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Name: Anita Mahaffey
Location: San Diego, California, U.S.
Industry: Apparel & Accessories
Reason for starting: You might not think the peak of the recession was an great time to start a specialty sleepwear business, but that’s just what I did, launching in 2008 — at a time when a lot more folks than usual may have been suffering from sleepless nights. I was working as an agent for an overseas fabric company when I discovered a fabric that shook my world. It was a wicking fabric that felt like cotton and I thought it would make a great pj for my menopausal night sweats. I had a pair of pajamas made and loved them. Then all my friends wanted them so I had them tested to see just how good they were. As suspected, they were not only cooling, quick drying and temperature regulating but also antibacterial so they stayed fresh and odor free. This was the start of Cool-jams!
Related: Read about another sleepwear entrepreneur here.
How do you define success? Cool-jams currently serves a niche in the $2.5 billion U.S. sleepwear market, primarily targeting baby boomers, both men and women, with a collection of quick-drying anti-bacterial travel pajamas as well as pajamas for people who become overheated at night due to a variety of causes including menopause, warm climates, chemotherapy, cancer, anxiety, certain medications, obesity, thyroid problems, pregnancy, nursing and basic problems with body-temperature regulation. Cool-jams now ships its products to thousands of customers each month in over 150 countries around the world. Additionally while helping people sleep better, we are able to give back to charity in a big way with employee time, product and monetary donations. Each year Cool-jams donates 15-20% of its profits to a variety of family centered organizations. To be able to solve people’s sleep issues and give back to charity is my definition of success. We are trying to make the world a better place with every pj we sell.
Biggest success to date: We have grown to be the largest wicking sleepwear company worldwide. I attribute Cool-jams growing success both to our extensive product development activities, which have produced the best-wicking product and most effective night-sweat pajama solution — and our high-touch customer service, which produces happy customers who, via word-of-mouth, share the magic of Cool-jams.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? We are growing so fast, but have a great team in place so we seem to be managing well. The biggest challenge that I have is balancing work and life. There is no real separation, it all kind of blends together. We will be scaling our business in the future by licensing our brand and expanding our bedding, children’s and junior categories. Cool-jams future is extremely bright. I am thankful that we are blessed with so many loyal customers who love our products. We would not be here without all of our supporters.
There have been a few profound situations in my life that effected my business/career decisions. After I had my 2nd of 3 children, I decided to leave the corporate world to start my 1st business. I did this for better work/life balance while raising my children. I’m on my 3rd business and have never looked back. Another thing that I’ve experienced over the past 30 years has been a battle with head cancer. After my last of three surgeries in 1999 and the loss of my left eye due to complications of the cancer, I have been cancer free for 18 years. The positive side of my experience was that it put me in touch with so many cancer victims….many of them with sleep issues caused by chemo or symptoms of certain types of cancer. Along with menopause and my own health issues, I was inspired to help people get a good night’s sleep which I’ve discovered is so important to overall healing, health and well being.
Related: A Daily Mantra for Entrepreneurs
Who is your most important role model? There are several role models that have been instrumental in my life. First of all my father, who was a energetic entrepreneur. He pretty much spent the first half of his life creating a business and the 2nd half giving it away to charity. I learned so much from him about being a good boss and creating a successful business. The next role model was my mother who taught me to be kind and patient in everything that I do. Kindness goes a long way with employees, customers and business associates. We try to put nice into everything we do here at Cool-jams. Last but not least would be Mother Teresa. She was a selfless example of a person who gave back without expecting anything in return. One of my biggest goals at Cool-jams is to give back to humanity in a big way. This includes my time, donations of products and donation of company profits.
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Edited by The Story Exchange