Alli Truttmann, a Smithton native, will rub elbows with Hollywood celebrities this weekend.
The 31-year old entrepreneur is CEO and founder of Wicked Sheets, a high-tech bedding and sleep products company. Its sheets, made of moisture-wicking fabric, are intended to help those suffering from night sweats and hot flashes stay cool and dry.
“Wicked sheets is a play on words,” said Alli, who liked the expression “wicked cool” and applied it to her sheets that provide comfort by wicking away moisture.
Wicked Sheets will be among 40 products introduced to about 150 celebrities Saturday at The Honoring the Academy Awards gifting suite in Los Angeles, the day before the Academy Awards.
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“They look for niche products that appeal to a wide demographic,” said Alli. “Ours is 18 to 85. Everyone sleeps ... They called me, saying, ‘Your reviews are great. You have a huge demographic.’”
She invested about $5,000 in the venture in hopes of landing a celebrity endorsement.
“It’s a paid program. We do have to pay to own the media rights if any endorse while there,” said Alli. “They will annouce the celebrities in red carpet fashion so we have time to prepare. ‘Oh, I saw you in “The Revenant” or “The Big Short.”’
“I was assigned an associate producer. She was my liaison. I asked the parameters. Can we serve nightcaps? Wear robes? Typically, it’s been food, jewelry, technology. She said, ‘You are really making this swanky, with a wicked bedroom.’”
Alli’s dream endorsement?
“Jennifer Lawrence is from Louisville. She was a female entrepreneur in the movie, ‘Joy.’ Or Cate Blanchett. She’s around the age of our target demographic, not that she’s having hot flashes, but she may someday. My secret crush is Leonardo DiCaprio. I hope to meet him.”
The making of an entrepreneur
Alli came up with the idea eight years ago at a family Easter brunch in Collinsville. She and a pregnant cousin, Cori Truttmann, of Belleville, were talking night sweats. The cousin, because of her pregnancy; Alli, because of an excess sweating condition, hyperhidrosis.
“When we were joking around, her husband walked past,” said Alli. “He was wearing a Nike dry-fit golf shirt. We talked about chopping it up and sewing it together to make bed sheets that would help people sleep well.”
When we were joking around, (my cousin’s) husband walked past. He was wearing a Nike dry-fit golf shirt. We talked about chopping it up and sewing it together to make bed sheets that would help people sleep well.
Alli Truttmann on how she came up with Wicked Sheets
Alli, who lives in Louisville, Ky., thought they might be onto something.
“Everybody but my dad laughed at me. He said, ‘That’s a pretty good idea.’”
During the drive back to Louisville, Alli considered how to begin. Where to find fabric. How to find a seamstress to make a prototype. And where to get money.
“I was working full time as a behavioral therapist for kids on the autism spectrum and as a personal trainer,” said Alli, a 2003 Gibault Catholic High School grad who attended Bellarmine University in Louisville on a soccer scholarship.
First, she called an attorney friend to make sure the product didn’t exist. “I’m a safe risk-taker,” she said.
She called folks at textile mills and people in the sewing business.
“I needed to talk to someone who understood yardage. I looked up drapery seamstress on craigslist.”
“I picked up the phone and googled ‘performance textiles.’ There was a place in Oregon that sold Under Armour and Nike (fabric) discontinued because of colors or defects. I wanted to make prototypes. Now, we manufacture our own.”
The prototypes were winners.
“The seamstress in her early to mid-60s said, ‘I wish I would have had these when I was going through menopause,’” said Alli, who still sleeps on the original one she had made.
The young entrepreneur invested $10,000 she had saved as a down payment on a house.
“I stayed in my one-bedroom apartment and used it for my start-up. They call it bootstrapping in the entrepreneurial world.”
She credits her small-town background with helping her rely on people.
“I grew up trusting people, figuring people would help, pitch in. (I would say) ‘I’m not sure what I am doing with this financial model, can you help me?’”
