For a while now, weighted blankets have been a common topic in conversations surrounding anxiety, autism, ADHD, insomnia, and more. But is it possible the benefits of this all-encompassing hug of a blanket are really for everyone? Sheltered Co. says a resounding, “Yes.”
After searching for a solution and only finding sterile looking (and feeling) options, founder Pamela Hunter decided not only to create incredibly beautiful blankets with natural fabrics, but set out to shatter the stigma of who they were truly for – everyone.
Tell us a bit about what first moved you to create weighted blankets.
A few years ago, our middle daughter, Ransom, was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. So many things in her life are just a little more difficult because she has some body regulation difficulties. We were dealing with daily meltdowns, tears, sadness, and frustration. We quickly found out that compression vests and weighted blankets and clothing would really help her body relax. The fancy term our occupational therapist told us was proprioceptive input, the feeling of pressure around the body, which induces a secure and calming feeling.
I began my search for the perfect tool to help her, but all I could find were clinical looking blankets made from polyester and nylon fabrics that were filled with plastic beads to give them weight.
I just couldn’t imagine cuddling up with one of those. At the time, I happened to be weaving a rag rug for my living room. It was made of thick cotton jersey, that I hand-dyed indigo. When I was finished, it ended up being way too thick and far too heavy for a rug, but as a weighted blanket — it was practically perfect! I spent a few weeks tweaking the design and I remember the moment I placed it over my daughter, you could see her entire body soften and relax, the blanket just melted over her and she smiled. I can’t even tell you how many happy tears I cried when that happened, it felt pretty miraculous.
For those who don’t know, what are the benefits of weighted blankets? Who should use them?
Historically, weighted blankets have been used to help insomnia and other sleep disorders and many occupational therapists recommend them for ADHD, autism, SPD, and OCD, as well as many other disorders. They are also really beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety and depression. The blanket acts as an evenly distributed hug over your entire body.
When we set out to make these blankets, we wanted to shatter the stigma that weighted blankets are for clinical use only.
These blankets are for everyone because who couldn’t use a big giant hug at the end of the day?!
You truly prioritize making a beautiful, quality, conscious product made of safe materials by using natural, recycled, or deadstock fabric and non-plastic/polyester weights. Why has this been so important to Sheltered Co.?
Everything I own has a story. And I’m constantly inspired by the creative L.A. brands that surround me, many of them my friends, who create from a place of sustainability and craftsmanship… not just knocking off designs for a quick buck. They care about doing good with their products.
I wanted to align myself with those same values when I set out to start my company. And I gotta admit, I also have a major sensitivity to fabrics and textures so I could really relate to Ransom. And after becoming a mom, I run hot all the time so I needed something that wasn’t going to hold in heat, but that would allow for airflow, so there you have the big open knits of our Sheltered Co. blankets. In the end, we want to create a brand where everyone benefits — the maker, the receiver, and our beautiful earth.
You launched a kickstarter to get Sheltered Co. off the ground, and raised nearly triple the amount you set out to. What were a few key parts of your campaign that made it so successful?
It took a village to pull that campaign together. I’m so grateful for my large group of creative friends who all wanted to help. Starting and launching Sheltered Co. is a redemption story for me to many of my friends who have heard about my struggles. The team of people that came together couldn’t have been more perfect! Nara Walker produced it and her husband Ryan Eng directed and filmed it along with his lighting and sound team. They really did an amazing job and on such a time crunch.
The video helped illustrate the need behind the blankets and the heart we have moving forward. My friend Nicki Wong wrote all the copy, which she literally pulled off at the very last minute since I was so busy putting everything else together. It really couldn’t have worked out more perfectly and I was really shocked and surprised to see the campaign do so well. You can ask anyone — I was so scared at first!
The work you’re doing is breaking down stigmas not only around who weighted blankets are for, but stigmas surrounding our health. Do you have any stories of how have you seen the use of your blankets have an impact in this way?
You definitely don’t need a diagnosis to reap the benefits of a Sheltered Co. weighted blanket. I often have mothers of children with undiagnosed illnesses or different needs order blankets for their kids, and a week later I’ll get an adult size blanket order from the mother with a note that says, “I tried the blanket on myself and couldn’t believe how it made me feel.” We often pour all of our energy onto our children and forget to give to ourselves.
Another thing that happens a lot is I’ll get an order from someone who has anxiety or trouble sleeping and a few weeks later I’ll get a message that their spouse is “stealing” their blanket so they now need another one! People are realizing that just the ordinary struggles of life are enough to warrant a blanket that will hug you and calm you down after a long day. We are giving ourselves permission to self-care and that’s a beautiful thing.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to launch a product to make an impact for good in the wellness sphere?
Make something that works for you and your personal needs, because chances are there’s an entire group of people looking for the very thing you’re about to create. There’s a lot of good intentioned people who will want to help you and give you advice, so listen to them until it isn’t helpful and then do what’s right for you and your company. Don’t spend time on the things that are really hard for you… if you can delegate that stuff, do it! You will have more time to work on the most important parts that will take you to the next level. Also, be kind to yourself because everything will always take 5x longer than you expect.
Have you always been doing meaningful work that is purpose-driven? How did you discover what kind of work aligns your values, passions, and skills?
I have had so many different jobs, but I’ve always had the desire to love people. Just after my 18th birthday I found out I was pregnant with my first baby. I decided that I was going to work hard and give her and I the best life possible. I worked multiple jobs while I was pregnant, including my favorite job I’ve ever had. I worked in the special education program at the high school I attended in Huntington Beach. I worked as a vocational trainer and would accompany students to job sites and help train and prepare them for life after graduation.
My students had varying levels of abilities, but the common theme was how much love they had. I was definitely inspired by those students. I believe that any job can be meaningful and purpose-driven if you approach it that way. I used to get upset that I wasn’t off on some charity mission helping people in need. Well, here’s the thing… the human race is in need. When I started viewing each person that I encountered with the understanding that all of us are fighting a battle of some sort, it made every interaction a little more meaningful.
I’ve always been a creative person, but when I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 I was able to channel that creativity into wardrobe styling, art direction, dressing people in a retail store, and eventually vintage buying and store design. My love for vintage and recycled clothing is a huge reason I decided that my company was going to use deadstock fabrics.
I didn’t want to add to the production of fabric, and all of the pollution caused by it, when there’s plenty of fabric out there to potentially rescue from being tossed into landfills.
What is your hope for the future of Sheltered Co.?
Well, I have about a million ideas for Sheltered Co., and I review them all weekly and try to make decisions that will help all of these things come together, but as big as my dreams are, I understand that certain steps have to be taken first. But, if I’m being honest and nothing was going to get in my way… Here’s the dream. I want to prepare my current employees to be able to train people in need of vocational training so that we can employ adults that might otherwise have difficulty getting a job. The process of making a blanket is therapeutic and would be the perfect job for differently-abled adults, or even women who have been living in shelters and don’t feel safe going out into the world trying to find work. I want to be able to provide jobs for these amazing members of our community.
I want to be able to donate a certain percentage of blankets to children’s hospitals and cancer treatment centers. I want to have a large enough warehouse to hold events for the community and bring people together, start conversations, and bring ideas to the table on how we can love people better. Sheltered Co. has always felt like more than just a blanket company… it’s a place where we can give people the love and “hugs” they need to empower them and make them feel safe, and I’m excited to see where we go from here!
Photos courtesy of Sheltered Co.