Interview With Turner Osler, Lex Osler
Describe your product or service:
“We make chairs that keep people moving while sitting.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We all spend a lot of time sitting. Probably more than we realize and certainly more than is good for us. We can’t easily change how much we sit, so the challenge is to change how we sit. QOR360 chairs are designed to transform sitting into a healthy activity with life-long benefits.
Active sitting is more enjoyable, comfortable, and offers a wealth of long-term health benefits. QOR360 helps you sit better so you can live better.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“Owner contribution [and] profits from chairs sold.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“Two founders, six freelancers, many ‘just-in-time’ factory workers.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I'm an inadvertent entrepreneur. Passive sitting is a public health catastrophe, but no one was doing anything about it. So, I invented a solution and founded a company.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“I developed back pain and, after taking a deep dive into the causes of back pain (I'm an M.D., former academic surgeon, and lifelong researcher), I concluded that the solution was to keep people moving while sitting. Because no such chair existed, I invented it.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“We wanted to bring to mind the relationship of sitting to core muscle atrophy, but, because all the URLs with ‘CORE’ were taken, we went with ‘QOR’ (sounds like "core"). The 360 was to suggest all the muscles of the core (360 degrees in a circle, etc.)”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Most people are unaware that sitting is a health hazard, but [it] doesn't have to be. Getting this message out has been a heavy lift because we don't have much of an advertising budget. So, we've had to rely on earned media (Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, etc.), as well as things like YouTube influencers, podcasters, a TEDx Talk, my blog, a book I wrote, etc.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Everyone who sits — so, basically everyone. But our early adopters have been people who sit a lot in their home office, as well as movement/posture folks (Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, etc.).”
What's your marketing strategy?
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Word of mouth.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Chairs purchased per day, customer acquisition cost.”
What's your favorite entrepreneurial book and podcast?
“‘The Art of the Start 2.0’ by Guy Kawasaki; ‘How I Built This’ (NPR).”
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
"Just because I invented it doesn't mean I know what it is for.”
Who is your support system?
“Half a dozen gig workers who love our chairs, all of whom I love for their commitment to making sitting better.”
How do you stay motivated?
“A firm commitment to our public health mission, born of my life-long career as a doctor. As a surgeon, one can affect at most 10,000 patients' lives. But, by curing back pain, I could help millions of people. Now that's motivation.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Get up early, make a list, do this stuff on your list. It's how I managed a career as an academic surgeon, and I published over 300 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. Turns out this works for entrepreneurship as well. Also, as a surgeon, I had to manage many teams that had diverse membership: doctors, nurses, PTs, OTs, medical students. Keeping them all excited, focused, and productive is an art that wasn't easy to learn, but it has application to any team one may be charged with managing, such as our little chair project.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“Our team's success: we've converted over 6,000 to sitting actively, and all of these folks are healthier for our efforts. ‘Do well by doing good.’”
More on QOR360
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Turner Osler, M.D. of design startup QOR360 that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.