More than 20 years ago, now CEO of Cadence Keen Innovations, Inc., Sam Montross, owned a small ski inn in Lake Tahoe, N.Y. As is typical of rentals, one of the guestrooms in this popular destination had twin beds, because, according to Montross, “You want to offer room versatility in a rental.”
Montross explains that the ever-moving furniture didn’t bother her, but the idea that guests did not sleep comfortably at her property was most definitely a concern. “I know first-hand how miserable those sort of sleeping arrangements could be.”
From the need to ensure her guests’ comfort, Montross created her first solution, the Easy King Bed Doubler, which can convert two twin mattresses into a king-sized sleeping surface. To get the word out, Montross entered the product into the International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show’s Choice Awards. “I was up against enormous companies,” she remembers. “But I knew I had something special.” The Easy King didn’t win, but the product was recognized as extremely innovative. It also opened the door to the hotel industry.
“When I first conceived of the product, I thought it would have a market in bed and breakfasts and other small properties. Turns out, it solved a problem for a lot of hotels,” she says. “After the Choice Awards, I started hearing from New York City hoteliers and hotels around the country who owned properties in old buildings. They couldn’t get king-sized beds into their elevators, so they were pushing together twins. Guests did not like it and weren’t returning. Or, sometimes they needed to separate the beds to accommodate couples that slept separately for religious reasons. These hoteliers needed room flexibility and versatility, and the Easy King gave them that.”
Montross says that when she first broke into the industry, she started attending hospitality trade shows and conferences, connecting with other manufacturers and hotel decision-makers. “Back then, there weren’t many other women in the manufacturing space, so when we connected, we took care of each other,” she describes. “When I’d run across a woman-owned company, there was an immediate connection because they ‘got it.’ We’d share leads and helpful advice. I’d tell my contacts about their products. It was a really supportive network.”
The women at these events gave Montross her way into the industry, and today she tries to pay-it-forward, supporting up and coming women and offering mentorship and assistance when she can. She also offers the following advice to women looking to breakthrough in hospitality or any industry, “Women should aspire to be who they admire the most. Be that person and success will come.”