foundation started as a help center for MyPillow employees. Mike was motivated to create the foundation based on wanting to run a company based on his employees' point of view. If the company sees somebody having issues at work, the company tries to understand why the employee is having issues and then gets them help. For example, addicts get addiction help, and people get help to resolve personal issues, like a spouse leaving them. Or, one time, one person was showing up late all the time, and MyPillow found out he was walking 14 miles to work, so they bought him a car. In other words, as Mike says, "I treat each employee like it was myself".
- Mike sees people stereotype addicts as worthless, that the addicts did it to themselves. But, Mike feels that much of addiction is a mask for pain, often that goes all the way back to childhood. Mike wants the Lindell Foundation to view addicts as worthwhile, and give them the help they need.
- Mike continues to have a passion for the MyPillow based on the stories he hears from people telling him that the MyPillows have made a difference in their lives.
- Mike also has a passion for giving people the gift of sleep because sleep affects everything we do, how we feel, and how we interact. Mike sees that sleep is as important as eating right and getting exercise - and probably more important, as the brain is recalibrating and your body's getting the physical rest it needs during sleep.
Mike's philosophy can be summed up by his quote: "Unless it helps someone, I don't make it. It's not about the money, the money takes care of itself, I just want to help people either spiritually, physically, or mentally."
As Mike says, "It's been a blessing, I give the glory to God".