Follow Their Journeys: When purpose finds a caring hand

At LiftFund, our clients inspire us every day. We are fascinated by their purpose, innovation, commitment and passion. We enjoy learning about their stories and proudly share in their journey, championing them along their pathway to prosperity. 

We spoke with Denise Walker, PHD, owner of Pillow Kudde, and our team member Stephaney Bolden, business development officer to learn more about their journeys. Hope you are as inspired as we are! 

The conversations have been edited for clarity and length.

LiftFund: Tell us about yourself and the opportunity or challenge that led you to start your business. 

Denise: I broke my ankle followed by surgery. I needed something to use to hold up my ankle off the ground that did not hurt. I made a pillow out of seat cushions I was making for my patio chairs and bam! I felt comfort so I used the pillow throughout my recovery. Then, my mother was in the hospital and started getting sores on the heels of her feet; I gave her the pillow and it worked for her too. Others asked, and I started giving them away at first, then changed my model and started selling them. 

Retirement and recovering from cancer opened the door to try PillowKudde as my new venture. I needed something to focus on that was positive and would require a new way of thinking. Once I changed my mindset from donation to sale, PillowKudde was born. We focus on rest, relaxation, and renewal using mobile products you can take with you anywhere. 

LiftFund: What led you to LiftFund?

Stephaney: In 2005, my family and I evacuated New Orleans to San Antonio because of Hurricane Katrina. We expected to stay 3 or 4 days, but ended up staying 2 years. 

I visited San Antonio’s workforce who connected me for an interview with Gary Linder, the CFO at the time. We later scheduled an interview at the headquarters and met Janie and the team. I was hired the next day as LiftFund’s first executive assistant.

LiftFund: What obstacles did you face getting your concept and business going?

Denise: Money and protecting my idea. Second, I am not a sales person. I started with my family and have branched out. To feel real, I gave my business a name, PillowKudde. I tested the name and the response was positive. Kudde is Swedish for pillow.  I was excited and motivated. From there I began selling at conferences and always sold out. 

LiftFund: What do you see are the biggest challenging our clients — micro businesses and entrepreneurs of color? 

Stephaney: Knowledge is a huge factor. Many of our business owners are experts in their crafts, however some do not know how to manage their credit, finances, or know where to go to obtain assistance for access to capital.

LiftFund: How has LiftFund’s support been unique and meaningful to you and your business?

Denise: LiftFund has supported my business in many ways. Their team first helped me with PPP and grants as a needed. Next, sound advice from a caring and patient team who linked me to experts in sales and marketing. Visibility and marketing of their clients is yet another type of help. They have also supported my business by purchasing our sachets as giveaways. Will your bank do all of this for you without it being another service to sell? This makes LiftFund unique.. It translates into money for your business.  

LiftFund: What gets you excited about the work?

Stephaney:  I am excited seeing the business owners whom I have assisted grow and thrive in the community. My business owners are my “why,” and seeing their success!

LiftFund: If you had a magic wand, what would you do to make our work improved? 

Stephaney: Truthfully, I would duplicate our staff. The passion they show, the commitment level, the work ethic.

LiftFund: What inspires you each day as a business owner?

Denise: My day starts with a prayer of thanks and research. My reward is being in a position to donate products to children in underserved areas with my Children’s NapMat, a big seller, or visiting someone and leaving them with a relaxing sachet filled with organic lavender flower buds.

LiftFund: What do you love about working at LiftFund? 

Stephaney: I love the family aspect of this organization. It is not just a place to work, but a place where people truly care about you as a person. Due to Katrina, the staff donated clothing, dishes, basic essentials. When I lost my son a few years ago, they supported me and when my dad became sick they were there. I never feel alone in this organization.

LiftFund: What is your long-term vision, hope, and dreams for your business? 

Denise: I was to begin exporting my products into Latin America and Caribbean, and then around the globe. 

LiftFund: Is there anything else you would like to share with the LiftFund community?

Denise: I greatly appreciate the opportunities LiftFund has provided PillowKudde in branding and promoting our business.  Because of your help, we are reaching new markets. Thank you!

Our team members at LiftFund are passionate about journeying with our clients, like Denise, and lifting them to success.