Sit down for a cup of coffee with Marna Pacheco, and she’ll tell you that grocery shopping can be tough.
But it’s not the weekly scavenger hunt for this obscure ingredient or that hard-to-find brand that makes food-finding missions tough.
It’s a combination of things, in fact. For starters, Pacheco’s 11-year-old daughter, Millie, often acts out when she finds herself in an unfamiliar environment. Chaos and loud noises can trigger outbursts. This is especially tough because other store patrons—even other parents—don’t seem to understand what it’s like to parent a child with special needs. The judgmental stares rub Pacheco the wrong way.
Millie continues to experience the lasting effects of emotional trauma stemming from her early experiences in a Chinese orphanage. She has lower than normal cognitive abilities, she is mostly nonverbal, and she struggles with sensory processing disorder. Simple outings can be a real struggle.
Pacheco’s friend Susan Hickok knows all too well what that is like. She adopted her daughter, Elsa, from the same Chinese orphanage, and the two girls have faced similar struggles over the years. Elsa has had to cope with a cancer diagnosis, as well, amplifying the family’s need to find a viable way to mitigate her fears and frustrations.
A Simple Solution
Pacheco and Hickok desperately wanted to help their daughters find peace.
That’s when Pacheco began researching the effects of abuse and neglect on the brain. She wanted to explore the science behind what was happening with Millie and Elsa, and she sought the advice of several professionals. Pacheco’s occupational therapist suggested she look into sensory weighed blankets, which cause an involuntary calming sensation.
Pacheco soon discovered that there weren’t many blankets to choose from. Big and bulky blankets with bold prints simply wouldn’t do—she needed something that would allow her daughter to blend into a crowd rather than stand out.
The two moms decided to create their own line of blankets and wearables, doing two things that set them apart from other companies.
One, they created innovative designs that use positive deep pressure touch stimulation, prompting the brain to release serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. CapeAble Sensory Products is the first and only company to incorporate micro beading distribution in its weighted products, a process that ensures the recycled glass beads in the blankets disperse equally – even when someone has the blanked or wearable draped over their shoulders while standing up. Their design—and the machine they built to manufacture the blankets—are both patent-pending.
Two, they created blankets and wearables that make a fashion statement. On-trend fabrics and patterns complement the décor of just about any home, and wearables complement regular clothing, just as a scarf or wrap would. Both the blankets and wearables provide a dignified and fashionable way to relieve discomfort and anxiety in any social setting.
“We started our business to create an aesthetically pleasing, dignified option that would both honor and comfort our customers,” Pacheco said. “Our children deserve to be treated the same as other children. CapeAble Sensory Products help better ensure they won’t be judged for behaviors they cannot control.”
A Booming Business
CapeAple Sensory Products found quick success. Though Pacheco and Hickok originally intended to help their daughters, they’ve discovered that the blankets and wearables help people with a variety of conditions, autism, including anxiety, ADHD, chronic pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease, sleep difficulties and more. Even adults feeling overwhelmed with the daily struggles of life benefit from their use.
As interest grows, Pacheco and Hickok are seeing an increase in the volume of orders. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they would need to scale their manufacturing operation, so they found a way to make it happen. They modified their product designs, re-engineered the manufacturing process, obtained a Small Business Administration-backed loan, and leased their own manufacturing facility.
“The science behind the comfort of our weighted products is what sets CapeAble apart,” Hickok said. “We wanted to ensure that the recycled glass beads within each blanket are dispersed equally and do not shift with prolonged use.”
Pacheco and Hickok are certainly making a name for themselves in the weighted products industry.
At the 2017 SCORE Awards, SCORE chose CapeAble Sensory Products as the Outstanding Innovative Small Business of 2017. SCORE is an organization that mentors American small businesses, providing guidance and advice to entrepreneurs like Pacheco and Hickok.
Additionally, CapeAble Sensory Products is partnering with Parkview Hospital, the second-largest hospital in Indiana, to study the effects and benefits of weighted products on traumatic brain injury patients. Findings from this study could influence the use of weighted products in mainstream hospitals and medical practices.
Although Pacheco and Hickok are proud of everything they’ve accomplished, they say the true reward comes from the smiles on their daughters’ faces when they wrap themselves in their favorite CapeAble capes.
After all, they believe every person deserves to feel CapeAble.
This article was featured in Issue 72 – Sensory Solutions For Life