At Hippo Hug™, we strive to create human solutions for human struggles.
Hippo Hug™ Weighted Blankets was founded in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, by Leslie Brooks in October 2011. Leslie saw an opportunity to combine her love of sewing with her passion for helping people. In late 2011, Leslie created a custom-made weighted sleep sack for a client with Autism who was seeking deep pressure at night. She saw the opportunity for a small business venture and with the encouragement of her husband, began the journey of entrepreneurship. Hippo Hug™ was born and as the business grew so did her knowledge about the numerous people that weighted blankets can help — Leslie gets to hug people across Canada without ever leaving Calgary!
Hippo Hug™ has gone from a small home-based business that made 60 blankets in its first year to a full-fledged manufacturing operation, shipping blankets across Canada and the U.S. In 2016, Hippo Hug™ saw huge growth, completing over 500 blankets and moving into a manufacturing space. Our growth has been steady since moving to 246 62 Ave SE Calgary, Alberta; in 2017, we made 1250 weighted products and in 2018, nearly 1800.
Hippo Hug™ has recognized the need and desire for the healthcare industry to focus on patient comfort. We are innovating our tried and true design to be easy to implement in healthcare and medical environments. We have the dream of weighted blankets and weighted lap pads becoming standard of care in institutions around the world. Imagine an easy and fast way to comfort and calm patients and clients waiting for more robust interventions that take time. Hippo Hug™ intends to provide the healthcare world with a deep pressure solution that meets infection control standards but is highly focused on patient comfort.
Hippo Hug™ now has a growing team of Hippo Hug™ Weighted Blanket customer service experts, and caring manufacturing professionals as well as Leslie, full-time at the helm. Everyone at Hippo Hug™ loves helping people find a Made-in-Canada solution. Many of the staff use a weighted blanket themselves and have first-hand knowledge to share to help you find the right fit for your unique needs. We are committed to making sure a weighted blanket will work for you and finding the size and weight that will fit you best. We pride ourselves on compassion, customer service, and weighted-blanket expertise.
We are a Canadian company through and through, not just a dot.ca web address. We work hard to keep manufacturing in Calgary, creating jobs and connections with our community. Some of the Canadian charities we have supported are
In a busy world, we create 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.
I have always had a lot of room in my heart for helping and empathy; I have never had a job that wasn’t some form of service. During university in Calgary, Alberta, I worked in a nursing home in England as well as with a family with several physically disabled children here in Calgary while taking classes. I began my full-time career working with children with autism at the Society for Treatment (STA) of Autism in Calgary as an Early Intervention Therapist (EIT), after receiving a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Calgary.
Then in 2008, I had the joy of becoming a mother. I made the choice to stay home full-time in Calgary, Alberta with my son, Grady. After a few years, I began to work part-time as a home therapist for high-functioning school-age children with Autism, again doing intensive behavioural intervention. And then, as a behaviour consultant under the direction of a psychologist, I was the one primarily responsible for writing the behaviour programs and ensuring consistent implementation by the therapist working with each client.
It was while creating a program to aid a family in Calgary, Alberta with their child’s behaviours surrounding sleep that I mixed my sewing skills with my deep Autism knowledge base. I created what could be called Hippo Hug™’s first product — a specialized sleep sack designed to offer deep pressure during sleep as well as preventing the client from accessing their diaper.
As I juggled the challenges of childcare, seeing clients and long commutes from home, the idea that this could be a business germinated in my mind. With the support of my husband, I took a leap and Hippo Hug™ Weighted Blankets was created in late 2011.
I had a modest goal of making ten weighted blankets the following year. I felt that was enough to keep me busy and still stay an engaged mom but maybe earn enough to pay for a dinner or two out with my lovely family. In 2012, I made 60 weighted blankets! I was so surprised; I knew there was a demand, but I had no idea.
The following year, I doubled that and growth held steady until 2016 when I received an email from Maclean’s magazine asking me to participate in an article they had planned. I was already quite busy and almost said no to their request for weighted blankets to photograph. I am so glad I didn’t; it took another leap of faith and things really started to take off. I had a few people casually helping with tasks, but suddenly I had over one hundred orders. I hired more staff and kept pushing back my timeline to make a weighted blanket from two weeks to four and then six. I felt so terrible that I had to make people wait so long! But I was doing everything out of a single bedroom in the house, about 120 square feet! Thanks to the feature in Maclean’s, we made 525 weighted blankets for people across Canada.
Because things were growing quickly, I was taking on work I never thought I’d have to consider. Luckily, my son was in school full time and I had assembled a good team, but I needed more space! In December 2016, Hippo Hug™ opened in a mixed-use space with room for a storefront and lots of space for manufacturing. A perfect cap to our five year anniversary!
In 2017, we saw more growth for the company and more learning curves for me, but each challenge was welcome and as many said, I was having the kind of “problems” entrepreneurs dream of. My new and old staff helped me refine processes, and we have become very efficient, able to complete a weighted blanket in a day, if needed. We were on track and excited to be helping so many people with their sleep and sensory needs.
Then, weighted blankets went viral with an American company’s Kickstarter campaign to drop ship blankets that were manufactured overseas. While it felt a little like they, and other new-to-market competitors, had stolen our thunder a bit, our sales exploded. And being "the little local company that could" meant we had an added advantage when Christmas rolled around as we were able to ship custom blankets out the week before Christmas when our competitors couldn’t. In 2017, we made 1250 Canadian weighted blankets!
During 2018, we solidified that desire to keep manufacturing a beautiful and individualized weighted blanket here in Calgary. I hired more staff, and now we a growing team of exceptional women working for Hippo Hug™ in various positions. Having such a great team meant that things flowed smoothly after I was hit and run over by a truck in the summer. The accident showed me how valuable it is to have good and caring people working behind the scenes, especially in a company where we really care about each of our customers. It also highlighted the need for a comfort-care item like weighted blankets in hospitals and on emergency response vehicles.
I am excited to see where 2019 takes us and look forward to hugging thousands of people in Canada without ever having to leave my desk. Thank you for all your support!
“What we like: Material is easy to clean and stain resistant, which is important for multi-patient use. Sizes and weights are well matched for our population.” -Sarah F. Occupational Therapist, McMaster Children's Hospital