It’s starting to finally get hot outside – really, it is – but that’s bad news for some people.
For folks with heat sensitivity, summer can cause more grief than relief. That’s where a company like ThermApparel comes in.
The Rochester business makes lightweight “cooling vests” that are worn under clothing to keep the wearer comfortable in a discreet way. They’re popular with people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, for example.
A majority of MS patients find that heat temporarily makes their symptoms worse, so they often stay indoors when they would rather not. ThermApparel’s vests provide the cooling relief they need. The vests weigh just two pounds and are made of materials that Kracke compared with those in yoga pants and cycling shorts.
The vests, called UnderCool, are effective for heat sensitivity caused by any number of factors, including side effects from drugs, hormonal imbalances or brain injuries. Anyone, really, can use them, Kracke said.
Four cooling packs are tucked in the vest to provide up to two hours of relief. The packs are made of a non-toxic “phase change material” designed to be cool but not irritating to the skin like ice. One of the strongest selling points is that the vests are hardly noticeable.
“There were lots of products on the market that help with cooling, but none address what it’s like to wear these products in public,” Kracke said. “People just want to go outside. Nobody wants to wear a sign on their back saying, ‘Look at me.’”
Kracke started ThermApparel with Brad Dunn, the company’s chief operating officer. They were attending graduate school at Rochester Institute of Technology in the industrial design program after both had tried out other careers.
Kracke was a professional photographer and Dunn worked for architects and a grocery store. White at RIT, they met a classmate with MS who provided ideas for what led to ThermApparel. Kracke also recounted a story about a local man with MS who collapsed on his way to the mailbox on a hot day.
To develop the product, Kracke and Dunn worked with the local MS Society and partnered with the Al Sigl Community of Agencies. Since then, they’ve sold UnderCool vests in 13 countries and throughout the United States. A distributor in Australia keeps the business busy when it’s winter around here. For now, ThermApparel does business online only. Potential or past customers can stop by the office for fittings. Some of those customers swear that staying cool has never been so cool.
Executives: Kurtis Kracke, CEO; Brad Dunn, COO
Website: www.thermapparel.net (soon, that will change to thermapparel.com)