TORONTO STARTUP GROWS AND GIVES BACK WITH WEIGHTED BLAN­KETS

Launched on­line in 2018, Hush Blan­kets now works with 25 char­i­ties in the GTA

Toronto Star - - CANADA -

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

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