The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world upside-down in historical ways, bringing a storm of adversity to small businesses in Calgary. Many of these businesses are now in a critical fight for survival and the future is uncertain. Although tentative “re-entry” measures have been announced by the Alberta government, Family Fun Calgary would like to take the opportunity to introduce and interview some of the local businesses in our city. Let’s get to know each other! You never know what YYC Small Business Profile might become your new favourite.
This YYC Small Business Profile features Leslie Brooks at Hippo Hug, Inc. Hippo Hug creates weighted blankets and much more. They create these Canadian-made weighted products “to settle the body, comfort the soul and provide calm because we believe that everyone should come home to a hug.” Introducing, Hippo Hug, Inc!
Leslie, tell us a bit about your business.
Usually, we make ready to ship and custom weighted blankets for anyone ages 3 and up. We also have a line of medical weighted blankets for institutions that are wipeable and waterproof for easy cleaning between patients and breathable for patient comfort. As well, we have weighted animals, hippo-sit weighted lap pads, and hippo chills which are like a bean bag chair but stuffed with our fabric scraps to keep the waste textiles out of the landfill. The hippo chill can also be purchased as just a cover and stuffed with plush animals.
We have been in business since October 2011, although we didn’t officially start making blankets until January 2012, and we’re located at 246 62 Ave SE, Calgary.
I used to have 6 employees and one subcontractor. With [a new venture of] making cotton face coverings, I now have 13 staff, 4 subcontractors, and a whole crew of friends and family that volunteer. I think there are at least 10 volunteers.
What do you excel at?
What was the inspiration for starting this venture? Where did you get your first idea?
I used to work with kids with autism and had a client that needed a weighted blanket so I made one and then things went from there.
What has been your biggest regret?
My biggest regret would be not paying the money in the beginning for a really good and functional website and not having the courage to invest in the business and promote our blankets before the rest of the world discovered the benefits. I knew they would be popular but just didn’t have funds to invest and was risk-averse to debt.
Your greatest pride or success?
Overall, [I’m proud of] how far I have come with a little idea that was just supposed to be enough to keep me busy and maybe take my family out to dinner or pay for a vacation.
What would a typical day look like for you normally?
Pre-COVID, I would take my son to school, then work from 9 am – 3:30 pm running the business, answering emails, coming up with marketing plans etc. I was also participating in the Trade Accelerator Program through Calgary Economic Development to create an export plan for our medical weighted blankets.
What about now?
Now I work 7 days a week, sometimes 12 hrs a day, helping my staff make masks and addressing issues as they arise. I often can’t believe a whole day has gone when I look at my watch and see it is 5:30 and time to go home for dinner.
How have you adapted to the COVID-19 crisis and how can the community support you at this time?
We began making cotton face coverings at the end of March on a whim, in hopes that I could keep all my staff employed and hire back the ones I had to layoff due to lack of sales. The community can support us by remembering to shop local and that small businesses are just human and doing their very best. I love working with other local businesses and finding out how we can support each other and keep this great Calgary energy going well after COVID has been addressed.
Thanks, Leslie, for telling us a little bit more about your business and we wish you the best of luck in the future. Find Hippo Hug online HERE.
Introducing YYC Small Business Profiles is a Family Fun Calgary series that will contain a random selection of businesses chosen at the discretion of the editor for interest and curiosity.
Looking for more tips on how to keep your kids occupied during the COVID-19 crisis? Find our best ideas, activities and inspiration here!