TORONTO STARTUP GROWS AND GIVES BACK WITH WEIGHTED BLANKETS
Launched online in 2018, Hush Blankets now works with 25 charities in the GTA
Lior Ohayon, co-founder of Hush Blankets, first learned about the soothing qualities of weighted blankets while working at a camp for kids with special needs in 2011. The camp’s “stimulation room” had a weighted blanket to help put the kids at ease. “It was supposed to make them feel warm and secure, like they were back in the womb,” Ohayon says. So he tried it himself. “It felt incredible,” he says. “I found myself sneaking back into the room to use it.”
Fast forward a few years. Ohayon had put in two years at university and left to start his own software company. While out socializing, he ran into Aaron Spivak, who had coincidentally also logged two years of university before launching a successful chain of juice kitchens. Both of their businesses were pretty much running themselves, so the serial entrepreneurs came up with the idea of creating and marketing a premium weighted blanket. “You don’t really have to have special needs to enjoy the effects of weighted blankets,” Spivak says. “If you have insomnia or you’re just stressed out, they can help.”
Weighted blankets provide Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation (DTPS), adds Ohayon. “It sounds fancy, but it just refers to any form of deep pressure that’s exerted equally across the body,” he explains. That pressure encourages your body to release serotonin, relieving stress and allowing for a deeper more restful sleep.
There were already weighted blankets on the market, but Spivak and Ohayon found them lacking. The little plastic beads that filled them weren’t durable and had a propensity to shift in the night so the weight wasn’t evenly distributed. By creating a version that used glass microbeads and quilted pockets, they were able to overcome these problems.
In 2018, the duo launched their Hush Blankets online. “We sold out pretty much month over month for eight consecutive months,” says Spivak. Even in those early days, though, they incorporated a giving program aimed at supplying weighted blankets to the homeless, children in shelters and kids with disabilities. “There wasn’t a real structure to the program — we did it on our own time,” says Spivak. “But we felt it was important to donate as much as possible.”
This spring, both Hush Blankets and the company’s Give Back program got a major boost when Spivak and Ohayon appeared on the popular CBC television program Dragons’ Den. “Hush did amazing in the Den,” says Dragon Lane Merrifield. “They came in prepared, they knew their numbers and the value they brought to people’s lives. They had a purpose and a mission to what they were doing.”
Apart from snagging a $400,000 investment from the Dragons, Hush received a $100,000 contribution from Desjardins through their GoodSpark program. Open to candidates on
Dragons’ Den, GoodSpark aims to help entrepreneurs with a social purpose. As Canada’s largest financial cooperative, giving back is an essential part of business for Desjardins. Giving a helping hand to Hush Blanket’s Give Back program and the people it serves was a natural fit for GoodSpark.
For Spivak and Ohayon, the GoodSpark grant was an unexpected and welcome offshoot of their TV debut. The company had previously given away one adult blanket for every 10 sold and one child’s blanket for every five purchased. Its goal now is to double those numbers by 2020. “We’re working with 25 charities now, most of them in the Toronto area,” says Spivak. “We’re over the moon that Desjardins decided to empower us with this money. We’re going to be able to help so many more people in need. The impact will be tremendous.”
Lior Ohayon and Aaron Spivak won over Dragon Lane Merrifield with their presentation of Hush Blankets on Dragons’Den. Contributed