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M’sian serial entrepreneur sells weighted blankets after they fixed his 10-yr sleep issue

I’m a light sleeper. In fact, I can’t recall a time where I’ve not struggled with sleep.

Serial entrepreneur Mike Chu can relate to this as well. Trying out weighted blankets was his fix, which pushed him to sell them in Malaysia under the brand, Sloth Blanket.

If his name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he’s also the founder behind PTT Outdoor, a local online marketplace selling affordable outdoor gear. 

Finally, a good night’s sleep

“Being an entrepreneur, stress would sometimes cost me hours of sleep at night. I’ve tried [drinking] chamomile tea, [using] lavender fragrance, and even counting actual sheep, but that didn’t work,” he shared in our interview. 

Searching online for solutions, Mike chanced upon weighted blankets from a US company. Although the shipping fees cost him a bomb, he ordered one to try and was subsequently knocked out for a complete 8 hours.

A weighted blanket is said to provide a sense of comfort / Image Credit: Sloth Blanket

“It had been more than 10 years since I last slept for 8 hours in one go (not even on vacation)!” Mike recalled in disbelief. Needless to say, he was more than sold on the concept.

That was how the idea for Sloth Blanket came about. Launched in September 2021, the e-commerce platform sells weighted blankets to Malaysians, reducing the shipping costs of buying them from overseas brands. 

In fact, shipping is free for orders within Peninsular Malaysia.

It’s like getting a warm hug

Weighted blankets work based on a concept called deep pressure therapy (DPT). A good example of this is the feeling you get when you are hugged. DPT is said to provide comfort and security, meant to ease stress and soothe anxiety. 

Looking cosy / Image Credit: Sloth Blanket

From my personal struggles with sleep, I’ve tried a weighted blanket too, in light of these claims. But instead, I felt more “trapped” than soothed by the blanket, as it made it more difficult for me to switch sleeping positions. Unlike me, some people like that feeling.

“Yes, technically, you are “trapped”, but it feels good at the same time as well,” said Mike.

“The science behind this is, the feeling of being “confined” triggers a release of dopamine, which relaxes the body and creates a sense of happiness as well (in our blankets’ case, comfort).”

For example, in the autistic community, weighted blankets are often used by occupational therapists to help calm or comfort restless or stressed individuals.

DPT is also used by therapy dogs. In the event its owner experiences a nervous attack, the dog is trained to put its paws on the owner to calm them down. Swaddling a baby is another example of DPT. 

“Duvets and comforters are great in providing almost the same effect, just minus the weight,” Mike added. “There are people who can’t sleep without covering their whole body with a comforter, that’s basically part of DPT as well.” 

While I, for one, can’t get behind the sentiment of using weighted blankets, Mike’s latter statement is one I can actually relate to when using a duvet.

Warm, but not suffocating

Cotton is the most common material used for the outer layer of weighted blankets. However, they can be very hot, making them less suitable for Malaysia’s weather. 

Hence, the outer layer of Sloth Blanket’s fabric is made from bamboo fibres. Known to be a more cooling material, the sensation is spread around the blanket so you won’t feel hot underneath even if covered up completely.

Close-ups of the blanket / Image Credit: Sloth Blanket

Inside, organic weighted glass beads that are washing machine-friendly are used. The beads are distributed evenly using a square stitching structure. This is so that every square has an equal amount of beads (weight) in them to make the blanket evenly structured.

Sloth Blanket’s production and design are currently outsourced to China, but that doesn’t mean Mike didn’t try finding a local producer for the product.

“There are a lot of mattress factories we approached with the concept and even a commitment, but they turned us away,” he recounted, adding that he’s been turned down at least 30 times before going the importing route.

Of course, he does plan to manufacture them locally one day, being a believer in empowering the local economy. “Once we have the track record of growth, we will reapproach the same 30 factories to work with them,” Mike projected.

A hefty price for a blanket

When making a purchase for a Sloth Blanket, you can choose between different weights you’d like your unit to come in: 4.5kg, 5.4kg, 6.8kg, and 9kg. 

Customers are advised to choose a blanket that’s 10% of their body weight. For instance, if you weigh 60kg to 70kg, the most suitable weight for your blanket is 6.8kg. 

“Anything lighter, you might not feel it and anything heavier might create an uncomfortable level of suffocation,” Mike stated. It’s also important to note that while weighted blankets are generally safe for kids, Sloth Blanket doesn’t recommend using them on kids under the age of 3.

Priced between RM299 to RM499, depending on the weight, Sloth Blanket’s products could come off as a luxury purchase to the average middle-income Malaysian. 

However, Mike justified that his brand’s weighted blankets are priced lower than silk comforters with no weights, so those who believe they can benefit from the former will be content with the expense.

Blankets are only sold in one colour for now / Image Credit: Sloth Blanket

To add, while searching online for other brands selling weighted blankets, Sloth Blanket appeared to carry the general price range amongst the limited local options out there. We say limited because you can actually count them on one hand. 

The Sonno Huggy Blanket from a Malaysian mattress brand costs RM329 (without promos), the one I’ve tried from a friend was RM351, while a local brand on Shopee sells theirs at RM298 to RM379. Of course, different materials, quality, durability, and shipping fees of the blankets should be taken into account for the varying price points.

Sloth Blanket offers a 30-night free returns policy, with a money-back guarantee for those who saw no improvement with their sleep. Of course, the product being returned must be in an acceptable condition with no stains or damages and kept in its original packaging.

Helping others get better sleep

Thus far, Sloth Blanket’s customers consist of males and females around Malaysia, particularly in cities like Klang Valley, Johor, and Penang. Mike even saw a customer from Sarawak bulk purchasing the blankets for their whole family.

Customer feedback has also been good, with Mike saying that 95% of their customers have reported better sleep after using Sloth Blanket.

Able to produce an average of 600 blankets per week, Sloth Blanket sells around 200 blankets per month. Mike is hoping to grow this by at least 10 times from here on out, pointing to the brand’s 2-year goal.

For the brand’s short-term goals, the team is looking to partner with mattress brands and also home developers, where they can include a Sloth Blanket in their packages. 

“Also, we aim to give back to charities that deal with autistic kids, because that is our business pledge since day one. The more blankets we sell, the more we will give back,” Mike hoped.

Since weighted blankets are a sensory-based object, Sloth Blanket hopes to be featured in roadshows so customers can experience the product firsthand.

  • Learn more about Sloth Blanket here.
  • Read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Sloth Blanket

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