Saint Andrews – Wrapping yourself in a weighted blanket can help with anxiety but, for many, the cost of purchasing one can be prohibitive – around $600 – so Josh Osborne decided to make one which was less expensive.
He actually started his Saint Andrews business, JSN Texstyles (named after Josh, his wife Stacey, and son Nathaniel), last year, with the goal of making “scrims” which are covers for speaker stands and cables.
“I have a friend who is a drummer and a full-time DJ, and he was looking for a product that was an innovation on the current items on the market, so I got to work doing designs.
“We launched a small company to promote and sell these, but it didn’t quite take off. It is a very hard market to get into. I quit my job to do it, because things were looking good, and I registered as JSN Texstyles.”
He toyed with other ideas, such as home decor, but this year came up with the idea of making the weighted blankets, and does it around his job at the Algonquin Resort.
“A couple of years ago, I decided to start living my life with helping as many people as I can, and I am trying to keep that philosophy. I came up with the idea for the weighted blankets because I see a lot of need for them.”
Weighted blankets can reduce anxiety and stress. They also help increase levels of serotonin and melatonin to help people with insomnia to sleep, and are used for those with ADD/ADHD spectrum disorder.
“Anxiety is a big issue right now, and we are more open about mental health issues. A family member was suffering from anxiety, and I made her one and it worked.
“It is a heavy blanket – five to 25 lbs – and it feels like a hug. You put it on, and it disperses all over you. It helps to soothe and calm you down. These are used for children with autism.”
The blankets have small compartments which are most commonly filled with polypropylene pellets, but the problem is the pellets are expensive, so Osborne started looking for something less costly, so he could offer a cheaper blanket.
“I did some experiments with beans, rice etc. I put them into different containers, soaked them and put them in the sun. I finally found a brand of long grain rice that takes forever to cook. It also didn’t develop mould or mildew within two weeks.”
Weighted blankets should never be washed, said Osborne, as it breaks down the integrity of the stitching. Since they are going to get dirty, he came up with a removable, washable cover which he throws in as a thank you to his customers. These are put on in a similar way to a duvet cover.
The blankets range in price from $175 for a 5lb one to $213 for a 25lb one (plus HST). He also makes weighted wraps which range in price from $63.25 (2lb) to $74.25 (5lb).
“My wife is very supportive, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Nathaniel also helps. I do my own marketing on Facebook. He does a lot on Instagram.
“He will be designing. He is very keen on it. He wants to start his own business this year. He is really interested in apparel, and is researching everything that attracts his fancy.”
Making the blankets is time consuming, and Osborne estimates it takes three to six weeks to complete one. Each of the more than 100 pockets in the blankets contains the exact same amount of fill. Osborne said he weighs each amount individually before putting it in.
The wraps, which put pressure on the shoulders, take less time, but are not as popular. He also makes teddy bears, and made the first one for his seven-month-old son Darwin. He learned to sew on an old machine belonging to his wife, and also called his mother for advice.
“I just kind of picked it up. I love the artistry of it. I also love it when the machine breaks down, and I get to learn about the equipment I am working with.
“The whole idea of JSN is to make things that make people feel better. We had one review from a customer who said putting the blanket on calmed her right down in a thunderstorm.
“I have wanted to be in business since I was a kid, but it has taken me a lot of time. I went to sea for five years in my early twenties, working on oil tankers, and at 26 I went to university.
“I took cultural anthropology for personal enrichment, because I wanted to understand humanity. My world view changed dramatically in university.”
The blankets are primarily available in southwest New Brunswick because Osborne likes to deliver them personally to the customer’s door.
“My purpose in life is to be able to help people as best I can. I want to leave the world better than I found it. I have done other things, but I am trying to focus on doing one thing, and doing it right.”
While Osborne said he loves working at the Algonquin Resort, he would like to do JSN Texstyles full time, and once he has more revenue will set up a website. For now, orders are taken through the company’s Facebook page (facebook.com/jsntexstyles)