You Don’t Have To Be First...
Pillar is not the first phone booth manufacturer; it’s a better phone booth manufacturer. Pillar Booths are thoughtfully designed with multiple stakeholders in mind. If you’re using a Pillar Booth you’ll appreciate the attention to detail, audio-engineering, and comfort. If you’re assembling a Pillar Booth you’ll appreciate the design, functionality, and flexibility. And if you’re purchasing a Pillar Booth you’ll appreciate the sustainable materials, the durability of the booth, and the price-point.
In the summer of 2016, Sam Matthew was working as interim-director at a co-working space in Chicago. It was a nice place to work, but there wasn’t a quiet place for someone to take a phone call. Conference rooms could only be reserved by groups of two or more, and the rest of the space was a mix of crowded offices and open-floor-plan communal work space. As a result, people would often venture into the hallway, their cars, or even the bathrooms in order to find a private space for important (or sensitive) phone calls. Sam decided that his first initiative as interim-director was going to be to solve this problem. He thought, “somebody has to make phone booths with sound insulation that look great and are easy to assemble.” After google didn’t yield any results, Sam thought “maybe I should start a business manufacturing and selling phone booths…” But then he got a new job that had him traveling fulltime and he put the idea on the backburner.
Our Garage Moment
Like all good startup stories, Pillar’s story involves a garage. But this business started on a garage rather than in one.
In the Fall of 2018, Sam was sitting on the deck above his friend Ryan Leavitt’s garage when the phone booth idea came up again. Ryan had just sold his business, and was looking for a new opportunity, and Sam was telling him that he had spent the past two years working from co-working spaces in 20+ countries, and that the need for privacy booths was global.
Unlike in 2016, at this point there were a few pod solutions in the market. But Sam and Ryan had seen all of these other booths, and they weren’t impressed. The general idea was similar, but the execution was lacking. They were either too expensive - no startup is going to pay $15,000 for one booth; too ugly - nobody wants something that looks like a port-o-potty in the middle of their office; or too hot - we’ve been in multiple offices where the employees have nicknamed our competitors’ booths the “sweat-box”. Even worse, many had poor quality sound insulation, so they didn't even accomplish their main goal.
Sam and Ryan called their friend Jordan Goodman, a trained architect and furniture designer, and convinced him that the world at large needed a better booth and that he should design it. Jordan said yes. And here we are.
Who We Are
Jordan Goodman has been designing custom furniture since he was eighteen. He values functional purposeful designs, both when utilizing products and designing them. Jordan trained as an architect (with a minor in furniture design) at Washington University in Saint Louis, and then spent a year honing his woodworking skills at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine. On top of furniture design, Jordan works as an art consultant, serves on the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and spends as much time as possible skiing with his wife and three boys.
Ryan Leavitt is a life-long entrepreneur; he is passionate about identifying and trying to solve big problems, views himself as a “servant connector”, and is obsessed with building highly productive teams. He was a Co-founder at both LearnCore and Catapult Chicago, where he still sits on the board. He is born and raised in Chicago, where he currently lives with his wife and two boys. Outside of spending time with his family and building startups, you can find Ryan at Wrigley Field or supporting the Michigan Wolverines #goblue.
Sam Matthew is an attorney by trade and an inventor at heart (he obtained his first patent when he was fourteen). He has experience as a tech startup general counsel and prior work in litigation and startup advisory. Sam earned his JD from Harvard Law School, cut his teeth as a litigation associate in BigLaw, left BigLaw to travel/volunteer, spent some time as the interim-director at Catapult Chicago, and then wound up working as General Counsel and Director of Public Policy at a venture backed startup.