4 Lessons From a Startup That’s Helping People Hear



A year ago, LSTN Headphones was still just a concept. All we had was a website with pictures of prototypes of our headphones up for pre-sale, and an idea that we could change lives through the power of music — with our business. Since then, we’ve learned some valuable lessons about starting a business and what it takes to succeed.

Pick a Project You’re Passionate About

Can you imagine a world without sound? As a music lover, I couldn’t imagine never discovering a new artist, never hearing my favorite album or never going to my first concert. Music is the soundtrack to my life and it’s shaped who I am today. I went from being a kid growing up in Flint, Michigan learning how to play guitar to working with some of the biggest artists in the world at major labels in Los Angeles.

Set Yourself Apart From the Pack With a Clear Vision

When we were first starting out, everyone thought we were crazy to enter a market that seemingly every rapper and electronics company in the world had already set foot in. The problem was that although the headphone market is massive, none of the existing brands were making headphones we wanted to buy. In addition to great sound quality, we set out to create headphones that were beautifully designed and environmentally friendly.

Consider Your Social Values

When we looked at that massive market, we didn’t see another company making headphones that sounded good, looked good—and were doing well. So we set forth on a mission that would set us apart; we’d produce great headphones made from reclaimed wood and, for every pair sold, LSTN would help restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation. We make direct contributions to Starkey with each purchase of our headphones.

Remember That Success Comes in Two Forms

Running a startup is not for the faint of heart — very little sleep, a lot of travel, no money, constant roller coaster emotions. I recently returned from a trip to Peru where I got to experience the joy of seeing people receive the gift of hearing and being exposed to music for the first time. When I saw the faces that lit up when children connected and communicated with their families, I lost it. It was truly life changing. It trumped being able to quit my corporate job to do LSTN full time. It trumped the feeling of getting our product into Whole Foods.

In fact, it trumped everything we had accomplished up to that point, because to change even one person’s life through our business proved that our plan was working. On that trip we helped fit 10,000 people in various cities and villages throughout Peru with hearing aids. (We made a short video about our journey that you can see here.)

Is your business changing lives? Do you want it to?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Image credit: CC by Björn Bechstein

About the author: Bridget Hilton

Bridget Hilton is founder of LSTN Headphones, a music start-up based in Hollywood, CA that makes high quality wooden headphones and funds hearing restoration programs globally.

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