Founder Maxwell Cohen created the bedding industry’s first multilayered, disposable, waterproof fitted sheets that have a multitude of uses. With the help of an American Express business card, disposable sheets went from “no way” to “here to stay.”
When Maxwell Cohen was in college, he noticed that his fellow dorm-mates weren’t exactly the most fastidious bunch. They weren’t changing their sheets often (or at all, in some cases) because switching them out was kind of a pain. Why not make it easier to be clean?, thought Cohen.
And so Peel Away Labs was born – a company that produced the first fitted disposable sheets. Because they are multilayered and waterproof, they’re not only perfect for busy young adults, but seniors, babies, guests and people in hospitals and medical institutions.
For Cohen, it’s been a short but intense ride – he even appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2015. “I started building the first prototype in 2013, then went into research and development for two and a half years, making sure there was a market. About two years ago, I started to raise capital.”
Cohen bootstrapped the initial costs with savings, then turned to family and friends for the first financing round. After that, seed financing came into play, where he raised $1.2 million and received a few lines of credit. As for his credit card, that too was – and is – a crucial part of his company’s success.
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What was your credit history beginning like?
I got my first credit card from Chase while in college. My parents are really good with finances so they made sure I was on top of building credit at an early age. Because of them, it didn’t take me too long to develop great credit.
Once I discovered the American Express Black card, that was what I wanted. I thought it was cool so I made sure to start building great credit.
Which credit cards do you have and use now? Why did you choose them?
When credit card companies find out that your company raised capital, they begin to bombard you with why you should use their card. I got so many offers! There are a lot of great credit card companies out there, especially those that cater to startups with employees.In the end, I chose to work with American Express. We do a lot of international business and they’re a great company for that. Right now I have two – The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card for my personal use.
The Business Platinum card has many perks for travel and offers a discount on shipping, and for us that’s a large expense. I also use a Charles Schwab debit card because there are no international fees and it gives cash back.
For the Business Platinum card, I had a gut instinct that the $595 annual fee would pay for itself and it did, no problem. I got 75,000 points once I was approved (and spent $20,000 within three months of card membership) and that’s equal to a round trip ticket to Dubai! (This offer has since expired).
My employees and I travel all the time – to Singapore, all over Africa, around the U.S. – and people underestimate the toll long flights have on a person. This card allows us to upgrade seats, and it makes us feel safe because it has the 24-hour concierge service.
What kind of credit manager are you? Are you always perfect?
We make sure to send all of our payments on time. I have to keep up a great credit score because we are an inventory-intensive company. We are working on getting lines of credit from our banks and they check scores. For that reason, it is extremely important that we’re never late on the bills.
However, there are always hiccups. An overseas lab we work with only accepts Visa or Mastercard, so I got a credit card from my bank to complete those transactions. Because it wasn’t a card I normally use, a bill got lost and that resulted in a late payment. But it wasn’t because I overcharged or didn’t have the money to pay; it was just a weird mistake.
All of our C-level employees have access to the credit card, as well. At Peel Away Labs, we have a lot of trust. Team members respect the credit card limit and know when to use it. I use the American Express app to keep tabs and I print the statements to put in our books once a month to make sure everything is kosher.
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As a business owner, what are the benefits of credit cards?
Credit cards are important to have when you’re starting a business. They allow us to purchase receivables and have 20 to 30 days to pay for them instead of needing the money upfront.
That’s huge for us because we spend between $10,000 and $30,000 each month. We charge marketing, travel and shipping. Research and development is a major expense – especially now since we’re in the process of developing fully biodegradable sheets.
Also, and this is super important, credit cards make our transactions safe. If there’s anything to dispute, a powerful card will reimburse you. That fraud protection is great. We have weird inquiries from people who want to pay by card but they’re not real. When they try to order large quantities and it turns out to be a scam, you could lose a lot of money.
What are you doing with all those points you earn?
I’m using them for travel, of course! But I also use the points to buy gift cards and reward my employees with them. The value of 10,000 points is $100 and that goes a long way for a consumer. We hand them out to our FedEx guys too. They pick up for us every day and we try to be as generous as possible.
Any advice for other business owners about credit cards?
Yes – make sure to take full advantage of all the perks that come with the credit card you choose. When you receive the card, you have to sign up for the rewards, at least for American Express, as they don’t automatically kick in. But get the best card for your business.
If you travel a lot – as we do – you have to get a travel card. Ours comes with Global Entry and $150 worth of checked bags. But if you don’t travel, there are other cards that can work better for you and your business.