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Long Read of the Day: The Preposterous Success Story of America’s Pillow King

As so many great entrepreneurial success stories do, the tale of Mike Lindell begins in a crack house. It was the fall of 2008, and the then 47-year-old divorced father of four from the Minneapolis suburbs had run out of crack, again. He had been up for either 14 or 19 days—he swears it was 19 but says 14 because “19 just sounds like I’ve embellished”—trying to save his struggling startup and making regular trips into the city to visit his dealer, Ty. This time, Lindell arrived at Ty’s apartment expecting the typical A-plus service and received a shock instead: The dealer refused his business. Ty wasn’t going to sell him any more crack until he ended his binge. He’d also called the two other dealers Lindell used and ordered them to do the same. “I don’t want any of your people selling him anything until he goes to bed,” Ty told the dealers. When Lindell protested, he cut him off: “Go to bed, Mike.”


When someone suggested he try a mall kiosk, Lindell borrowed $12,000 to rent one at Eden Prairie Center for six weeks, starting in the middle of November 2004. He sold his first pillow the first day and it was, he says, “the most amazing feeling.” But he’d priced the product too low. His cost was more than the retail price. Plus, his pillow was too big for standard pillowcases.

The kiosk failed. He borrowed more money against the house, and also from friends who weren’t sick of him yet. When desperate, he counted cards at the blackjack table to pay for materials. He was good at it. Eventually, all the casinos within a day’s drive banned him.

His focus on the pillow project was the one thing that could override his drug cravings, but only for short periods. And every time something went wrong, he lapsed.

Today, Lindell is a devout Christian and prays constantly. He wears a large silver cross around his neck, and his office is filled with Christian iconography, as well as Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band tour posters. Back then he was an opportunist, praying to God only when things were dire: “I said, ‘God, what do I do here?’ “ The day after he closed the kiosk, he got a call from one of the few customers, who declared, “This pillow changed my life!”

This enthusiastic buyer ran the Minneapolis Home Garden Show, one of the largest for home products in the country. He wanted Lindell to have a booth.

Lindell took 300 pillows (this time they were a standard size) and sold them all.

— [snip]—

Lindell had another hunch: He knew the best way to sell his pillow was to present his story live, as he’d been doing at shows since 2005. He decided to make an infomercial. His friends thought he was nuts….

RTWT AT The Preposterous Success Story of America’s Pillow King

HT Cultural Offering

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rick December 18, 2019, 11:04 AM

    My wife had me make a special trip to get her one of these pillows on sale. When I picked it up I thought surely it must be a joke as it seems to be nothing more than shredded foam. She’s been using it for 2 years now and I remain amazed. I make the bed every day and that pillow seems to be lumpy and cheap. All of which makes his sucess even more remarkable.

  • ghostsniper December 18, 2019, 11:40 AM

    Go read the reviews on amazon. I was interested in them until I read the reviews and became skeptical. Filled with random shaped chunks of foam. Seems like about half the amazon buyers send them back as unacceptable. I kept my coin in my ass pocket and continue to put up with that flat fuk.

  • Vanderleun December 18, 2019, 12:26 PM

    I concur that the pillows themselves are not something I’d want to spend bucks on, but the story of how MyPillow came to be is fascinating. And instructive.

  • tim December 18, 2019, 12:51 PM

    Made in the USA, 10 year guarantee, a 60 day money back guarantee and selling how many, hundreds of thousands? Millions? Yea, I’d say he’s doing something right. Especially for a an ex-crack head.

    Thanks for posting, quite the story.

  • ghostsniper December 18, 2019, 1:28 PM

    “…but the story of how MyPillow came to be is fascinating. And instructive.”
    “…Lindell borrowed $12,000…He borrowed more money against the house…”
    I’m not seeing anything fascinating here.
    Just guessing but, I bet most people can’t just go out and borrow $12k without collateral.
    Nor get a 2nd mortgage without proof of being able to pay it back AND have the escrow to pull it off.
    If anything this guy already had the first couple steps provided for him.
    A million people could go out right now and start a winning business if they had the resources this guy had. My question is, if he had financial resources as the article claims why did he wait so long to use them?

    47 years old? By 47 my business was already in existence for 18 years and I had none of the resources he had, just determination, drive, a little talent, and the idea that you never give up, ever.

