In 1997, when I first came up with the idea for the weighted blanket, we were fortunate enough to be living in Los Angeles, California. That’s because LA is a manufacturing hub with many resources available for an entrepreneur and inventor, like me. Those resources made it possible for me to introduce the concept of a weighted blanket to the world. Now, those resources are threatened by opportunism and money grabs.
Today, weighted blankets are a mainstream phenomenon. However, it wasn’t always that way. When I first showed my weighted blankets at a swap meet in 1997, people were mystified and confused as to why anyone would want a blanket that heavy. It wasn’t until after asking a friend who is a special needs teacher to show our weighted blanket to her class that we knew we had invented something special. She came back that night and said, “The kids loved them. We need more, lots more.”
After meeting with several sewing facilities, we chose a Los Angeles-based manufacturing partner that, to this day, is still making our weighted blankets. Through trial and error and considerable expense, we finally settled on a design and manufacturing process that is still in place today. Our manufacturing partner grew with us as our business continued to grow. Today, they employ a team of 25+ employees that cut, sew, pack and ship our Magic Weighted Blankets every day.
Within a couple of years after we launched our small, “mom & pop” weighted blanket business, other “mom & pop” weighted blanket businesses started to show up as well. These new businesses also started hiring local sewing technicians to make their weighted blankets. And soon a cottage industry started to grow and expand, creating more and more jobs for local residents. That growth continued for the next 20 years, as more and more people were discovering the calming and comforting benefits of a weighted blanket.
That all changed in 2017, when a start-up decided to get into the weighted blanket business with blankets sourced from China at a dramatically lower cost to manufacture. After raising nearly $5 million from a Kickstarter campaign, ironically for a product that had over 20 years of success, the death-knell for “mom & pop” shops started to go out.
Based on the initial success of that infamous Kickstarter campaign, the flood gates for other start-ups were flung open. In 2017, there were approximately 12 companies making weighted blankets in America. Today, we are aware of only 6. Within the last two years, there have been at least 30 new start-ups sourcing blankets from China. And, there are new ones every day.
The family-run, “mom & pop” shops, like ours, got into this business primarily to help people find calm and comfort and to give American’s jobs. However, it appears that opportunistic start-ups who got into this business in the last two years are in it for the money. This became painfully clear when I saw the pricing that Chinese factories are charging for their weighted blankets. Excluding shipping costs, a Chinese-made blanket comparable to an American-made weighted blanket will cost one of these new start-ups $18.57. The same American-made blanket costs us over $80 to make.
The weighted blanket was invented in America and for the past 21 years it has helped employ Americans. If the current trend continues, there will not be any weighted blanket manufacturing taking place in America. And that hurts everyone. There is a reason why those established companies proudly display “Made In America” on their web site. It means they are making a modest profit while employing Americans. We hope all Americans take that to heart and, while they may pay a little more for American-made, the benefits are shared by all Americans. And if these American-made businesses fail, the repercussions will be felt by all.
Proud American Entrepenuer/Inventor