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Updated: April 18, 2022 On the record

On the Record: Hüga Heat founders seek a warm, comfortable seat at the table

PHOTO / JIM NEUGER Hüga Heat founders Jocelyn Olsen and Colin Greig display some of their heated seat cushions one chilly morning on Portland’s Eastern Promenade.

Jocelyn Olsen and Colin Greig are the entrepreneurs behind Hüga Heat, a Southport-based maker of battery-powered heated seat cushions for outdoor use. Mainebiz caught up with the duo to find out more about the startup.

Mainebiz: Where does the name Hüga come from?

Jocelyn Olsen: Our heated cushions are named after the Danish concept of hygge, which is pronounced hüga (hyoo-ga) and stands for ‘a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.’ With Hüga heated cushions, we bring joy, warmth and coziness outdoors as the seasons change.

MB: What does Hüga Heat make, and who are your customers?

Colin Greig: We make heated cushions that were originally designed for outdoor dining at restaurants but have since been purchased by lots of consumers for their own patios and backyards. We’ve also started selling to event and wedding venues and rental companies as well as sports stadiums and parents who were freezing at their kids’ games.

MB: What inspired the idea for the business?

CG: It was actually Jocelyn’s idea since she hates to be cold. We were eating on the top deck at [Portland restaurant] Boone’s in late September 2020, and as soon as the sun set behind the building, we got cold fast. It didn’t help that we were sitting on metal patio chairs, which seemed to suck the warmth right out of us. Jocelyn was wearing a heated vest and we kept trying to shift the patio heater closer to our table, but the light wind just carried the heat away from us. She randomly said, ‘I wish they made heated cushions.’ When we looked into it, there wasn’t anything on the market that could maintain a hot temperature for a whole restaurant shift and handle the sanitizing they were doing between each guest.

MB: What’s it like being business partners and spouses?

CG: Amazing! What could be better than spending even more time together during COVID?

JO: We always talked about starting a business together, so it has been a lot of fun … and a lot of work. I’m actually not sure how you start a business with someone you don’t know as well as we know each other — it makes it a lot easier to work through the tough stuff.

MB: Where do you source your materials from?

CG: We are sourcing as much of our material and services from Maine businesses as possible. Flowfold has been an incredible partner in manufacturing our cushion covers and providing a lot of startup advice as we’ve scaled. Xtreme Screen & Sportswear has also had our back in screen printing our logos, which is tougher than you’d think on marine-grade vinyl. Our vision is to continue supporting the Maine economy and fellow small business owners whenever possible, including hiring Maine employees as we scale.

MB: What supply-chain or logistics challenges have you faced so far?

CG: I’ve been a carpenter for 30-plus years and I’ve seen material costs rise and fall, but I’ve never seen anything like this. There have been times we couldn’t even get the materials we needed, so we had to pivot to different vinyl colors and battery models. Somehow we’ve made it work, but it’s been challenging.

JO: Colin’s experience negotiating and sourcing materials has been incredibly valuable in working through those issues. I can’t imagine how we would have done it otherwise.

MB: What’s next for the business?

JO: We have so many ideas to grow the business. In addition to the ones Colin mentioned, we’re starting to test selling through retailers, like Nomads in Portland. We attended the Bliss Wedding Show a few weeks ago and made some great contacts in that industry. And we recently brought on a part-time employee to help us with operations and sales. Spring is our best season since everyone wants to be outside, but it isn’t quite warm enough to enjoy it without a little help. With warm buns, it’s a lot more pleasant to sit outside and enjoy the late sunsets.

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