After an elderly relative nearly died from hypothermia, Jean Rooney began designing products that would help older people stay warm cheaply.
Having manufactured waterproof coats for 30 years in Carluke, she and her husband John adapted a heated polymer they’d used in their coats to produce three pieces which could save lives.
With support from Business Gateway Lanarkshire, Jean launched Feel the Warmth last month to sell a belt, detachable element, and waistcoat, each with a little battery pack, to the public – via www.ftwscotland.com – and to organisations and companies whose clients and employees need to stay warm.
Based in Hamilton Street, Carluke, the social enterprise, will plough all its profits into making the clothing free for those most at risk.
It is now looking link up with charities that can distribute its wares to the elderly.
Although she had run her own business, setting up a social enterprise was new to Jean, and she found Business Gateway’s help invaluable.
“What we’re doing will not only create jobs but keep manufacturing local,” she said.
The business is expected to create eight jobs in its first year.
“I’m very passionate about what we’re trying to achieve because the memory of watching my elderly relative blasted with warm air in the hospital all those years ago has never left me,” said Jean.
“Every winter, the news is filled with stories about older people dying because they’ve been forced to choose between paying for food or fuel, and the problem is only going to get worse as we have an ageing population and fuel bills rise. Feel the Warmth is trying to arm those most in need with products that could ultimately save their lives.”
Business Gateway’s Claire McLaughlin said: “Jean has been able to channel the feelings she felt after dealing with a distressing personal experience into launching a social enterprise that aims to combat one of society’s biggest challenges – keeping our elderly warm.”
And Jean added: “Although our aim is to get our products to the elderly, their use isn’t limited to those of a certain age.
“We’ve designed them to be attractive to any company or organisation whose employees or clients spend any time in the cold – whether it’s cable technicians out on the road or workers in a supermarket’s ambient warehouse.
“Because we use Far Infrared technology it also makes them a great therapeutic tool, as the heat penetrates two inches into the muscle increasing blood flow, decreasing joint stiffness, and increasing joint movement.
“The clothing is also great for hill walkers and motorcyclists.”