“It took me two solid years to throw in the towel on everything else. I wanted to make sure any money we were making went into the company, so that it was more of a financially secure business.
“As soon as we went online, I started getting orders from people who weren’t friends and family. We got an order in Pennsylvania. I picked up the phone and called the woman. ‘What do you think? How do they fit your bed?’ Initial customers gave me feedback to carry on.”
Andy Swan, 38, of Louisville, and wife Sheri are fans of Wicked Sheets.
“I hate being hot when I sleep and the sheets give me more control over the temperature in my bed,” Andy, an entrepreneur in the finance sector, said in an email. “Plus, they feel cool! I was surprised how soft they were — I was expecting more of a scratchy ‘micro fabric’ feeling, but they felt like normal sheets to me (other than the temperature).”
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Alli has a can-do personality paired with a charm that makes you feel like you’re talking to an old friend. Meet her for the first time and she gives you a hug.
Last weekend, she stopped in O’Fallon on her way to the Working Women’s Survival Workshop in St. Charles, Mo. She drove a panel truck loaded with her products. The soft, cool sleep sets cost $150 and include a fitted sheet, flat sheet and two pillowcases. Mesh giveaway bags held a sleep mask and sample pillowcase.
“I wanted to see if we can help some sweaty women in St. Louis feel better, sleep better,” she said.
Her parents, Rick, who is in sales and marketing, and Nancy, a labor and delivery nurse at Memorial Hospital, were on hand to help, along with aunts, cousins, a nephew and friends from Gibault and Smithton.
“She’s always been an overachiever,” said her mom. “She’s always been athletic, sweet and likes to help people. She stayed true to her conviction to help people... She had a lot of bumps in the road ... Now, she’s on her way to Hollywood. We are incredibly proud.”
Besides Alli, a social media director and two model friends who live in L.A., will be her team there.
“We are flying out a mattress and will give it away to a celebrity when we are out there.”
Yes, now there is a mattress.
“It has a cooling top and a moisture-wicking layer,” said Alli. “It offers another solution if they think they will sweat so much in bed that it goes through the mattress.”
Besides Hollywood, Wicked Sheets have taken Alli other places she never thought she would go.
“I went to the North American Menopause Convention. Such a place actually exists. It was in Orlando 2013.”
Just before that, Alli had won $5,000 at a Venture Sharks start-up competition in Louisville.
“They said, ‘What are you going to do with that money?’ I’m going to a menopause convention.”
Next on the horizon? Wicked little baby sleepers.
“My friends who are 29 or 30 started having kids,” said Alli. “Not only was mom sweating, the babies were sweating. We are doing everything surrounding sleep for babies — swaddles, crib sheets, covers for breastfeeding pillows — they’re already in prototypes.”
Wicked Sheets moisture-wicking bed sheets and pillow cases are made of 100 percent silk-weight polyester. Wicked Sheets cooling bed sheets and pillow cases are made of a poly-nylon fiber blend. For more information, go online to: www.wickedsheets.com.
Alli’s advice on how to keep cool while sleeping
- Turn down the temperature.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Avoid feathers, fleece and wool.
- Drink ice water before.
- Family: Parents Rick and Nancy, of Smithton, older brother Matt and wife Amy, of Smithton, and nephew Tanner, 2.
- Education: 2002 graduate of Gibault; 2006 graduate of Bellarmine University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Earned a master’s degree in psychology from University of Louisville in 2008.
- Fiancé to be: ‘(Tyler Whitty) was my attorney first. A friend and I were in a club together. I told her I needed help with documents. She said, ‘Let me send you to our business attorney. He’s wonderful.’ We didn’t start dating till three years after the company started.”
- What she was like in high school: Soccer team captain at Gibault. Liked to go to Fun Spot, play soccer at Sportsplex and hang out with friends. “I was in plays. To open the first scene of ‘Children of Eden,’ I did backflips.”
- Advice: Always have a signed contract in place when discussing a new business opportunity.