Sleep Struggles Solved + Results Guaranteed
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
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Welcome to the kids sleep show, where we help tired parents from around the world to get their children to fall asleep independently, sleep through the night, and build healthy sleep habits for Life. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together. Hello, everybody. And thank you so much for joining me on the kids sleep show. I am so excited to have two guests here today, who are the founders of an amazing product called sleep out. And we’re going to meet them now we have Mark and Hannah here joining me from a very cold Toronto, Canada. So just take a minute, please and introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about sleep out and why parents would want to learn about your amazing new product.
Thank you so much for having us, Courtney, I’ll just start by introducing myself and Hannah, you should go after I’m Mark Coombs and the co founder of sleep out. We’ll go a little bit more into the story. But largely I’m an insomnia sufferer and someone who’s dealt with light sensitivity almost my whole life. So we hit a breaking point and kind of had to do something a little bit different my past life is as a lawyer in downtown Toronto, lots of stress, lots of bright lights. And that was definitely a big a big part of things. And Hannah.
Yeah, so my name is Hannah Brennan, also co founder of sleep out marketing are also partners in in a life sense, too. So while I didn’t suffer from insomnia, I was helping work deal with with his and that meant a lot of nights and a lot of you know, garbage bags, taped up the windows in all sorts of MacGyvered situations and, and wanted to be a part of creating something to fix that. I also have spent time in tech companies and was at IBM for a while before this, and now I’m full time sleep out and absolutely what I want to be doing.
That’s awesome. I will tell you, you know, for those of you that are just listening to the podcast, you’re going what is sleep out, right. So as a new parent, the biggest thing we stress is like dark kids sleeping dark adult sleeping dark. You know, I was just joking. Nobody goes to Vegas, and sleeps with the curtains open and sleep out was founded out of light, right and light coming into Windows. And I think for years, we saw what I would consider makeshift blackout curtains that took a little bit of light out of rooms. You had like light filtering things. And there were certain products that you know, kind of tried to do somewhat of a justice to an area which is light sensitivity, right when the sun comes up in the morning, our body clock naturally says Hey, get up. And it’s really hard at nine o’clock at night to fall asleep. And so sleep out solves that problem. They are the most amazing and I can’t wait to share because I have a perfect video explaining how these work in my daughter’s room which is full of glitter sparkles and everything in between sales to that lovely video. But it really shows how awesome this product is it takes it from broad daylight middle of the afternoon sun to like pitch black Batcave, which is awesome for shiftworkers it’s awesome for kids taking naps. It’s awesome for traveling. You know, I was joking when we first started this conversation like I would travel as a new parent with garbage bags and duct tape. And I would buy $1 store bag of black garbage bags because I didn’t know whatever what you know, a situation would look like. And I would always buy like $1 store thing a duct tape. So at the end of wherever we were vacationing or whatever house we were visiting, I could pretty much toss everything in the garbage and only cost me two bucks. And you know, it would do a pretty decent job with the exception of ripping some paint off of certain walls and doors. So do not recommend that anymore, especially in a VRBO situation. Get yourself some sleep out. So tell me about you know, I saw some of the pictures on your website around just you know, all of the MacGyver situations that you tried. You know, before sleep that was invented, tell us a little bit about the story kind of how it came to be. And really like just the design and the suction cups which are so key and so easy to use. So
yeah, Courtney really appreciate that this story like starts pretty early. And so for me, I’m super used to all those things that you just mentioned, including jeans, including towels, including shower curtain rods with blackout fabric on them, I was the ultimate MacGyver person throughout my entire life. And honestly, I think inherited a little bit from my mom who’s a nightshift nurse who also had this issue and I probably just got sleep trouble from her. But yeah, I still remember a date where Hannah came over and I kind of had to introduce her to my bedroom setup. And just kind of it was that mental moment of like, oh my god, am I gonna scare this person away for life? Or was like, Yeah, I kind of have duct tape and everything in here. This is what my life looks like. And we hit this breaking point during the pandemic where I think my shower curtain rod with blackout fabric setup crashed on us at 4am. And we were both just like, we can’t do this anymore. Like everywhere we’re traveling, we’re renting. So we’re not allowed to install anything permanent. We need to do something a lot better. And then we kind of just started and I’ll let you talk about some of the people that we talked to and what we were Coming up with design but we knew what we needed because we had literally bought everything else you could possibly imagine for this problem.
Yeah, head I would love to know like just the story the suction cups on like the most fascinated by it. I know you guys have like a patent or a patent pending on, you know, on those like how did it come to be because that is the hardest part with is the seal, right? Like you get the blackout blinds, you get the blackout curtains, but there’s always some little bit of light that like sneaks itself in there.
