27-year-old Amazon entrepreneur shares tips for growth – Business Insider
Greg Yeutter is the inventor and owner of the Bedtime Bulb, an Amazon’s Choice product and finalist for Amazon’s first Small Business Owner Under 30 award.
After he researched the effects of light on human health as a student in electrical engineering with Drexel University’s dLUX Lab, Yeutter founded his company to fix what he saw as an “epidemic” of bad sleep.
Business Insider spoke with Yeutter to hear how he was able to launch his product on Amazon, become an award finalist, and adapt quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Yeutter shared the strategies and resources he used to grow his business, starting with the reason his company exists: Entrepreneurs — and anyone else — should make sure they’re getting enough sleep.
Now 27, the entrepreneur shared lessons with Business Insider in how studying the fundamentals of a problem allows you to create a product that serves as a better solution.
Recognize: Bad sleep is an ‘epidemic’ — and a business opportunity
“Poor-quality sleep is basically an epidemic in the US,” Yeutter said in an interview with Business Insider, citing recent National Sleep Foundation findings that fewer than half of Americans report feeling “well-rested” on weekday mornings.
The nation’s problem with fatigue is the light-wave-obsessed Yeutter’s business opportunity. Americans are projected to spend more than $52 billion on sleep-aid devices and substances next year, according to analysis from BCC Research and Consumer Reports.
And that number doesn’t fully capture the alcohol and other drugs people consume when trying to catch a few winks.
“We want to solve sleep issues with technology, not drugs,” Yeutter said. “That’s our mission.”
His technology? A better lightbulb.
Research: Understand the problem before designing the solution
Yeutter attributes the success of his Bedtime Bulb to the methodical approach he learned from working in a research lab. Yeutter first set out to fully understand a fundamental human problem, rather than develop a technology and attempt to bend it into a market.
“We have thousands of data points about how humans use light,” he said, adding that those insights were at the core of his product design.
Through his study with the dLUX Lab, Yeutter saw firsthand how humans respond wakefully to the presence of blue and green wavelengths in light, even when the overall appearance is mostly on the yellow and red end of the color spectrum.
Every light source has a native hue, or color temperature, such as the neutral light of the midday sun, the warm orange of a candle, or the cold blue of the screen you’re probably looking at now.
Artificial lights, such as LEDs, must often be corrected to achieve the desired result, typically starting with a blue hue that is filtered to match daylight or incandescent bulbs. According to Yeutter’s spec sheet, typical indoor bulbs like incandescent, halogen, or filtered LEDs still emit two to three times the amount of sleep-disrupting blue and green wavelengths as his Bedtime Bulb does.
Those insights enable Yeutter to differentiate his product from a growing field of LED bulbs, including market leaders like Philips Hue or C from GE, by more fully addressing his customers’ needs. The Bedtime Bulb has several trademarked technologies to reduce blue light and widen the preferred spectrum for better color and clarity.
Market: Build a strong reputation from the start
Though you can buy a Bedtime Bulb directly from the company, it’s much easier to get via Amazon. And that’s as intentional as Yeutter’s approach to research and development.
“We wanted to maximize our reputation on Amazon,” Yeutter said of his decision to launch his product last year on the platform. “Customer reviews on Amazon were pivotal.”
Yeutter said he benefited from customers’ trust in Amazon, which he said made them more willing to try out his new product over more established brands, thanks to Amazon’s robust payment security and return policies.
Operationalize: Focus on the right team and tools for your business
Though Bedtime Bulb is a company of one, Yeutter regularly works with a team of about 10 contractors and a manufacturer in China.
Building his team took significant time and attention, especially when it came time to find a factory that could produce according to his business’ exacting specifications.
In addition, Yeutter uses Amazon’s fulfillment services, which he says are worth the high price because of the time it saves him.
Adapt: Keep things nimble so you can manage the unexpected
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Yeutter’s supply chains were totally disrupted. Most importantly, Amazon’s prioritization of essential items during March and April meant that customers were facing 30-day wait times to receive orders using Amazon’s fulfillment service.
Yeutter acted quickly to have inventory shipped from a storage warehouse to his apartment and began manually fulfilling orders to get average delivery times down to less than a week.
“Plus, I used the opportunity to include a note with each order,” he said.
That personalized approach helped Yeutter claw back sales, which he said dipped to 40% of normal volume during the worst days of the crisis. Now they are back to 75% and trending up, he said.
To help offset some of those losses, he applied for and received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Administration. (A Paycheck Protection Program loan didn’t make sense for his business, he said, because he relies heavily on independent contractors).
Lastly, Yeutter used the disruption as an opportunity to improve Bedtime Bulb’s website traffic and direct sales channels.
“This crisis has affirmed my approach of keeping things minimal, not getting an office, and hiring contractors who are paid well,” he said. “I’m hoping to expand this approach and run my business while traveling once things open up.”
And remember: Make sure you get quality sleep
Yeutter, an avid reader (and rereader) of Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-hour Workweek,” says he tries always to “work on the business, not in the business.” That means keeping a strategic eye on the big picture over the daily distractions.
A major part of that is getting enough sleep.
“Success is not about sacrificing sleep for work,” Yeutter said. “Diet and sleep are more important than exercise to your mental health, especially for entrepreneurs where your thought process is so much of the business.”
To improve sleep quality, he recommends using color-shifting apps on your phone or laptop and dimming their brightness to the lowest comfortable level, and adjusting the color and intensity of your rooms’ light sources.
And if you want your lighting backed up by scientific research, he’d be happy to sell you some bulbs.