It’s hard for somebody who stands nearly seven feet tall to be comfortable on airplanes. It’s even harder when that person finds out the standard U-shaped travel pillow provided no neck support or head stabilization.
“I was not comfortable on airplanes — not anywhere close to comfortable on airplanes,” said David Sternlight, the founder and CEO of Cabeau (www.cabeautravel.com), a company that specializes in travel pillows and blankets for adults and kids. After he purchased a U-shaped travel pillow, he found it didn’t work. So in 2009, Sternlight started designing his own products, which he’s bringing to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012.
“All I kept thinking was, ‘How long have these [U-shaped pillows] been out and why hasn’t there been a better solution?’ ” Sternlight said. “That really started the thought process that led to the founding of our company.”
He named the company Cabeau (pronounced Cabo, as in Cabo San Lucas) after his son — Luca Beau. A few of his products are named Air Evolution, as in it’s time for travel pillows to evolve.
The people have spoken
Sternlight and his wife interviewed travelers during their own personal and business travel. They’d arrive at airports sometimes five hours before their flights were scheduled to take off just to chat with people.
“The consumer is the only marketing genius,” Sternlight told SNEWS. “Listen to them.”
They asked people what they liked and disliked about their travel pillows. “The most common response that we got from them is they’re better than nothing,” Sternlight said. “Are you really going to spend $20 on something that’s ‘better than nothing?’”
Sternlight said he couldn’t take credit for the design of the Evolution Pillows made from memory foam (MSRP $34.99-$19.99) because he got it from these talks.
Neck support and then some
Now, Sternlight said, travelers don’t have to worry about neck cricks when they fall asleep on the plane, thanks to the Evolution pillows, which both wrap around most of the neck and features a heightened interior to provide better neck support and head stabilization, is iPod and mp3 compatible, having a special section to hold the device and a spot to put earphone cords.
There are two models: the Evolution Pillow (MSRP $34.99), which is made of memory foam; and the Evolution Microbead (MSRP $19.99) which is filled with odor-free microbeads.
The Evolution Pillow, which conforms to a user’s face and neck perfectly due to the memory foam, also has a removable, machine-washable cover, a travel pouch, a toggle lock that one can tighten to make the pillow more supportive and comes with memory foam earplugs to drown out your chatty plane neighbor. The Evolotion Microbead has many of the same features, except the removable cover, travel pouch and memory foam.
Kids, carry your own stuff
Seeing that kids, too, needed pillows and a blanket, when they travel, Sternlight invented the BlanKid Buddy (MSRP $29.99), a blanket and travel pillow that converts into a little carry-on backpack that comes in ladybug and polar bear versions.
“We wanted to design something that would incorporate everything kids need when they’re traveling,” Cabeau said. They made it a cuddly stuffed animal so kids will gladly want to carry it.
Not without its challenges
Like every business owner, Sternlight has faced challenges. He’s come across people who want to invest in his business but has been reluctant to “give up ownership,” therefore hasn't accepted such offers.
“We could be a lot more capitalized than we are,” Sternlight admitted, but added that he’s happy with that decision. Plus, being a small company, advertising and reaching out to other communities have proved difficult. He’s hoping his time at Outdoor Retailer will interest stores in his pillows for their shelves.
“I’ve seen a lot of outdoor retail stores carry the U-shaped travel pillows,” Sternlight said. “We’re really focused on getting our products out there and our primary goal is to be known worldwide.”