Yeah, so so it’s, I mean, that was the big question. And when we were in that that condo where that curtain rod crashed to the ground, the shape of our windows, like wasn’t a standard square window, there are kind of two sections of it. So same deal, like we had the shower on, but there was this like, probably six inch gap at the top. And it meant that the room was dark at all. So we actually tried a whole bunch of different things before we got to the suction cups. We had an idea and we’re like, okay, you know it, there’s there’s got to be a way to do this. But at first, like we were trying different hooks, and we had like suction cups that you’d use to stick like a shower caddy into a shower. But those weren’t reliable enough. And we’d actually bought some some other products that are designed to do this, but they fell down so many times that we ended up just taping them up. So tried hooks tried working with like more traditional drapery situations like drapery tape and different tracks. And none of it worked reliably enough because it was it was just so a hard to put up and be like you had to know what the situation you were walking into if you were like in an Airbnb, or VRBO was going to look like so we reached out to a whole bunch of different people in the blackout fabric industry to sort of walk us through that. And then Mark and I like really love Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den and those like entrepreneurship shows. So we actually reached out to two different companies whose products use different applications of suction cups. And they’re totally different, like one has a desk that you can suction onto a window and use your laptop on but they gave us some pointers on really like what we should be looking for the vacuum seal was super important. And they helped us figure out you know how to do that in a suction cup. And then with the the lightweight at the top that you were talking about to work or sexual cabs have a shape that basically works with the the curtain and the extra fabric at the top of the curtain to allow it to seal that little space where there’s always a little bit of light bleed. I’m like, I mean, we didn’t we didn’t have a background in developing products. We didn’t know how to do this. So our first prototypes were literally like modeling clay. We took I think a car GPS metal suction cup, sanded the top of it off, and then plasticine until it hardened to kind of get the gist of the idea across. And with that we’re able to go to an industrial designer and like work with them to get it ready for production and to where it is now.
That’s awesome. It’s so cool. Like just the evolution I think of products that have that potential to like change people’s lives in such a grand scheme because again, this product is appropriate for adults, it’s appropriate for children. You know, it’s one of those that kind of span for like everybody needs to sleep in the dark and we should be sleeping in the dark. Especially shiftworkers my best friend’s sister is a emergency room nurse. She’s on the overnight shift. She sleeps in her walk in closet like this she has a twin bed on the floor.
last one was like goodnight and like goes to bed in my closet or husband’s like a Navy SEAL. I mean, they just you know and it’s like, just crazy what people do just to like get sleep, you know. So
we have to write because the alternative is like you’re trying to sleep and most most curtains like even regular blackout curtains that gap like you can, you can, it’s bright enough in most bedrooms, you can read a book and like if you’re trying to, if you’re trying to get sleep, it’s really tough to do that when it’s right and your body is getting all these signs that you should be awake right now.
For nightshift workers to with my mom like I that area of work is so difficult. You’re working in one of the most stressful jobs just trying to get a normal sleep schedule down. And so whenever we can help a healthcare worker it makes me very, very happy. Yeah,
no, definitely because it’s one of those where, you know, I don’t think people realize light from awake standpoint, right? Is ocular. So when people say like, oh, the melatonin, it’s that? Well, the trigger of that is the decrease in light in the day tells your eyes that it needs to like your body’s a lot of hormones and that’s a lot of what’s balancing your kind of circadian rhythms. And if it’s off, you know, you decide to fly to Italy or you work in the hospital every other night or three nights a week or things like that, like your body goes into like where the heck am I you know, and what time should I be going to bed and you know, so having something like this that can come up make it At immediate bedtime, I was joking with Hannah, when we had first met that, you know, when my kids in the summer we would go to the beach and they were babies. So you know, they were two years apart. So you kind of have a, you know, like a newborn ish infant. And then a toddler. Well, here in Philly, it doesn’t get dark in the summer till nine o’clock at night. And so every Friday, my husband would come home from work, I finish work, we get the kids sorted and fed put their pajamas on, and we would throw them in the car, we would head off to the beach, and it was about an hour and a half drive. So we leave at seven expecting that they’d fall asleep by like 715 730 at the latest. And then we’d get there at nine kind of scoop them out of the car, do run them inside and just drop and run, you know, which worked pretty well. I mean, I was you know, blame the day job but pretty good at the transfer. Okay, well, what ended up happening was as they grew, so I think it was like a year later. Now we’ve got one who’s like 15 months and one who’s three, three and a half and they’re both like, I’m not gonna bet. I’m not gonna bed. I’m just not. I’m gonna look out the window. It’s really pretty. We’re going to Atlantic City. Let’s see all the lights, you know. And so it was one of those where I’m like, how am I going to fix this? And as a sleep consultant, I have already got blackout blinds. I have blackout curtains that I’m not a good Sower, I can so straight. So basically, I took all the curtains down, went to the store and