    The general contractor just left my office after asking me if I was interested in designing a home for Deion Sanders. Being very budget conscious, his last words to me before he left were, “You can have this project if you want it.” If I “want” it. He left. I was the only one in the conference room, and for awhile I thought about that word. Want. It can have multiple meanings but you don’t realize it until you really think about it. If I get this project (1992) for a major sports player it will transport my business into the stratos, so yeah, I wanted it. But HOW much did I want it? Everybody is quick to talk about stuff they want but rarely do they consider the ramifications or the extenuating circumstances. So I sat there and I thought about it. Everybody else left for the day and I stayed there thinking. My wife called and asked why I was late for supper (on the answering machine) and I didn’t answer. I was busy. Inside my head.

    I got the project, a thousand obstacles and a year and a half later it was completed, everybody was happy and thousands of people made decent money. And my thinking about “want” had expanded 100 fold. More learning happens, on a very broad range, while running a business, than in 10 college degrees. Be careful what you “want” cause you just might get it, and it might not be what you expected.

  • Joe Krill December 18, 2019, 4:57 PM

    Great story. My wife and I have used his pillows for a number of years and have no complaints. Great product, Great price. American Made. Thanks for posting.

  • Rob De Witt December 18, 2019, 10:29 PM

    I had Polio as a child and I’ve slept on everything from Beautyrests to waterbeds, floors, and the cold, cold ground. Searching for an alternative that doesn’t leave me waking in pain has been an ongoing and largely unremarked project.

    In the last few years I’ve been given as gifts a Tuft & Needle self-inflating mattress and a MyPillow, and I’m an unqualified believer in both. Neither one seems to show any signs of flattening, either.

    Just one man’s experience.

  • ghostsniper December 19, 2019, 4:52 AM

    Thanks Rob. On your word alone I’m going to take another look at them. I would like to have some new pillows that don’t turn to pancake syrup in 2 days and do not elevate my skall to where I get a krik in my neck. Maybe I’m too picky?

    Amazon reviews now are almost irrelevant and serve more as a deterrent than any useful purpose. So it’s good to get a recommend from somebody you almost “know”.

    My wife got one of those self inflating mattress tops awhile back, 6″ thick, and she likes it but I’m undecided. Seems difficult to slide around on it. And she installed the witer flannel sheets recently so the sliding has become even worse. I feel like I’m velcroed to the bed!!! I have “roll” to get out of it.

    The best sleep I ever had was the 10 year stretch when we had a real nice water bed with 80% waveless mattress. When I laid down in that thing I was unconscious in seconds and slept like death incarnate all night long. Had the big mirrored and lighted bookcase headboard, padded rails, and even had the legendary “wave machine” though after the initial novelty it never got used again. Seems those things have vanished off the map now.

  • BJM December 19, 2019, 6:40 AM

    @Ghostrider I was so desperate as crappy sleep, shoulder pain and a pinched neck nerve were becoming real problems. I bought these on a 2-fer $99 bucks deal. I’m a side sleeper, so I got one low profile and one medium. I can’t lie, when I received them I felt really foolish and chumped. How could these bags of loose lumpy bits be a pillow, let alone comfortable?

    However, I simply couldn’t find any pillow combo that worked for more than a few weeks before they went flat or lumpy in a bad way. So I put the pillows in the dryer as instructed and tried them that night. I don’t understand how they work, and am still amazed every night when I fluff them into position, how do those lumps become undetectable? but I they do.

    These pillows are indeed life changing and washable too so no more pillow duff. Oh and the Spousal Unit snores less; win-win.

  • BJM December 19, 2019, 6:45 AM

    Sorry…ghostsniper. That’s a whole different story running in my head.

    Why is it that ones always sees the typo after hitting submit/send?

  • tkdkerry December 19, 2019, 6:47 AM

    Bought a pair a while back at the request of the wife. I was sceptical, but damned if they didn’t turn out to be better than any other pillow I’ve used. Don’t be bashful about washing and drying them as recommended.

  • Jim December 20, 2019, 10:22 PM

    For many years, I’ve slept on a padded mat on the floor. Sciatica is not your friend, nor mine, and that’s the only remedy I’ve found that works.

    But could never find a suitable pillow. They’re all either over-inflated giant cylinders of padded agony, or goose down that collapses faster than that bird shot with #4 coated steel out of a 12 ga. Magnum.

    For me, the “Travel Size” My Pillow is the ticket. I *hate* a large size pillow, for a great many reasons.

    Count me as a happy customer.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  • tfA-t December 26, 2019, 7:26 PM

    i love those pillows

    i have a similar success story myself…