UAN Wool is a new SME incorporated in 2014, which is currently in prototype development stage for its products. The business designs and will manufacture natural woollen cushion pads, pillows and duvet bedding products in Scotland.
Its wool products are made from specially selected Scottish sheep breeds. The selection process ensures that the fibre used is matched to the function requirements. And using the wools natural properties to create temperature-regulating, breathable, and naturally flame retardant products, which are designed to remember shape and not becoming ‘lumpy’ with use.
The resultant products are high-quality and durable and wool has proven associated soft health benefits relating to improving sleep quality. Independent ‘seal of approval’ product endorsement has been sought from British Trading Standards and is currently awaited from Allergy UK and the UK British Allergy Foundation.
Julie Hermitage is the founder and owner of UAN, which was formed following Julie’s attendance at a Design in Action (DiA) Chiasma residential event, where designers, academics, businesses (and everyone in-between) converge to ideate around a particular sectoral theme using bespoke design thinking and design doing activities. Julie attended our ‘Made in Scotland’ event, which looked at innovatively capitalising on products designed and developed in Scotland and next generation manufacturing.
From her experience as a sheep farmer, Julie would see that a lot of perfectly usable sheep’s wool was discarded every shearing season and wanted to address this waste issue. Given she was more aware than most that natural wool has an abundance of features and benefits (it’s sustainable, it’s biodegradable, it helps self-regulate body temperature, it’s flame retardant, the list goes on and on), Julie couldn’t shake the feeling that there was real commercial potential for her product and, after she attended the DiA Chiasma, the idea became fully-fledged.
Following the Chiasma, Julie applied to DiA for grant funding to commercialise her idea (called ‘Scottish Woollen Duvets and Healthy Lives’ at the time) and was awarded the maximum amount of £20,000 to prototype her idea. With her passion, determination, verve and flexibility, Julie – alongside her small design team, co-ordinated by DiA to provide additional support – has forged ahead and is now gearing up to launch UAN officially in the Q2 of 2015. This is an exceptional achievement for a full-time working mother of two who, when not developing her products, business model and network, also runs a local working farm alongside her partner.
Since then, Julie won an Innovation Voucher from Interface worth £5k which was used to develop early prototypes and use specialised machines via Heriot Watt University. She also worked with the same University to conduct research into the antimicrobial qualities of wool as well as Scottish Biofuel who is supporting a project for Julie which is investigating options for using wool at the end of the product life. These projects will give Julie’s products the competitive advantage she requires to stand out from her competition, supporting her vision for offering a product which is desired, environmentally-friendly, durable, has health benefits, and supports rural Scottish businesses.
Julie’s ultimate vision is to establish wool as a ‘21st Century Super Material’ and promote its many qualities and health benefits so consumers far and wide are informed about and can experience the very real and positive effects woollen products can bring to their sleep, and their lives. The increased health benefits, particularly to asthma and allergy sufferers, first became apparent to when someone recommended she give her son – who was 4 at the time – a woollen duvet to combat his asthma. She noticed a marked improvement as his symptoms were relieved.
UAN officially piloted at the Royal Highland Show which took place from 18th – 21st June 2015 (http://royalhighlandshow.org/) in Edinburgh. The event was a culmination of months and months of efforts from Julie and her design team, including market research, focus groups and product testing to ensure their final products emanate the full luxuriousness and quality that will soon be synonymous with the UAN brand.