Monday, May 16, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Katie Houtkooper and Kelli Purcell, Creators of the Hurtie Hug

Last month I shared with you all a product review and giveaway for the Hurtie Hug.  If you missed my post, click here to read it now.  Today, I wanted to share my interview with the 2 moms behind this wonderful invention.  Enjoy!

Name: Katie Houtkooper and Kelli Purcell

Company Name/Product/Service: Healthy Family Products, LLC makers of the Hurtie Hug

Company Location: Aurora, CO

Company Website:

Facebook URL:

Twitter Handle: @HurtieHug

Age of Company: 8 months

Favorite Inspirational Quotes: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." Mark Twain

Favorite Book: 
Katie: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. 
Kelli: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How many children do you have? What are their ages? Your
hobbies? Etc.

Katie: I have been married for 11 ½ years. We have 2 daughters, ages 8 and 5. My hobbies include spending time with my family, triathlons, skiing, golf, reading, and softball.

Kelli: I have been married for 20 ½ years. We have 2 sons, ages 16 and 12. My hobbies include spending time with my family, cooking, reading and sewing.

Briefly explain your business. How did it come about?

Tired of cleaning up the mess of dripping plastic bags filled with melting ice cubes discarded on furniture and the floor, Kelli decided that there has to be a better way to treat her sons’ bumps and bruises. With an idea, some fleece, elastic, and Velcro, Kelli sat down at her sewing machine and went to work. Kelli invented the Hurtie Hug in California a few years ago. She sent one to her sister, Katie in Colorado, to use on her two daughters. However, Kelli had never been able to tackle the task of starting a business and manufacturing her new product on her own.

Then, in 2010, Katie’s position was eliminated during a downsizing and she was laid off. It only took one phone call—the first in thousands—to start Healthy Family Products, makers of the Hurtie Hug!

So, the sisters took Kelli’s prototype and produced the first thousand Hurtie Hugs themselves. Katie cut out (by hand)over 12,000 pieces of fleece, elastic and Velcro by hand, and then sent it all to Kelli. Kelli then assembled the 1000 Hurtie Hugs in the “factory” in her living room, equipped with an industrial sewing machine and an 8 foot assembly table.

Now the Hurtie Hug is being sold online at and in retail stores. The sisters have also sold the Hurtie Hugs at many public venues, including craft shows, festivals, holiday fairs, and 2010 A Taste of Colorado.

Here it is, the BEST Children’s Hot/Cold pack on the market, the HURTIE HUG! What makes it the best?

The Hurtie Hug’s unique design provides the most efficient, comfortable and practical solution to providing hot/cold relief to children’s injuries! A soft fleece pouch protects delicate skin from direct contact with the hot/cold gel pack (included) while innovative, adjustable "arms" hold the pouch in place, gently "hugging" the injury to provide soothing pain relief and eliminating the need for a parent, caregiver or child to hold the pack in place on the injury.

Perhaps the strongest selling point of this product is its adjustable “arms”. Because the Hurtie Hug stays securely in place without requiring an adult or child to hold it on the injury, it is an ideal treatment solution for schools, child care centers, hospitals, children’s gyms, and sports teams; group situations where tying up an adult’s time to provide hands-on individual care for an extended period is challenging.

For children with chronic illness or disease requiring regular invasive procedures such as infusion therapy or other treatments, medical professionals and parents alike tell us that the Hurtie Hug’s furry body, smiley face, and absolutely painless application has made our product one that these children actually look forward to using and tolerate very well, allowing the Hurtie Hug to remain in place long enough to have a therapeutic benefit.

What is a typical work day like? 

For Katie: I get the girls off to school, run any errands that need to be done and then sit down at my computer and start plugging away. I take a break when the girls get home from school and then typically start back up in the evening after the girls go to bed.

For Kelli: I am currently work as a part time accountant at a winery in Napa, so I do my accounting job in the morning and when I get home in the early afternoon, I start working on our business.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?

We haven’t had too many struggles starting up our company. When we first got the idea, we did our homework. Hours and hours were spent collecting important data related to our idea, our vision, and our goal. We also spent many hours talking with other business owners, the SBA, and SCORE counselors to get a practical idea of what we were about to get ourselves into. There are many great and easy to access resources available that have assisted us in our journey.

What did you do in your past work life?

Katie: I was working as a manager/director in the hospitality industry for over 20 years until I got laid off in 2010. It was a blessing in disguise!

Kelli: Prior to having children, I worked as an accountant. When I had children, I decided to become stay at home mom while they were young. Once my children were older, I went back to working part time as an accountant for a winery in Napa in January of 2010.

What have been some of your major successes?

We consider every sale of a Hurtie Hug a success! We get so excited when an order comes in. It typically leads to a 20 minute phone call. Some of our major successes thus far have been being featured on Colorado’s NBC affiliate 9News for their Gadget Day segment; we were also featured in the Denver Business Journal and the Aurora Sentinel. We recently started our Retail Campaign and have product placement in Lemondrops Children’s Boutique in Yountville, CA, The Napa Toy Company in Napa, CA and the Beverly Glen Pharmacy in Los Angeles, CA.

What have been some of your major challenges?

One of our biggest challenges so far is deciding which markets to target for the Hurtie Hug. It seems like every time we turn around, we find another market that we could and should enter. So now we need to examine each market carefully and really decide where we should focus our attention.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

Katie: A Pepsi and a bike ride typically do the trick for me. I am able to blow off some steam and refocus on the many tasks at hand.

Kelli: I will go sit on the patio with a good book. After a few chapters, I will regroup and begin again.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

We have the luxury of working at home so even short periods of time between family responsibilities can be utilized to work on our business.

What is next for your business?

We are continuing to work toward our goal of having the Hurtie Hug become a household name and our product line will be expanding in the Fall of 2011.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or
are on the fence about starting a business?

Do your homework! Research your product idea and the market in which it will fit. Use the resources available to you. Check with your local SBA and SCORE counselors as well. Follow your dream!!

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