bought like blackout liner. And just like I think the first set iron on him because I didn’t know how to sew yet. The second set when my son was born, like I’m gonna learn to sew and I could sew straight, right? So I just kind of sewed blackout liner. But even still, with all of these things, there was that bleed, right that came through in the car. Like How the heck can I get these kids to go to bed when it’s nine o’clock at night, and it’s so laid out. So I literally took blackout liner and cut the shape of the windows in the back. And then I cut the shape of the sunroof out and I took T pins. And you know, our car’s not like raging old. It’s not you know, brand new or anything but it was still that I didn’t care I was putting four holes in like the leather, like sleep is more important. I basically T pinned blackout liner on the to back windows and then above the sunroof and blacked all of it out and my husband’s like, you know, that’s illegal, right? And like, well, when we get pulled over, I’ll explain that we have two kids that are flipping out on the highway. And so it wasn’t covering anything else. It was just covering the side windows in the sunroof. But it worked. And my kids would number one, they were bored so they couldn’t really look out the window at anything. And then number two, it was dark, it was dark enough that they could kind of go all right like let me go to bed and I would diffuse lavender in the car and have the spa channel on I mean I had the whole like kitten caboodle go on with these kids. And they would pass out then by 730. And it was like yes, Lifesaver mom hack, you know, and I always joke like I’m going to invent car blackout window things for traveling parents. Again, I think it’s relatively illegal. I’m not sure my husband thinks it’s silly but that was like my hack and it was amazing how much it worked. So that was my little attempt it you know, designing and developing my own blackout pipe but it worked right it was dark and it worked and so tell me a little bit about your different products like I said I have a video that I’m going to share as well with me per personally using your product to show parents and tired shift workers and everybody in between like how easy it is to use but like talk about the products the evolution like what are some exciting things you guys are working on I get so excited to read your emails when they come out every week. And like the different stories that you’ve had in this like crazy journey so take a minute and talk about like what like you right now you’ve got the curtains I have those we’re going to share those like what are some other fun things you’re working on?
I think one of the this one we do have a new invention that we literally just got the patent back for we’ve been working on it in the background we haven’t really been able to talk about it that much. We will be launching it in the summer we can talk a little bit about it too but ya know, we we kind of caught the bug like we love toying around with things and talking to our customers and talking to people and finding out what that next thing is it will be around blackout. And I don’t know how to do you want to go into it a little bit further again.
You don’t have to I don’t want to like divulge secrets, it was just you know, I know you’re working on so many literally this is
the cool thing where do you said like do you want to focus on before it’s like we literally got this patent yesterday and so
we can make so much like it’s only been been 13 months since we left our jobs to do this full time and it’s just like it feels like a lifetime ago. And no like your MacGyver situation or your makeshift in the car mom hack, like that is so common. Whether it’s driving your kids to the beach house, or, I mean we had a call with a very impressive and like high up person in a public company in Canada and he was telling us about how he stopped talking curtains at his vacation home to his windows because his mouth ears wife can’t sleep. And it’s like, you know, there’s this crazy it’s just crazy how much people have this in common and you know, like blackout curtains as a thing were invented around World War Two originally actually to help people not let light out of their homes for four Oh Um, but but they were invented during World War Two. And there really hasn’t been a lot of innovation when it comes to blackout curtains since. So we basically are releasing a product that’s going to allow people that have that like really good hotel level blackout at home, without having to pay for custom fitted curtains without having to pay for, you know, the 1000s of dollars to come and get somebody to cut stuff to your window and install them. And we’re just going to make that like amazing pitch black hotel sleep available to everybody with something that is most
at home or details going I do want to take a minute to talk about blackout fabric as well as part of this product. Like we learned so much throughout the industry. And just talking to folks like when we first started, we didn’t really know anything about blackout fabric, we talked to somebody who ran the last 100% certified blackout fabric in the US before and he went out of business during the pandemic. And we learned all of this different stuff about blackout fabrics like that most blackout fabrics are actually anywhere from 70 to 80%. So if you put them under really intense light and look at them, there’ll be all these tiny little holes in them. And then we figured out where to source the actual like OekoTex and GREENGUARD certified blackout fabric that wasn’t treated with toxic chemicals either. Another thing that we learned was like, Oh, my God, like the import requirements in both Canada and the US like, aren’t very much it literally just has to be that your curtain like doesn’t immediately catch fire under lighter. But it’s not like looking for any toxic chemicals or anything like that. And so we were like, We have to get the curtain fabric that’s actually certified by both oppo and Greenberg to not be treated with these chemicals because a lot of the time how they make blackout is like just literally adding a coat of toxic chemicals that hits the sun. Right? Where do you emitted Yeah.
