MyPillow is located in Lindell's hometown of Chaska, Minnesota, outside Minneapolis, a place he's always stayed close to. Back in 1979, "I went to the U of M (University of Minnesota) for one quarter, and I was working two jobs," he said. "I felt like I was just wasting my time."
He quit school and continued working both jobs, including one at a grocery store. "I actually got fired at the grocery store," Lindell said.
He clashed with the manager, but he believes the manager sparked his entrepreneurial spirit. "He says, 'Well, Mike, if you don't like it here, maybe get your own company someday.'"
Lindell did, but only after several failures.
In the '80s, Lindell tried to make money in a variety of ways. He started a carpet cleaning business after his sister's apartment became flooded. "I said, 'Wow, this would be a good business,' and I wasn't doing anything."
Then he tried to make money as a professional card counter in Las Vegas. It didn't always go well. "I remember being at one of the big casinos," Lindell recalled. He thought the dealer was cheating him.
Outraged, the then 22-year-old kid from Minnesota called over the pit bosses. "I said, 'He's second dealing me! He's second dealing me!' And I'm thinking this guy is in trouble." Lindell was wrong. "They came around the table and picked me up and literally threw me through the front door."
Lindell's other zany business ventures included trying to raise pigs. That went south when the pigs broke out of the pen he had set up in a residential area. Then "the hog market collapsed and I lost everything," he says.
That was followed by a lunch wagon business he started after hearing how successful they were in California. "We didn't have nothing like that on this side of the Twin Cities." Lindell bought a lunch wagon and went to the biggest business in town, forcing his way in to see the boss and promising free sandwiches for everyone during a one-week trial. The boss gave the go-ahead. "He liked that entrepreneurial spirit."
Eventually, though, Lindell started working as a bartender, and then buying a bar. "Probably wasn't a real good idea because I was an addict at the time, a pretty hard-core cocaine addict."
More on that in a minute.