09.02.2020 09.02.2020

It’s a case of sweet dreams for a Galway farmer who has diversified into pillow making. Michael Burke from Dunblaney, Dunmore, is continuing the family’s 200-year-old tradition of sheep farming and has also developed a wool pillow.

“It’s completely organic, hypoallergenic and chemical-free. Its natural wool fibres are covered in high-quality cotton. It’s called the Woolow,” he said.

“As a child, I helped with the family flock and that included helping shear them when the time came.

“My dad John took some of the wool from the sheep that I sheared and made a pillow out of it. That was the best pillow I ever had. It was just the right amount of support, and because it’s a natural fibre, it regulates temperature. I didn’t realise all that back then. I just loved that pillow.

“As an adult, I spent over 25 years working in the healthcare sector developing medications for patients with unmet needs. I began to understand the positive impact that a good night’s sleep can have on our daily lives when we need to function at our optimum.

“We spend over one-third of our lives sleeping with our airways closest to our pillow. I realised a real need for that old pillow I loved so much,” Michael said.

Wonderfully breathable
Michael farms 170ac evenly shared between a breeding flock of sheep, suckler cows and organic oats, supplied to Flahavans.

“I converted to organic in 2015. I’m passionate about biodiversity, renewable resources, living chemical-free and focusing on things that are recyclable. The Woolow ticks all those boxes,” he said.

The venture was launched on the farm in November 2018. “I completed the research and development with initial prototypes on the farm at Dunblaney House, Dunmore,” Michael said.

“The pillow is wonderfully breathable, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. Wool is clinically proven to prevent germs and allergens, making it a must-have for those with hay-fever or dust allergies,” he said.

“The business plan revolves around showing the pillows off at selected environmentally friendly home shows; wedding and gift fairs and doing business online.

“I am also targeting the luxury hotel market. Now in our second year of business, sales are growing steadily with customers from the US, Middle East, mainland Europe and the UK as well as a strong base in Ireland,” he said.

“The next Woolow product launched in December 2019 was our range of aromatherapy sleep sprays to assist with better sleep.

“We are currently progressing design manufacturing and launch of our Woolow duvet range; bespoke pillows; wool pillow inserts; and our range of wool dog beds. A sample of our duvets, cushion wool inserts and dog beds were on display at Showcase 2020,” Michael said.

“Our duvet range will cover single; double; king; queen; and superking bed sizes. The bespoke pillows will come in corporate gift boxes and also in pairs for wedding gifts.

“Negotiations are taking place with a high-end hotel and retailers and are at an advanced stage. We spend more than a third of our lives in bed, so investing in a good night’s sleep is vital,” said the Galway farmer.

Allergy seal of approval
“Every Woolow pillow is filled with natural hypoallergenic wool. Scientific testing has demonstrated that dust mites cannot survive in wool which is why natural wool has been internationally awarded an allergy seal of approval,” Michael said.

Sheep’s wool is a natural fibre, designed to breathe. This means it adjusts to your body temperature, keeping you warm in winter, and cool in summer. It regulates your body temperature so you won’t overheat or get cold during the night.

“Manufacturing at Woolow has been scaled up and relocated to our manufacturing partners Pownall and Hampson in Dublin which has 90 years’ experience of making premium bedding products,” Michael said.

“Woolow pillows retail at €75 for the natural Woolow and €85 for the popular lavender-scented version. Two pillows sell at €140 and there is a 50-night free trial,” said Michael.

“My plans for the future are to continue with sustainable farming and develop our Woolow brand so that our customers get better sleep, better health and a better quality of life with our planet-friendly sleep care range of products.”

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