Bit of History
The story told by Niklas Kuusela, founder & CEO of the Neckpacker brand.
“After the Easter holiday of 2012 my friends and I were driving back home from the Finnish Lapland where we had been snowboarding and partying for several days. The road trip was long and tiring. Although I was tired after all our activities, I just couldn’t fall asleep. My head was bouncing from one side to the other, against the car window and back to the other side. I borrowed an inflatable neck pillow from one of my friends. That was a little bit better but I was still too uncomfortable to sleep. I couldn’t completely rest my head sideways with the poor lateral support and when my head was tilting forward, the pillow offered almost no support at all. I tried turning the pillow around backwards, but then with the pressure on my throat I felt I was choking.
“In those desperate, tired hours I started to wonder if there could be more innovative way of handling the situation. I Imagined an inflatable pillow which could wrap around the front, sides, and back of my head, somewhat like a helmet. To inflate the borrowed pillow, I had to huff and puff, then keep the air in while closing the plug when blowing air from my mouth. It was just too messy and annoying. I began to imagine a pump to inflate my ideal pillow.
“After being awake some twelve hours in a car, I finally arrived home and managed to get a good long sleep. I woke up well rested but my idea of the ideal travel pillow still kept buzzing in my head.
“Eventually I sat down and started sketching my idea. I got carried away and spent almost another sleepless night, this time with great spirit and energy. The next day I called a friend who is a designer and knows about materials and production. We sat down and I showed her my concept. She immediately understood my idea and got enthusiastic about its innovation. She helped me with more technical sketches and put me in contact with people who helped me to build the first prototypes.
“Once I started testing mock-ups, I immediately realized that the air cushion system was really comfortable. It was something totally new and different but it lacked something. Although it was super comfortable, it didn’t offer enough vertical and lateral support.
“Thinking about how to create this needed support, I eventually came up with the idea of a hood-type cushion with diagonal straps on both sides. At that point I needed some way for the straps to attach to the shoulders. That’s the moment the idea of a vest with an integrated inflatable hood was born!
"Moving forward I realized that the vest could also serve as a handy garment for storing all the small items that we all usually carry with us when we travel like tickets, passport, and phone.
“Since my idea was getting more serious and complex, I asked my best friend, who had a good touch for marketing and commercial issues, if he wanted to join the team. He carefully evaluated the concept and the prototypes. He quickly agreed that I was creating something big and he eagerly jumped on board.
“We worked on more prototypes, each working better than the one before. When we felt we had the right prototype we presented it to TEKES, which is a governmental innovation fund for start-up innovations that have global market potential. The people in the TEKES office gave us the green light and they provided an investment grant that was big enough to start the patenting process, plus more testing and prototyping.
“We continued working out the details of the development, met with producers for the various parts, and had 1:1 drawings and prototypes made of all of the elements.
“We started testing our product with various people including a good mix of genders, ages, body types, and nationalities. Our testers’ general reaction was ‘WOW! This is amazing!'
“People were astonished at how the Neckpacker system’s head support was effective without tensing a single muscle. ‘Feels like my head is floating in the clouds,’ said one. ‘I feel like sitting down and falling asleep straight away,’ said another. Those were typical comments from our testers and those moments kept us working even harder and believing more and more in the future commercial success of our product.
“We talked with business advisors and investors, always listening carefully to their advice on how we should proceed to establish and commercialize our product. Again and again we were advised to consider crowdfunding as a tool for introducing and establishing our product on the international stage.
“At the same time we expanded our team with people who had experience that we lacked at that point. As we progressed and our patent was granted we decided that crowdfunding would be the best way to get the necessary boost that our start-up needed AND to launch our product in the best possible way.
After few months we raised over 133 000 USD from Kickstarter and IndieGoGo in 2017. Now 2020 we have sold our products already to over 70 countries around the world and the group of Neckpacker users is growing fast! Our team also keeps growing and have to say that I’m very proud of everyone!
“That’s pretty much our story. From a hazy idea born of a tired mind in the backseat of a car in the darkness of a snowy winter night to a patented travel jacket and vest. We are now ready to hit the market with the results of our innovations. We’ve come a pretty long way!”
Niklas Kuusela, Founder & CEO