It isn’t often that you meet women in Dallas with a story like local business owner Merrimac Dillon’s. Founder of The Pillow Bar, a business in Dallas dedicated to providing “Luxury With a Purpose,” Merrimac Dillon went from a small idea in a garage to being featured in The O List, Wall Street Journal, Better Homes & Gardens and more. I met her the day I moved into my dorm at SMU — she does business with my dad and he wanted me to meet a woman that I could draw some great inspiration from. She even graciously opened her home to me when we were displaced from campus during the power outage. Dillon is more than just an inspiring woman; she is an entrepreneur, fantastic mom and loving wife. Her business story began eight years ago when her husband underwent a particularly difficult procedure on his back that threatened his ability to walk. Determined to find the best ways to keep him as healthy as possible after the surgery, Dillon set out to find the finest pillow to keep his spine in line while he slept. There was only one problem: it didn’t exist.
She began by buying pillows at an alarming rate and ripping them open to see what was in them. “I knew I had to make pillows when I found all sorts of unwanted things in the pillows like dirty, allergy laden feathers, pieces of random plastic and dirt; I knew that there was only one way to find a pillow that I knew what was inside— to make it!” she described. “That was when we got the idea for the machine itself that has a clear acrylic front panel so you can actually see what is going inside each pillow.” (See photo above.) Once Dillon had designed and made the perfect pillow, she hunted down manufacturers to see if they would be willing to work with her on production. Not only was she turned down, she was laughed at. Instead of giving up at the first obstacle, she endured, and even saw it as an opportunity for a unique niche: a luxury pillow business.
“When I was working with the neurosurgeon and chiropractors in their sleep clinics to develop a pillow for my husband, all the patients wanted to buy a pillow; it was then I knew it could be a business. Then one of the patients in the clinic was the buyer for Neiman Marcus and she came to my garage to see what I was doing and placed my very first order! It was an exciting moment,” she recalled to me. While The Pillow Bar was born from the unique combination of an entrepreneurial mind and a difficult surgery, it was Dillon’s “blind faith” that breathed life into the business. Two patents and seven trademarks later, The Pillow Bar is now a successful company dedicated to bringing people a great night’s sleep, but that does not stop Dillon from listening to others’ input on how to improve her business.
“Every day I strive to be open to other peoples’ ideas and creativity,” she explained. “I think there are so many good ideas that come from so many places, I want to make sure I am open and listen. My business philosophy is actually printed on my office wall: ‘Attitude and Integrity will bring you success, but it is nothing without love and faith.’ This was something my father said to me every day and I try to live my life that way every day. I fully believe that if I live by that, I will be a good leader and a positive force in my business and personal life.”
In parting, her advice to me and all young women in college was some of the best advice I’ve received: “A strong woman shows she is in charge by being calm and consistent and communicating directly. Be prepared to work hard, work happy, and be consistent. One of the things I always value in colleagues is consistency and positive attitude… anything less makes each day more stressful and harder to build ‘team’. Work should be fun and inspire you to achieve, not just be a means to a paycheck. If you aren’t enjoying and learning from what you are doing, you should re-assess your position as well as your long-term goals.”
Perhaps the largest reason I felt myself inclined to interview Merrimac Dillon is that she truly embodies an ideal businesswoman. She is kind, consistent, calm, and positive— all are qualities that I believe make a successful person. In talking with her, you not only feel as though she is listening but that she genuinely cares. The most important thing I have learned from my interactions with her is that a positive attitude changes everything, and I can say with confidence that if there is one thing that you should take away from this, it is that having a positive mindset can transform the way you work and learn. That, and a good night’s sleep.