SIX years after his family mattress business Kayfoam was sold to private equity group FL Partners in a €70m deal, entrepreneur David Woolfson has developed a new bug-busting pillow.
Woolfson's Gabriel Scientific has invented special anti-MRSA pillows and bedding and is seeking to raise up to €2m from investors. The firm has agreed €11m worth of export sales deals in China and the Middle East in the past two months.
Gabriel Scientific's SleepAngel branded products feature a unique patented bacteriological filter technology and are seen as increasingly vital in helping hospitals fight superbugs and infections, including MRSA.
They are currently being used in homes and hospitals throughout the world, from China and Australia to Mexico, the US, Austria, Denmark, here and in the UK.
Earlier this year Airmid Healthgroup, a world leader in microbiological testing standards, confirmed the Sleep-Angel anti-bacterial pillow is a "world-first" and that it is "100 per cent effective as a barrier to viruses, bacteria, fungi and allergens".
Dublin native David Woolfson, who co-founded the company in 2009, previously worked in his family's mattress manufacturing firm. Under his stewardship the firm is becoming a niche exporting powerhouse, having signed a deal worth about €7.4m in sales over the next five years with Dubai healthcare products distributor Al Abbas Group last month.
Another deal, for which an initial agreement was recently signed with Suibao – a Chinese bedding manufacturer whose products are sold in 2,000 stores there – could be worth about €4m over the next two years.
It has taken €2m in investment to get the company to this stage, which includes a six-figure sum to buy and set up its own factory.
The company has received backing to date from Enterprise Ireland, which identified the firm as a high potential startup in 2011.
Its pillows are already sold in UK department stores Debenhams and John Lewis and the company recently received its first order from TV shopping channel QVC.
The pillows are sold here in several stores including Harvey Norman, Shaws, Clerys and Sam McCauley.
New products that Woolfson and his nine employees are working on include medical positioners (which help keep patients in place during operations), wheelchair cushions, travel and veterinary products and mattresses.
More recently Gabriel Scientific agreed to supply British pram and pushchair manufacturer Silver Cross.
There is also the potential to earn further income from licensing its patented PneumaPure filter technology to other companies for products that it doesn't intend making itself.
The investment of €2m – which it is seeking partly through the Employment Incentive and Investment Scheme, the replacement for the Business Expansion Scheme – is required as the company begins to target markets such as the US, where it has a sales team in place, and the 235 million people in the world who suffer from asthma and other allergies.
"The new investment will help us accelerate our export sales and fund new product development and clinical trials. It will also go towards marketing and taking on new employees – we plan to take on five new recruits next year," Woolfson said.
"Over the past two years, we've got our products into 20 countries on four continents and we're keen to build on that success."