Bea Arthur’s first venture failed after less than a year. Now she’s on to her second business, Pretty Padded Room, an online platform that virtually connects people seeking therapy to licensed therapists–though her path so far has been less than smooth.
Pretty Padded Room allows women to attend therapy sessions online via a video-chat system powered by Skype, and file “digital diaries” that can be accessed and analyzed by therapists remotely. Pretty Padded Room boasts an all-female staff of therapists and offers counseling online to help women with stress management, career counseling, marriage counseling, and other issues that affect many females. Not only does Arthur’s service provide help to women who may not otherwise seek mental-health services, it also provides an opportunity for the female therapists that work with the company to take control of their time by allowing them to work from anywhere.
Here’s what Arthur has learned so far on her journey through entrepreneurship:
Back in 2008, Arthur launched a brick-and-mortar social club for moms called Me Too. Less than a year later, Me Too folded. Faced with all the emotions that follow the failure of a business, Arthur suffered.
“My business failing devastated me,” Arthur says. “I became depressed but didn’t want to ask any of my friends for referrals, and as a 25-year-old counseling therapist, I myself didn’t really have the money to afford therapy.” The bad situation she found herself in helped her come up with the idea for Pretty Padded Room.
“I decided to take it [therapy] where you take all other dark secrets and make something on the Internet,” Arthur says. “I felt like we could reject the stigma of counseling by embracing it and placing it on a platform that is accessible.”
Arthur’s attempt at “therapy on your own time and on your own terms” got national coverage this year when she appeared on ABC‘s Shark Tank–and though it didn’t go as well as she’d hoped, Arthur used that tough experience to perfect her pitch and her startup.
When Arthur appeared on Shark Tank, she asked the show’s potential investors for $100,000 in exchange for a 30% stake of her business. But when the Sharks began to question Arthur about profits and first-time-user attrition rates, she admitted that she needed to “get clear on the numbers.” All of the Sharks declined to invest in her business.
The experience helped Arthur realize that investors most wanted to see identifiable profit growth as well as steady user retention and an increase in the company’s number of customers and users. So she sought out advice regarding those aspects of her business. “When I got back home to NYC, I partnered with a team of advisers,” says Arthur. She reached out to her network of mentors and began to defer to some professionals who helped her solve the issues the Sharks had with her business. “I was able to secure some outside funding by getting a better understanding of the numbers.”
“The site was in beta for the first year and I didn’t have the money to pay for updates, so the attrition rate was high because the site did not always function correctly,” recalls Arthur. “With the funding I received, I was able to hire business and software developers that have fixed all the bugs in the platform. Because I opened myself up to criticism, I was able to identify issues, perfect my pitch, and move my business forward.”