In mid-February, Bea Arthur appeared on ABC’s investment and invention driven television show Shark Tank. She presented to the judges with confidence, delivering a memorable pitch that revealed the makings of her online therapy counseling service Pretty Padded Room — “A nice place to go crazy.” Although small, Arthur’s business was already running and successful before the show.
At the time of taping — last September — Arthur considered the not-bitten pitch to be a sorely missed opportunity. Nonetheless, Pretty Padded Room has since experienced beneficial adjustments. The most helpful advice received from the judges, Arthur said, was to find a business partner — and fast.
“I realized that I couldn’t build a business while I was running the business. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, you get bogged down by the day-to-day operations, “ Arthur admitted.
“At the time I had eight people working for me and 40 clients per month. Working from home on my futon full-time took all of my time. I wasn’t in the mindset to be doing the things I needed to do to get to the next level.”
Though a partnership between Arthur and an investor on the show didn’t materialize, she’s found other investors and currently owns 84 percent of the business.
“Since that time a lot has changed in how I operate my business. At the time I was really bummed out. I really felt like I had it and they would like it,” Arthur said. “I got tripped up on a couple of questions. I do feel like had I given them the answers they wanted, I could have gotten a deal.”
The Birth of Pretty Padded Room
Arthur thought up the idea of Pretty Padded Room in 2010, after her first venture Me Time failed. While a graduate psychology student at Columbia University, Arthur often babysat to earn extra money. Considering the moms that got very little time off — and to themselves — she launched a social site for mothers who maybe wanted to chat with other adults and moms alike.
“At the time I was 25 and didn’t have any kids so here I was telling these women they had a need. It was nice in theory, but what I found out later was that if I was a stay-at-home mom and had an hour free, I’d want to take a nap or go hang out with other moms,” Arthur added. “I wasn’t my target market. With this business I am my target market.”
Arthur discovered that therapy was her forte while working in real estate. Fairly different than her time prior spent as a domestic violence counselor — in real estate Arthur learned that beyond her job she enjoyed engaging with clients. That’s when, in 2006, she decided to go back to school to earn a Masters and EdM in Counseling Psychology.
“In having a lot of clients I just realized that I wanted to talk more to people. I was really curious about human behavior and the human condition,” She said.
Following the fall of Me Time, Arthur became depressed. Despite being a therapist herself, she strayed away from getting help because of two issues: the first, she didn’t want friends to know what she was going through; two she couldn’t afford continual therapy sessions.
Reshaping the Accessibility of Sanity
“I said if I’m a believer of this and can’t afford it, some of our clients must feel this way too. I felt like there was a big disconnect in this really necessary and valuable service and what people thought about it — and what they were able to get out of it,” Arthur said.