Steamboat Springs, Colorado (HQ); Emeryville, California (mfg.)
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Founder Betsy Seabert brings stylish, temperature-balancing sleepwear to market from Steamboat Springs, manufactured in California.
In 2014, Seabert was "as down as you can get," she says.
She was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer when her son passed away. Between intense emotional grief and physical symptoms associated with cancer treatment, Seabert wasn't getting any sleep.
"I was having hot flashes, which is a common with treatment," Seabert says, adding, "I was waking up every 20 minutes. I was exhausted."
One particularly cold night, Seabert dug out an old base layer garment from her closet, and put it on before hitting the hay. Something unexpected happened: Seabert got a good night's rest for the first time in ages.
"A huge light bulb went off," Seabert says, when she realized it was the fabric in her base layer -- Merino wool -- that had kept her comfortable. "I realized there was this amazing opportunity to help people sleep better," Seabert says.
Her new line of luxury sleepwear is the first to utilize Merino wool as a solution for sleep disruptions caused by body temperature swings. From a moisture management perspective, Seabert explains, "Merino wool is the most perfect fiber you can wear."
That was hardly a new revelation for Seabert, who'd been working in the technical apparel industry for 25 years. After starting her career at Spyder in Boulder, Seabert relocated to Steamboat Springs to work at SmartWool and, later, Point6. "For the past 15 years, my career has been focused on Merino," Seabert says.
It was only natural, then, that Chill Angel products would be made from 100 percent Merino wool.
Do you even have to ask? Yes, Merino is totally different from other types of wool. It's soft, natural, and super-breathable, making it a comfortable choice for hot and cold conditions. According to Seabert, "It's the ultimate apparel wool."
Coarseness is what makes some people feel itchy in wool. A micron is the measurement used to express the diameter of wool fiber, and it's also what Seabert focuses on when sourcing her ultra-fine materials from suppliers in New Zealand and California.
Raw wool is knit into fabric in Vietnam and Thailand then shipped to a manufacturer in California. "There's no one in Denver that I'm aware of that's working with wool," Seabert says, adding, "It's a tricky fiber to sew because it's super stretchy."
"When you manufacture in the states -- which is one thing I wanted to do -- it's all cut, make, trim," Seabert continues. And when it comes to CMT production, manufacturers like Chill Angel have to do all of the legwork. On the plus side, though, Seabert points out that her onshore manufacturer is willing to do small runs, "which is something you wouldn't get overseas."
Shipping and fulfillment are done from the Chill Angel headquarters in Steamboat Springs.
The brand launched with a collection of six nighttime essentials: three tops (a camisole, tank top, and T-shirt) plus two bottoms (boxers and cropped pants), and a nightgown. Seabert has plans to add long pants to her line later this year.
Seabert's brand might be young, but it definitely shows promise. Last fall, Seabert submitted her business plan in the Yampa Valley SCORE Business Plan Competition, and she won, bringing home a $10,000 cash prize.
Challenges: Time is the biggest one right now. "I'm still working a full-time job, and I'm doing this full-time, too," Seabert says.
Opportunities: "The sky is the limit," says Seabert. "So many people have trouble sleeping." Seabert sees plenty of opportunities for both national and international distribution, along with opportunities to reach a broader range of consumers, from pregnant and menopausal women to outdoor enthusiasts in need of exception sleepwear while camping.
Needs: Seabert is currently searching for independent sales representatives to help her reach out to retailers by getting Chill Angel into the hands of more buyers.