Living with a pandemic has not been kind to people's mental health and those experiencing anxiety and insomnia have turned to a variety of supports, from meditation to sea swimming, to cope. Another thing that can help create a sense of calmness is weight and Kocoono is a soft and cuddly weighted blanket designed to soothe adults and children who are feeling upset, stressed out, or just in need of comfort.
Kocoono was set up by Mayo-based Emer Flannery with Kickstarter crowdfunding last October and while Covid created a hiccup in the supply chain earlier in the year, the company's order book has been hopping since the glitch was fixed.
“The blankets are beneficial for those who are experiencing anxiety, sleep difficulties, restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, sensory processing disorders or indeed any feeling of sensory overload that impacts the body’s natural ability to calm, such as dementia and autism,” says Flannery who made her first blanket to help a child with autism when she was working as an ABA therapist (applied behaviour analysis).
“The child found the deep touch pressure of the lap pad beneficial and things sort of snowballed from there,” Flannery adds. “In 2016, I made a blanket for myself following a bout of sleep deprivation and over the next two years I refined the design to create the unique neck cut out and shoulder embrace. I was getting a steady stream of requests for the blankets and that prompted me to develop the idea into a business.”
The blanket comes into two forms, a basic Kocoono and a more versatile bespoke Luxe version which allows the weight of the blanket to be varied to suit an individual’s needs. It also curves to fit the shape of the neck and wraps around the shoulders without the fabric bunching uncomfortably.
“Some people prefer an overall weight while others only want the weight on certain parts of their body – for example, post-operatively. With our blanket they can choose,” Flannery says. “Another innovative feature is that the weight strips in the Luxe can be removed and put into the freezer and used like an ice pack.”
Kocoono is also producing a shoulder hug, an eye mask and a weighted eye pillow which can be used to reduce tension. “Our customer base is broad, from individuals and parents to sleep clinics, psychiatric services, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists and special needs schools,” Flannery says.
Ireland has been the company's biggest market so far but Kocoono blankets have now been shipped to more than 10 countries. Development costs have been about €60,000 between crowdfunding and support from Údarás na Gaeltachta, Mayo LEO and New Frontiers. "Covid has meant we've been unable to attend any of the usual trade events but we're active on social media and a lot of our sales are coming from personal recommendations anyway," Flannery says.
Kocoono blankets are made in Poland and Bulgaria where traditional sewing skills are still available. "I wanted to make the blankets in Ireland but couldn't find anyone willing or able to do it," Flannery says. "We're working with small family businesses in these countries so our orders are making a real difference to their livelihoods."
The basic version of the Kocoono blanket costs €190 while the bespoke Luxe is priced at €279. “The cost is down to a few things,” Flannery says. “The production is very labour intensive as the pockets are hand sewn. The blankets are also quite big (so they can be shared) and they are made with top quality fabrics. I think people should see a Kocoono as an investment. You buy it as a once off. We spend a lot on a good mattress and this is a similar sort of long-term purchase.”