Maxwell Cohen is an entrepreneur and inventor who, at the young age of 28, already has started a business known as based Peel Away Labs. Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, the startup company produces “Peelaways” and “Peelaways Health” which are easy to change and disposable bedsheets.

Maxwell—who came from a family who expected all their children to start a business by age 27—came up with the Peelaways concept when he was a student at the University of Arizona.

While there, he earned a B.S. in Environmental and Water Resource Economics and saw how many college students couldn’t be bothered changing their bedsheets due to the hassle of washing them. Similarly, many elderly people reported not wanting to go through the trouble of washing and drying the sheets to change them. Considering this dilemma, Maxwell invented a Peelaways solution and officially launched Peel Away Labs in 2017.

Peelaways have the distinction of being the bedding industry’s first multilayered, disposable, waterproof fitted sheet that is specially designed for the home, healthcare, and industrial markets. The product appeared on “Shark Tank” and was not successful, but Maxwell did not give up, and Peelaways are presently being distributed across America and beyond.

Maxwell Cohen recently granted an exclusive interview where he discussed being an inventor, entrepreneur, and the founder of Peel Away Labs.

Inventions, materials, and business

Meagan Meehan (MM): You grew up in a family that wanted all the children to invent something by age 27. So how did that become a rule and why that specific age?

Maxwell Cohen (MC): My family has been starting businesses for 40 years and investing in them for 20. My family has a rule that, before you turn 27, you have had to at least attempt to start a business. Our family motto is failed fast or realizes the time and hard work it takes for an idea to become a successful reality.

Starting at a young age is great because I do not have children, no mortgage and can take the risk.

MM: What have your siblings invented?

MC: My sister started and sold her travel business bonvoyaging(dot)com and my brother started a company called BrandYourself(dot)com, while he was in college and now runs a Venture firm called New York Venture Partners (NYVP).

MM: What made you decide to create Peel Away sheets and how tough was it to turn the thought into a product?

MC: I started executing on my idea while studying environmental and water resource economics at the University of Arizona. I noticed my friends would never wash their bedsheets. Stripping the bed, washing the laundry and remaking the bed was time-consuming and annoying for my friends. I said, “There has to be an easier way.” Ideas are a dime a dozen and it is all about smart execution. It is tough to create a product this is "good enough" to sell to customers.

I did over two years of research and development and created 32 iterations of Peelaways. Those two years of R & D allowed me to learn what customers enjoy, and it also allowed me to learn more about the manufacturing process. Turning my Idea to an actual product was defiantly tough, but creating a real business is the real tough part.

MM: How did you find the materials and the company to manufacture it?

MC: I went to the closest hospital and learned what the (please delete the word “the” here) materials they used for disposable products, and from there I ordered a large role of the material from Alibaba. I found a company by searching for companies that create prototypes. With the few prototypes I created for Peelaways, I went to textile trade shows to learn about the industry and how to manufacture on a large scale. I ended up partnering with a Chinese factory and now have a great relationship with our manufacturers and work to improve our products every day.

Health benefits, feedback, and the future

MM: What sorts of health benefits does this product offer?

MC: Peelaways Health are 32% softer than traditional hospital sheets. Each layer is 100% waterproof which is key for healthcare facilities as well as the home market. The products help prevent hospital-acquired infections. Since Peelaways Health as easy inventory management, new sheets are changed in less than one minute which provides better time management. The product reduces skin irritation and offers better patient/user comfort.

MM: How did you get on “Shark Tank” and why do you think this pitch was unsuccessful?

MC: I saw there was an open casting call in downtown LA and I waited online with over 800 entrepreneurs in order to have my 30 seconds to shine. I made it to the next steps of the “Shark Tank” process and ended up filming my pitch which originally aired Friday, November 13, 2015. I was young and the company was even younger. I only had a few customers but not a real business. It’s actually a blessing that I did not get funded by the sharks.

I took all of their advice and the great experience to create the business I successfully run now.

MM: How did you end up getting this product on the market and then sold globally?

MC: When I first started Peel Away Labs, I went after markets I was familiar with including summer camps and college students. After selling to these industries I recognize that there is a strong need for our products. My grandmother was bedbound. Then, we recognized that homecare and healthcare tremendously benefit by using Peelaways.

Disposable bed sheets are something that everybody can use --- there are people that you believe should use it. When starting a business, there are people that you believe need a product like yours. The Peel Away Labs team attends many tradeshows around the world and targets countries with low infrastructure and water issues as our product has many benefits for countries globally. Once we recognize our product is superior to anything out on the market, we created all sizes from crib to king. In addition to tradeshows, we use the Rolodex of our investors to create relationships to get our products to secure global sales opportunities for Peelaways and Peelaways Health.

MM: What sorts of feedback have you gotten so far and are you planning to invent anything else in the future?

MC: We’ve gotten great feedback that allows us to become smarter and fast. People are incredibly surprised by how soft, and comfortable our products are, and it’s one of those products where people say “how come I didn’t make that.” Yes, I am young, and I plan to start many more ventures that potentially can help others for the greater good.

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