The Answer to Any Challenge
I walked into a very large, open, and airy beautiful showroom to meet the founder of Duobed, Edie Singer. The place was welcoming and cozy, and gave a very homey feel. A sweet, blonde, petite old lady approached me walking away from what seemed like a casual meeting with two other people. She greeted me with a warm smile and introduced herself as Edie. She led me to one of the living room set-ups and had me sit as she excused herself for five minutes to finish her meeting. When she came back she offered me something to eat or drink. It wasn’t a surprise to me that Edie was a direct reflection of the welcoming atmosphere her showroom created. Edie Singer is a serial entrepreneur, women’s business advocate, single mother, grandmother and most of all a fighter and survivor. Over the years, she has continuously reinvented herself as a businesswoman, struggling through tough personal times while keeping herself afloat with new business ventures. Her entrepreneurship background is extensive. She has previously submerged herself in an array of different industries including the candy store business, insurance, and home remodeling. Today she owns a sofa bed brand, Duobed and is working on her newest venture, co-work office spaces.
What is Duobed and how did you realize the need for it?
Duobed is a brand of sofa bed that can be placed in your living room, home office, professional offices, college dorm rooms, or hospital rooms. I found a need for this product when I had my two grandsons sleep over in my home office. The sofa beds I had were uncomfortable and difficult to unfold. I remember as a young girl living in Omaha, Nebraska that my family had two sofas that when put together created a full size bed. So I researched the Internet to see if they were [still] available anywhere and was disappointed to find nothing. I did further research and found that the name of the sofa bed brand was Duobed and that there was no patent for it and the trademark for it has expired.
Can you explain the process of creating your vision of Duobed?
I hired someone who did woodworking and I explained my idea. They came up with the first prototypes. However, as with most first articles of prototypes, there were limitations. I went to manufacturing school and upholstery school, but mainly the “School of Hard Knocks.” By that I mean I really had to go in there and figure out how to create this myself, the hard way. It has taken a lot of money. I had to learn how to refine it even more after the first prototypes were done. I received help from the willing and unwilling (mainly my significant other) to modify the product and we finally came up with a modular and multifunctional concept. We wanted something that wasn’t difficult to organize or put together. You can also use them by themselves as individual furniture pieces. There are only four screws involved with Duobed if you buy the corner table. It is made so that it can sit in the corner of the bedroom or it could be in the middle of the room. I like things to be easy to figure out. Five years ago, we finally put the first Duobeds together at my place in Palm Springs.
You mentioned getting a patent and trademark for Duobed. How did you go about doing so?
Three years ago, I shared an office with a patent attorney. I asked him to find out if it was possible to get a patent for Duobed. He did his research and said we could, so we filed for the provisional patent. It was really expensive and probably cost me $30,000+. It was a long, difficult process. There’s a reason why there’s attorneys that specialize in this. They have to look over every detail and you have to make it broad enough so that it makes sense and most importantly, that it doesn’t infringe on anything. As of now, I still don’t have the certificate because it takes that long. The original patent for Duobed was actually nothing like this since I did so many modifications to it and that patent expired years ago. It took 2 years before the patent was final. I liked the original name, Duobed so I did a trademark search when I couldn’t find it and to my luck that has expired as well. So I filed for the trademark and paid the additional expenses for it.
What challenges are you facing?
I’m not a decorator or a designer but I was hoping they’d take to this and it can go from there. I thought manufacturing upholstery was hard but marketing and making websites was even harder. I’ve had great feedback on duobeds. Of the purchases made, when I follow up with the customers they always tell me how much they love it. But, it still isn’t transferring to where it’s picking up and gaining momentum. Because of that, I have to rethink how to market Duobed. I’ve had to make some real adjustments. I am speaking with a few experts on helping me with the marketing, but for now I’ve decided to do something with the large building I use for Duobeds. [Creating co-working spaces].
What made you want to create co-working spaces?
In today’s economy, you can’t borrow money. I have a building with money [in terms of equity] and even I can’t borrow money. Office spaces in buildings can be expensive. I can [only] imagine what other startups are getting into. I want to be able to help and give back to the community. Because of the large building we have for Duobed, we decided to turn it into a research and development [area] to support people that have startups. We have offices upstairs that can either be a private office or a co-working office and I can change it to whatever people may need. We’re just starting this but ultimately it will have more cubicles upstairs than we have right now. We also have a conference room upstairs and downstairs [where] we can have a big showroom for events. Hopefully it will catch on. I think there’s a need for this rather than just a high-rise building where you’re trapped and have to pay for parking.
Being a single mother entrepreneur, what has kept you going despite the struggles and what advice can you give other women in similar situations?
I persevere. If I want to do something bad enough, I’ll do it. You have to have perseverance. Imagine being a woman going through a divorce, husbands giving you a hard time. You can go out there and say forget it or you can persevere and keep pushing. Some women can’t take that. You have to be willing to take the lumps. It’s not easy. It’s not for everybody. There are a lot of ideas out there. I always hear people say that they have this idea but they never follow through on it. You need to be able to take that Idea and do whatever it takes to do it. I also found support. I joined WBENC, Women’s Business National Council. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. They have lots of connections. There are a lot of organizations for women. You just have to reach out and decide which ones you can follow through and participate in. It won’t fall on your lap. For some it may, but for most it won’t. It certainly wasn’t the case for me.
Why do you feel there are now a large number of women entrepreneurs?
There are a lot of really capable women out there. Women are breaking the glass ceiling. I’m very fortunate because I’ve lived long enough to see all of this. When I was in insurance, you didn’t share. There was no such thing as networking. Today, everyone greets each other saying, “How can I help you?” and not, “How can you help me?” In my day, networking wasn’t there and it made it difficult for women to break through. Collaboratively [now], women are supporting each other to become successful. It’s exciting where we’re at right now. Also, the Internet has changed a lot of things and continues to do so. It has educated people that aren’t [institutionally educated] and enables businesses to grow at a lesser expense.
What is some advice you can give to new entrepreneurs?
You have to be willing to persevere and keep fighting to get to your goal. There’s no other way to do it. You have to believe it so hard that you have to give up anything in order to get there. And that’s hard to do specially if you have kids. It’s a difficult thing to do today but it’s not impossible. Most of us I guess, if we want something that bad, we have to be like a dog with a bone. It didn’t fall on my lap but I kept at it. It is also important to find mentors and networking. I’d like to see more mentoring happening here in OC and I’m hoping to be a part of that change.
After my interview with Edie, she invited me to have lunch with her at a nearby Japanese restaurant. I couldn’t say no this time, as I found her story so interesting and wanted to hear more and know more of her. Aside from the sweet old lady she personifies, I found Edie to be an amazing woman, determined entrepreneur, great mentor and a really caring friend. We chatted as if we were long time girlfriends, sharing stories of success and struggles. She gave me great advice for my own personal struggles as an aspiring entrepreneur without even asking for it. It is clear that Edie is on a mission to make a difference in everyone’s lives, and she has already done so in mine, in just our first meeting. For more information on Edie Singer and Duobed, please visit her website at www.duobed.com.
By Denise Walker