As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Maxwell Cohen. Maxwell is the founder, CEO and president of Peel Away Labs, the innovative start-up company that developed PeelawaysHealth, the healthcare industry’s first multilayered, disposable, waterproof fitted sheet designed for healthcare, home and industrial markets. While attending the University of Arizona, Cohen observed both students and his grandparents were not changing their bed sheets because stripping the bed, doing the laundry and remaking the bed were such a hassle. Realizing this was a challenge for multiple life stages, including parents of toddlers, Cohen knew there had to be a better way, so he created the patented solution, Peelaways, enabling consumers or health professionals to simply peel away the top layer to reveal a clean sheet below in seconds.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was in college, I noticed that many of my friends never washed their sheets. When I came home from college, I noticed that my elderly grandmother and grandfather had trouble washing their sheets as well. That was the impetus behind starting a product of peel-away bedsheets.
I come from a family of serial entrepreneurs where I was pushed to start businesses before I turned 27. Starting a business happened in between juggling my college major, Environmental Water Resource Economics at The University of Arizona.
After testing the market, we quickly learned that peel-away bedsheets are a NEED in the healthcare world. Peel Away Labs now sells our products to healthcare facilities in many countries around the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Everything about starting a business is super interesting — — so many new experiences. While working with investors, big retailers, logistics and healthcare facilities around the world, one of the most interesting experiences Peel Away Labs has had up to date was attending our first international trade show, Arab Health. We were recognized as being one of the most innovative products out of 3000 exhibitors.
As a college student having an opportunity to pitch my peel-away bedsheets on national television on “Shark Tank” was another huge experience. The audition process is a lengthy one. Once I made the cut, onto “Shark Tank” I went. However, the sharks did not think that I had a viable product, so, in essence, I tanked. However, today I can say that I proved the sharks wrong since Peelaways and Peelaways Health are truly successful globally.
Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?
Peel Away Labs is the next generation of healthcare bedding and the next generation of bedding in general. There is an aging population that wants to stay independent for as long as possible for which a simpler fitted sheet would be easier. If a person cannot get out of bed, a caregiver or healthcare provider can still change the sheets within 60 seconds or less.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Peelaways are a product that is the first and only of its kind. We created a disposable bed sheet that everybody could use — especially the home care market, health care facilities, hospitals, hospice, and acute care facilities. We stand out since we help reduce costs associated with personnel time changing sheets, laundering costs, water usage and more.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
I’m proud that Peel Away Labs also targets countries that have low infrastructure and water supply for laundry. In places that are affected by drought, for example, peel-away bed sheets allow healthcare facilities to continue to have clean, fitted bed sheets for every patient no matter what the infrastructure is in their country. We target places that have low access to water, electricity, and infrastructure.
More specifically, as the population in the United States is getting older and older, the market for disposable bed sheets is getting larger among our growing elderly community.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m excited to share that we have additional projects in the works We are always looking to become more green, and are moving towards a product that is 100 percent biodegradable. Products from Peel Away Labs help in so many ways including saving water and electricity, as well as improving patient comfort and, most importantly, lowering hospital acquired infections. Sheets can now be disposed quickly compared to traditional sheets that require a lot of people touching and moving contaminated linens. Since each sheet in a health care facility is unique to one patient and one patient only, we believe our disposable sheets can help lower hospital-acquired infections
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
It takes a long time to do business, business is very complex.
We do a lot of international business — -everyone is unique. Make sure to speak slowly and tailor your pitch according.
Raise extra capital if possible. We were lucky enough that Peel Away Labs we had tremendous demand and over-subscribed both of our funding rounds. Businesses are very capital intensive and having more capital the better. Make sure you have enough capital in your bank account — your business bank account — to allow you to last at least 18 months until the deals and connections you have solidify to actual business.
It’s all about persistence: the timeline, the pipeline, and getting through the gatekeepers and meeting the right connections.
Nothing goes according to plan, Shipments will be late, vendors do not pay, people won’t respond — — it is part of business. Knowing that things will go wrong will allow you to prepare for when thing brake or do not go according plan. This is a major benefit as it allows to you stay calm and prepare for the worst.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this studycited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
People are not willing to change habits in the USA no matter how beneficial.
The politics of healthcare systems in the USA get in the way of innovation and are very hesitate to try new technologies.
We have a healthcare system that is so complex and hamstrung.
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
It would be important to allow the trail of new products to be decided on at the clinician level — since those experts are the ones on the ground level and using the new products, they should be the one to allow the testing. Peelaways has had many CNO, CFO of healthcare facilities say we cannot test the products at this time. However, when we pitch the nurses and environmental services they push for a trial of the products.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
Start a trial and test the products to record real life data — -this trial would prove that our disposable sheet products are more efficient and practical versus the traditional way.
Clinicians are very important to get a test, but everyone CFO, CNO in the healthcare facilities has to sign off on a new product.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
We attend many conferences around the world to learn and to make sure we are on top of all global needs and trends. Healthcare is larger than just the United States. Traveling and exhibiting at major healthcare conference allows Peel Away Labs to stay informed of the latest technology and needs for the healthcare industry.
I also use Quora, a website a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organized by its community of users in the form of opinions. I continuously to learn from this website and its different points of views.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!