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Meet Jeanette Knittel and alvöru
Jeanette Knittel has the “coolest” job title ever: Chief Cooling Officer. Jeanette is the solopreneur behind alvöru, a company whose clothing line helps women combat hot flashes and night sweats. alvöru (pronounced “all-vu-ru”) is Icelandic for “real,” which plays into the company’s tagline: “real women. real comfort. real cool.”
As our conversation began, I casually said, “Before we get into the meat of the interview, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself.” There was a pause before Jeanette sighed, laughed lightly and replied, “About me? Oh wow, I feel like right now everything about me is about alvöru.” That makes sense when you eat, sleep, and breathe alvöru as Jeanette does.
Jeanette, who grew up in an artistic and crafty household, has lived in the Kansas City area for the past 28 years. Thanks to her mom’s Singer sewing machine, she learned to sew when she was five. Little did she know all those years ago, that knowledge would come in handy more than 50 years later. Jeanette earned her Home Economics degree (which included clothing and tailoring classes) from a small private Christian college in Arkansas. That’s about the extent of her ‘design’ training.
The idea for alvöru came about when Jeanette was in her mid-40s. Like many peri- and menopausal women, she would wake up in the middle of the night to a soaked mattress, her body drenched from hot flashes and night sweats. She thought to herself, “there has got to be something out there to help with this.”
Sweat-burdened nights were the impetus for Jeanette’s quest to find remedies to her problem. She began to conduct research. She Googled “clothing for menopause” and “pajamas for menopause” and found information and products. However, much of what she came across was, shall we say, matronly looking.
By this time, however, the seed had been planted and she continued exploring. Based on her research, Jeanette knew she had a viable business idea: to create clothing for women suffering from hot flashes and night sweats.
In 2006, Jeanette enrolled in Kauffman FastTrac, an immersive boot camp-style course for emerging entrepreneurs. Soon, she was exposed to the wonderful world of fabrics. After viewing numerous samples, she narrowed her choices down to what she believed would work for her needs. But a funny thing happened on the way to building her business: life got in the way and, due to an array of circumstances, her dream was put on hold . . . but it was a dream deferred, not dead.
In 2013, Jeanette graduated from an entrepreneurship scholars program at The Bloch School (University of Missouri, Kansas City). That’s when she found her focus and vowed to really make the business happen.
The Wheels of Change
As Jeanette moved forward with her idea, she discovered “phase change material” (PCM), and it was a game changer for alvöru.
After hits and misses with various vendors, Jeanette began working with Outlast Technologies, a company that produces temperature regulating textiles with Outlast® PCM technology. Outlast® PCM was originally developed for NASA to protect astronauts from temperature fluctuations in space.
The Outlast® PCM Difference
Unlike wicking fabric – which is reactive to your body’s heat, works when you sweat, and will eventually lose its wicking properties through washing – Outlast® PCM, with microencapsulated PCM weaved into the fabric, works proactively with the body temperature to absorb, store and release heat for sustained comfort. Studies by Outlast show that the fabric reduces perspiration by 30-34%, which should be music to the ears of menopausal women.
The alvöru Line
When I think of clothing designed specifically for menopausal women, my thoughts turn immediately to sleepwear. But alvöru is more than that.
“I was initially going to start my collection with sleepwear,” Jeanette says. “However, in talking to women, I discovered that remedying hot flashes and night sweats was simple: women would just change their sleepwear or the sheets and start all over again. When hot flashes happen at work, stripping down to your underwear is generally frowned upon. We sweat in places we don’t like, we sweat at times that we wish we wouldn’t…” she trails off.
That realization was Jeanette’s “Aha!” moment.
One-third of our lives is spent sleeping; the other two-thirds, we’re active. Hot flashes aren’t limited to the middle of the night, when we’re tucked all nice and cozy into bed. We’re besieged by them throughout the day.
Jeanette decided to focus alvöru’s line on clothing. The line consists of basic pieces, including three different tank tops, classic long sleeve tops, boat neck tops, sleeveless ruffled tops, gathered ¾ sleeve tops, camisoles, fingerless gloves, headbands and a clever piece of versatile headwear called “itsa”.
When asked what advice she has for other women who are forging their own paths in life, Jeanette’s answer was straightforward.
“Done is better than perfect.”
In the beginning, Jeanette didn’t know which way to turn with her business. She took a chance, jumped off the cliff, bought 1200 yards of fabric and created her tank tops. She persevered and got it done. Were they perfect? From her mouth to your ears, “No.” But she sold that first batch, and women are wearing them.
Still, Jeanette had her trepidations.
“I question myself, as I’m sure all entrepreneurs do, that I’m stupid for having invested all this money and time and, of course, my own emotional energy, and yet I know I don’t want to do anything else. I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing.”
Jeanette is moving forward with alvöru because it’s what she loves. In alvöru, she found her niche in life. It’s her passion, and as the Icelandic word suggests, it’s real.
About The Author
Valerie Albarda is a Women’s Empowerment & Transformation Coach, author, midlife blogger and creator of Midlife-A-Go-Go. In her everyday life, she’s wife to Maarten, mom to dog Chaka and active in and around her community. Follow Valerie on Twitter @MidlifeAGoGo