Case Studies

New social enterprise aims to help save lives

When an elderly relative nearly died from hypothermia Jean Rooney began designing products that would help the older generation stay warm cheaply.

11th April 2017

Having manufactured waterproof coats for 30 years in Carluke, she and her husband, John, adapted a heated polymer they’d used in their raincoats to produce three pieces of clothing they believe will help save lives.

After gaining support from Business Gateway Lanarkshire, Jean launched Feel the Warmth in March to sell a belt, detachable element, and waistcoat to the general public through its e-commerce site and to organisations and companies whose clients and employees need to stay warm.

The social enterprise, which will plough all its profits into making the clothing for free for those most at risk, is now looking to partner with charities that will help distribute the items to the elderly.

Jean said: “Although I’d ran my own business in the past, setting up a social enterprise was new to me so I went to Business Gateway for advice. I worked with two advisers whose help has been invaluable, particularly when pulling together a marketing plan. What we’re doing will not only create jobs but keep manufacturing local, and the support Business Gateway has given has kept me on track and highlighted the best way to get our message out there.

I worked with two advisers whose help has been invaluable, particularly when pulling together a marketing plan.

“I’m very passionate about what we’re trying to achieve because the memory of watching my elderly relative blasted with warm air in the hospital all those years ago has never left me. Every winter the news is filled with stories about older people dying because they’ve been forced to choose between paying for food or fuel, and the problem is only going to get worse as we have an ageing population and fuel bills continue to rise. What Feel the Warmth is trying to do is arm those most in need with products that are cheap to run that could ultimately save their lives.”

Claire McLaughlin, Business Gateway, said: “Jean has been able to channel the feelings she felt after dealing with a distressing personal experience into launching a social enterprise that aims to combat one of society’s biggest challenges – keeping our elderly warm. Although she knew a lot about running a manufacturing business, she needed our expertise to launch a social enterprise. Working with us she tapped into market research, innovation support, and our marketing know-how which has helped her launch Feel the Warmth and armed her with the knowledge needed to grow the business, which aims to create up to eight jobs in its first year.”

Using a special polymer, which heats to a set temperature when low voltage is supplied through a small battery pack, each of the products designed and sold by Feel the Warmth are lightweight and practical, with the detachable element also providing buyers with the opportunity to attach the product to any garment with Velcro or a zip, alternatively it can be custom added to any clothing.

Jean said: “Although our aim is to get our products to the elderly, their use isn’t limited to those of a certain age. We’ve designed them to be attractive to any company or organisation whose employees or clients spend any time in the cold – whether it’s cable technicians out on the road or workers in a supermarket’s ambient warehouse. Because we use Far Infrared technology it also makes them a great therapeutic tool, as the heat penetrates two inches into the muscle increasing blood flow, decreasing joint stiffness, and increasing joint movement. The clothing is also great for hill walkers and motorcyclists.”

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