September 1, 2020
Photography and cooling vests, an unlikely pair, yet, they are two passions that I love most.
Why? Because helping people is what I do best.
After 14 years of working in the photography industry with my husband, Kurtis Kracke, we decided to pursue another adventure—that’s when ThermApparel was born. ThermApparel makes and sells a lightweight, comfortable and intuitively designed cooling vest for anyone who struggles with temperature regulation. Our goal is to help people live happier and healthier lives.
Before we dive into just how cool this vest is, let’s take a look back at my first passion— photography. I have known I wanted to be a photographer since I was 8 years old. It's all I ever really wanted to do. I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute with a BFA in photography and SUNY Buffalo with an MFA in photography, worked for George Eastman Museum for 8 years, and spent 14 years running Kracke Photography, a full-service photography studio with my husband. We had the honor and privilege of sharing in the joy of so many families by photographing over 300 weddings, their families and kids. Many of our clients have become lifelong friends and for that we are forever grateful.
We photographed weddings, kids, families, & commercial photography for 14 years straight without much of a break. On average we worked 12-14 hours a day 6 days a week and it really took a toll on my body. During those years I endured years of infertility, a BRCA2 diagnosis, a double mastectomy, complete surgical hysterectomy and a pinched nerve in my neck.
I spent the last year at our studio in horrific pain that radiated from my neck all the way down to my fingers on my right side. With my right side being my shooting arm, it was getting harder and harder to hold onto the camera for 8-12 hours at a time. Fast forward through a whole lot of excruciating pain, tests, shots, and physical therapy; I was eventually diagnosed with a pinched nerve and bone spur in my neck. After our final wedding season ended, I had surgery on my neck. When I woke up in the recovery room the nurse asked me if I needed anything, I asked for a glass of water, she handed me a white Styrofoam cup. I grabbed it with my right hand and started crying because for the first time in a year I could feel all of my fingers. That’s the moment I knew that it was time for a new adventure and that my body didn’t deserve any future complications.
While this was not an easy decision, I knew it was the right choice and that something bigger was in store for us. Besides, we were lucky to have the success that we did—so there’s no better way than to end on a high note!
The next chapter…
Kurtis decided he wanted to get his graduate degree in industrial design from Rochester Institute of Technology and that began our next adventure—we had no idea the fun that was in store! While there he started working with fellow classmate Brad Bunn on an adaptive technology project. Kurtis & Brad put their design talents to work, after observing that those living with Multiple Sclerosis were constrained in hot weather due to their heat sensitivity. After researching other cooling products on the market, none of them met the critical criteria for people with heat sensitivity caused from health conditions – concealable, lightweight, and comfortable. After more than 200 customer discovery interviews, and more than 50 prototypes, the ThermApparel UnderCool cooling vest was born. To date, the UnderCool Cooling Vest has made life-changing differences for people in all 50 states and 16 countries.
- Adjustable straps and a Velcro front for the best fit and comfort
- Wicking fabrics and built-in mesh panels to keep you dry and comfortable
- Cooling pack pockets along back • Cooling relief for up to 1 – 3 hours* depending on cooling pack
- 7 sizes from XXS – XXL
- 60-day money back guaranteed
I joined Kurtis and Brad in their second year and my role quickly evolved as I began working in the business full time. I am the Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and one of my favorite parts about my job is talking to customers on a daily basis and hearing their (amazing) stories! We receive emails and calls all of the time from our happy customers, as they share how much the cooling vest has changed their life! Hearing things like, "It allowed me to got to my grandson’s high school graduation", "I was able to hike.", "Now I can exercise.", and "Thank you for giving me my life back." are the successes that keep us going every day! Since there are only 3 of us in the company, my role also consists of wearing many hats—graphic design, customer service, order fulfillment, problem solving, and being an integral part of the management team. Kurtis, Brad and I work very well with each other. We all have different strengths that we bring to the table that keep moving ThermApparel forward.
To work with your spouse you have to have a strong work ethic, strong relationship and respect for them and for yourself, I feel very lucky to be working side-by-side with my husband and after 20+ years of working together I can say it works 90% of the time, ha!