Yeah, like one of the one of the summer, right the main products, people would die before sleep that existed. You read the Amazon reviews. And that’s that’s really how we started. Like, we were just looking through what other people had to say about everything available. And you wouldn’t believe the number of people who were like, well, it was okay, it’s kind of plasticky, but then the sun shone on it and my room spelled toxic toxic. So. So it was really important to us that we, we use the best blackout fabric we could find not only 100% blackout, but also like, not harmful. And it also feels very nice
is one of the number one things we received when people get the product is like this is the most amazing fabric that I felt in touched and used. And that and just being able to know that those suction cups are going to stay on in any direction that you put them on, I think is what makes sleep out just such a
hit. Well, I think there’s such an aesthetic to your point. Like, nobody wants to walk in and see the garbage bags, you know, so like, just that look and feel is so fresh and clean. And like I’m just I’m so excited for you both because it is such a cool product. And I’m a huge believer in like the clean, pure, you know, the chemical side of our world is so just crazy. And when you’re talking about people, inhalation like people don’t even realize like baby mattresses, the mattresses you sleep on, like the epic amount of toxic chemicals that these things are produced with, and you’re none the wiser, you’re kind of like this little company. Alright, I’m gonna grab that. And it’s like, oh, did your video read through read that. So, like, you know, I’m not gonna yuck somebody’s young, but you know, it doesn’t make sense to pay attention to some of those things. You know, we buy like the organic food, and then you get like, the most toxic measures. So, you know, a little bit of balance. But, you know, but it’s good to hear and again, not gonna know if somebody’s young, but you know, but it’s, it is. It’s great to hear from that standpoint. I’m just so excited for everything that you’re doing. I mean, tell me a little bit about because I know people can download podcasts anywhere. Where do you ship to? Where do they find you? How can they order them? What does this look like?
Yeah, so mainly in North America right now Canada, in the United States, we ship everywhere for free. If you were to sleep out curtains and it slipped out curtains.com It’s really simple to find us online. Our investor is the largest retailer in Canada. So we’re working on potentially going into retail and Canada in the US. That could be towards the end of the year. But right now everything’s online. And it’s free shipping, so it’s easy to get to your door.
It might be worth mentioning to we’re going to be launching a Kickstarter for a new product over the summer and we’ll have super curtains available their Kickstarter is going to be international so if anyone’s listening in Europe or South America or not North America basically you do have a chance to get sleep Oh, curtains through Kickstarter, and we’ll ship them out to you that way too.
Awesome. I’m excited for that. So I mean definitely like I said, I get your emails every week like what’s the story this week? You know, so I find joy in those so those are good and they’re working and they’re getting delivered which is always tough with email these days because you just never know so they are coming in they’re going routine box which is great. So awesome. I really appreciate it. I’m so excited to have you on I think everyone needs to pause and check out sleep out curtains. They’re awesome for new parents are great for travel. They’re great for shift workers. They’re just It’s great honestly, to have, again, throw in your suitcase when you’re going somewhere if you’re just not sure, and they’re super easy to install. So thank you both for jumping on the podcast today. I really appreciate it. And I hope that everybody’s listening takes just a minute to go out and check out and everything will be linked in the show notes. So you’ll have the opportunity as well to quickly and easily grab them from there too. So thank you both for joining me today.
Thanks so much for having us. We really, really appreciate it.
Hold on one more thing before you go. As a valued listener of the kids sleep show, I want to help you build a great sleeper not just in the times you’re listening to the show, but all day every day. Every week of the year. I have a new Facebook group called slumber made simple. It’s a place to gather with other parents looking for sleep support, laughs and the latest in sleep research, to build a family that is rested and at their best day in and day out. If you want to be part of the community where you can get free sleep support, weekly training sessions, unbelievable content and so much more. Head on over to tiny transitions.com forward slash community that’s tiny transitions.com forward slash community or head over to Facebook and search slumber Made Simple. drop me a note and let me know when you join. I can’t wait to see you there.