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July 06, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Holy Grail Pillows is the company your pierced ears have been waiting for 

The bad news is right now it’s just an idea. But it’s an idea UT Knoxville student Mariah Laux is ready to grow, and she’s already got her first round of funding. 

Mariah Laux is sick of bad pillows. Specifically, she hates that pillows don’t really accommodate her ear piercings. 

Tens of millions of people in the United States have their ears pierced. If you’re one of them, you know how uncomfortable it is to sleep on one of those piercings, especially when it’s new and you can’t remove the earring for fear of the hole closing up. 

Don’t worry, Laux has a solution, and it’s called Holy Grail Pillows. 

“I have a few piercings and throughout the lifetime of a piercing, they’re pretty sensitive. If you have a lot on one ear, you can’t really sleep on a regular pillow without experiencing a lot of pain,” she said. “So I came up with this idea for a pillow that would perfectly fit all the needs. Basically, everything I didn’t have in the current pillow I use.” 

If you’re reading this and earringless, you may think, why not just take the jewelry off before bed? 

“They’re expensive. They’re an investment. Some jewelry is like $200 a pop, so you want it to heal correctly. You don’t want to irritate it,” said Laux. “We’re sleeping for so long I thought it was only natural to come up with something that could kind of fix that problem.” 

The good news is Laux’s idea sounds pretty great. Here’s how she describes what her pillow looks like: 

Mariah Laux with her award.

“Picture a neck pillow that you get at the airport, but then it has a lot of other additional features. There would be a strap on it so that you can attach it to a regular pillow, so it doesn’t move around when you sleep,” she said. “When you turn your head side to side, nothing gets snagged. It will also have a shape kind of like a circle, like a doughnut pillow, just so that you have enough space to move your head around a little bit.” 

The bad news is right now it’s just an idea. But it’s an idea Laux is ready to grow, and she’s already got her first round of funding. 

Laux, an incoming junior studying business analytics, economics, and international business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), took the idea for Holy Grail Pillows to the Graves Business Plan Competition. She came in second place in the lifestyle category, winning $3,000. 

“I think it solidified my feelings that the idea was adequate enough that it could actually go somewhere,” said Laux. “A lot of [the judges] were older and told me afterward they had never even thought about this as a problem at all. So I think I brought to their attention what a niche market it is, but it still exists.” 

The Graves Business Plan Competition is hosted each spring and fall semester by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation within UTK’s Haslam School of Business. The competition is designed to give UTK student entrepreneurs their first experience pitching a business plan. 

Holy Grail Pillows won’t be coming to an online shopping cart near you quite yet. After all, Laux still has two years left of undergrad and is spending her time this summer at an internship. 

“I really want to develop it,” she said. “I do think it’ll require a lot of initial investment, not only of capital but also just time. I really don’t know a whole lot about business yet so I’m trying to apply the skills that I’ve learned to this project.” 

As Laux continues her business education, she’s thankful for the connections and insight she received from competing in the Graves Business Plan Competition. Her advice for anyone with a business idea? 

“Unless you take the step, you’re not going to know where you could go with it,” said Laux. “I’m not anyone super gifted or anything like that, I just had a really good idea and I decided to pursue it. So to anyone who’s not confident in themselves, you just have to give yourself a little push. You can do a lot more than you think.” 

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