Without ever a thought of failure in her mind, Luanne DiBernardo, along with her brother, Van DiBernardo, revolutionized the world of cooling vests with the launch of Coolture. “I think I have an uncanny ability to forget that I could fail,” laughed DiBernardo, CEO. “There is a missing syntax in my brain that says ‘I cannot do this.'”
Driven by a great love for her brother and an immense passion for projects, DiBernardo wanted to help her brother’s uncomfortableness with multiple sclerosis symptoms that worsened in the heat. “Every summer I would watch Van become worsened by the heat,” recalled DiBernardo. “He wore an industrial vest that would get so heavy and wet. It became so tough to watch him suffer that I felt no choice but to find him a vest that would work on all counts.”
Diving into the literature, DiBernardo discovered that heat intolerance affects many more people than her brother, including other patients with multiple sclerosis. With some serendipity, DiBernardo was connected with Dr. Thomas Stewart, who is now President of Coolture. He brought to the table excitement about bringing cooling vests to both the medical community and the general public.
“There are very few people you don’t have to educate about overheating,” stated DiBernardo. As a professional in creating ad campaigns for existing products, DiBernardo needed to be creative with strategic taglines and strong visuals to strengthen the Coolture brand. “At this point, we are trying to establish an ‘ambassador network’ from our existing customers,” said DiBernardo. “Out of state customers often send us photographs of them wearing their Coolture vests, but when a regional order comes through, we send a photographer for an official shoot.”
DiBernardo actively educates customers and works with advocates in the medical community to allow customers to touch and see Coolture cooling vests. “That’s how we broke into the multiple sclerosis market,” explained DiBernardo. “We sent 30-40 vests, complete with mannequins, to major multiple sclerosis clinics, and that is where many of our sales are coming from. Customers hear about us through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or are recommended by their neurologists.”
In the coming months, Coolture is looking forward to introducing a new vest to the market. “This vest allows us to enter occupational markets,” said DiBernardo. “Landscapers, arborists, chemical plant workers… you name it, they cannot escape the heat. This product will be more in tune with that.” Additionally, a warming vest will hit the market in late 2015.
While developing these vests for Coolture, DiBernardo has appreciated the help received by numerous resources. “One of our first champions–if you will–about the concept was Marnie LaVigne at LaunchNY,” said DiBernardo. “I met her in 2010, prototype in hand. Marnie understood the concept and was on-board immediately, saying that, ‘More and more, there is a need to help the human body condition itself with changing temperatures.’ She has truly been there whenever we’ve needed an introduction or a connection.”
At the end of the day, DiBernardo still remembers the exact moment she felt validated to enter the market. “One day I picked up a Fast Company magazine, and there was an article with a swimmer on the cover,” recalled DiBernardo. “It highlighted Nike’s pre-cool vest. I was both elated and flattened. Elated because my 10 minute elevator pitch just got shorter thanks to Nike. Flattened because I was concerned they’d also launch a consumer version of their Olympic vest.” From that day, DiBernardo has persisted in advertising and selling Coolture vests, which continue to benefit the lives of patients in the medical community and sports enthusiasts in the summer heat.