The power of cooling relief: While the UnderCool was originally designed for those living with diseases like MS, we quickly realized that the vest is actually amazing for anyone that has any kind of heat sensitivity due to medical, environmental or professional reasons. We have sold vests to medical professionals to wear under their PPE, plumbers, electricians, race car drivers, gardeners, actors and actresses. Fun fact, currently our cooling vest is being used to keep actors and actresses on the TV show Station 19 cool under their turnout gear.
Because of my BRCA2 diagnosis and following surgeries I entered what they call surgical menopause. I woke up from that surgery on fire, I felt like a volcano and as a result I have a hard time regulating my body temperature. I love using my UnderCool for exercise, gardening and well, let’s talk woman to woman here…who has been impacted by the “H word?” Yes, I’m talking about those nasty and debilitating hot flashes! If you haven’t experienced them yet, oh, just hold on tight because you will.
Prior to the UnderCool, when I exercised, I overheated to the point that I could feel the heat coming off of me in waves, especially around my neck. Just a 30-minute brisk walk on the treadmill and I would be a hot sweaty mess, but also exhausted and the fatigue would last into the next day. However, after wearing the UnderCool on the treadmill I have quickly discovered that I can now walk for 60-90 minutes without overheating and the fatigue is gone! As a result, I can now increase my productivity and exercise more.
In the garden it is a life saver. I can get all of the yard work done on hot summer days. It’s very comfortable to wear, think yoga pants comfortable, and it doesn’t get in my way. It provides a nice consistent cooling, so I don’t overheat.
What I love most is our cooling packs that fit perfectly into our vest design. They are very unique, they are not ice, and work better than ice and ice vests. Why is that and why is it important?
• When your body is hot your blood vessels open up to allow heat to be released.
• Ice and Gel Packs cause blood vessels to constrict, preventing cooled blood from reaching your core. Ice is wonderful for cooling down a specific part of your body or bringing down swelling, but it doesn't cool your entire body.
• ThermApparel PCM Cooling Packs cool the blood without constricting your blood vessels. As your blood flows past the PCM Cooling Packs it cools the blood which is then circulated throughout the whole body.
They start melting and refreezing at 70°F so they can quickly recharge in ice water in 20 min. I can put the vest with the cooling packs inserted in the fridge and it will recharge in 60 min or 45 min in the freezer. They don’t condensate so they don’t get you wet or burn your skin like ice. Because of this, I can take my UnderCool out of the fridge at 10pm, leave it on my nightstand and at 2 or 3am when I have a hot flash, I grab it, lay it across me and go right back to sleep. It's still solid, still cold and immediately starts pulling the heat from my core allowing my hot flash to cool down and let me sleep! That, my friends, is irreplaceable relief!
The design of the UnderCool is very low profile. It weighs less than 2 lbs. (yes, with the cooling packs) and I can wear it under a t-shirt, dress shirt or even my business suit and no one knows I have it on. It’s been a life saver during high stress presentations. I never lose my cool.
When I’m not working, you’ll find me photographing for fun, swimming, gardening, reading and spoiling my nephews and niece. As a proud Kansan, (LFK) my midwestern roots will always be planted deep, however, I love all that Rochester has to offer, including the beauty of the four seasons! I never realized fall could be so incredibly beautiful.
One last thing, ladies, this vest is a game changer and it’s a brand I feel confident standing behind! Most of all, I love helping people return to their first passions and live life to the fullest! Want to learn more or just grab coffee and talk about life? I’d love to chat! Shoot me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
From our humble origins we have been striving to help people live active, comfortable, and safe lives. In a time like this we all need more help. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay happy.
Julia, Kurtis, Brad
ThermApparel is a small business making big waves in the heat sensitivity world by designing the first lightweight, comfortable and invisible cooling vest, UnderCool. Check us out online, on our blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Please let us know if you have any other questions or ideas in the comments below, we will follow up.
You can always reach us via:
Live Chat - www.thermapparel.com
Email - email@example.com
Phone - 855-232-7233
Address: ThermApparel LLC. 125 Tech Park Dr. Rochester, NY 14620
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