Organic farm in Tuam finds a unique way to use sheep wool in pillows as light as clouds.
Sometimes the most obvious answers are right in front of you. For one Galway farmer, the answer to his future was right there in his field. Michael Burke’s family has raised sheep on their family farm in Tuam for more than two decades. In recent years Michael has retired from his own career in healthcare, taken over the farm and converted it into an organic operation.
“I am passionate about sustainability, biodiversity and natural products,” Burke tells me.
“When I was a growing up we raised sheep and honey bees. I used to help shear the sheep and my dad made me a pillow out of some of the wool from the sheep I sheared. It was the best pillow I ever had. I loved that pillow!”
It is an idea that knits together his passions with his experience in both farming and healthcare. It’s his way of doing his part for the environment in the wake of climate change, as the Woolow is completely biodegradable, and recyclable. It involves no plastics or synthetics in maufacturing or shipping. And it's a new career, putting an old resource, the wool from his sheep, to a whole new use, in pillows. He calls his wool pillow the Woolow.
You see, during his career in healthcare he realized just how much such a pillow was needed.
“Wool is a natural fiber that repels water, mould and mildew and dust mites can’t survive in wool,” he tells me. “It’s hypo-allergenic which is great for anyone with asthma or allergies. And it adjusts to your body’s temperature so you don’t get too hot or too cold. It’s supportive but not stiff and it’s recyclable.”
You can hear Burke’s sincerity in his voice as he sums up the Woolow, and how it adds up to a great night’s sleep.
Burke spent years considering the Woolow, but it wasn’t until this past year that he met business developer Ciaran Sheridan. In under a year the two have developed a prototype, found manufacturing partners in Dublin and launched a Kickstarter campaign. They’re offering two types, natural wool, and natural wool infused with lavender which is said to promote restful sleep.
And while using wool is an age old idea, their marketing strategy is all modern.
They don’t plan on having or using stores, that’s old school. Instead they plan to show off the pillows at selected environmentally-friendly home shows, and do business online.
“It makes sense, it’s the future of business and it gives us a global marketplace,” Sheridan says. “We will take the Woolows to shows and let people see them and feel them and get feedback. But we already know once you try a Woolow, you’ll never go back.”
You can find more on the Woolow and their Kickstarter campaign here.
You can find Erin Meehan Breen’s other work, including her podcast, Erin’s Isle, at www.ErinMeehanBreen.com.
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