After earning two degrees in business and economics at Southern Methodist University and an MBA at UCLA, Connie Kleinert Babikian worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs before taking a finance job at Hunt Oil Corp. She loved her work but always felt a pull to become an entrepreneur like her mother, Ashlee Kleinert, who launched the food truck company Ruthie’s Rolling Café, and her maternal grandfather, Ray Hunt, the magnate behind Hunt Oil.
So, when a chance to become the owner of The Pillow Bar came up last year, Babikian decided to take the leap. “I always it in the back of my mind to be hands-on and build something,” she says.
The Dallas-based company makes luxury, custom-designed (according to each customer’s size and sleeping habits) and monogrammed pillows and related products, such as bedding, loungewear, boyfriend shirts, bath linens, and even dog beds. They’re sold online, at specialty shops, and through national retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, and Macy’s.
The Pillow Bar was founded by Merrimac Dillon in 2008 after she was unable to find a high-quality pillow for her husband, who was recovering from spinal surgery at the time. Babikian’s grandmother was a friend of Dillon’s and loved her pillows so much she’d take them along on travels. It soon became a favored brand of the extended family, including Babikian, who received some of the pillows as gifts when she got married in 2018 and whose bridal party wore the boyfriend shirts during the wedding weekend.
After about a year of talks, Babikian became became The Pillow Bar’s new majority owner on Sept. 1, 2021. With manufacturing in solid shape, she’s focusing on marketing—testing social media and digital initiatives. And as a new mom, she’s also eyeing a more aggressive push into products for children.
Babikian declines to reveal revenue for the private company, but when asked about reports showing the company generating $2 million in sales in 2020, she allows, “We’ve been very lucky and happy to grow on those numbers.”
Demand is being driven by the pandemic, with people spending more time in their homes, and health and wellness trends, with a growing awareness of how sleep quality affects one’s physical and mental health. “People also want to buy things that are responsibly made—that are right for our community and our society, and these pillows are made by an all-women team, locally, with the highest-quality, non-toxic ingredients,” Babikian says. “We’re at the intersection of all three of these trends. It’s the right product at the right time.”