Outside the Box, Inc.
10809 Southern Loop Road
Pineville, NC 28134
Co-founders David and Renee Dillinger recognized that passengers often bring their own blankets on flights for hygiene and comfort reasons but don’t want to haul their bulkier, more expensive blankets from home. Thus, PlaneWarm blankets were created.
As a commercial airline pilot, Mr. Dillinger is constantly observing what passengers are bringing on planes and polling his crew on the needs of travelers.As a former flight attendant, Ms. Dillinger also has first-hand knowledge of the airline industry and the needs of passengers.
The Dillingers worked for the same airline until they were both furloughed in 2001 when the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks hit the airline industry. This is when they decided to put their travel experience to use and start ProTravelGear.com, a retail website selling a variety of travel-related products including the PlaneWarm blanket, personal air purifiers, travel pillows and noise-canceling headphones for travelers.
Mr. Dillinger continues tobe involved in the airline industry, as an instructor pilot training new pilots in an airline flight simulator three to four days a week.He also flies regular routes once or twice a month.According to Mr. Dillinger, his involvement with the airline industry is one of the main reasons ProTravelGear.com has been so successful.
Four years after the formation of the PlaneWarm blanket, Outside the Box has been awarded a patent for its unique design and has sold thousands of blankets worldwide. At first, travelers purchased the PlaneWarm blankets as an alternative to what airlines already offered but now, with cash-strapped airlines no longer offering complimentary blankets from some flights, the company has seen sales of its blankets rise sharply.
The PlaneWarm blankets are not just used by travelers. Several medical and disaster relief agencies, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Church World Services, are Outside the Box customers. The blankets’ sanitary and quick drying design offer key performance benefits. PlaneWarm blankets also have a higher warmth index to keep users warm than wool blankets of a comparable weight. The ultra soft blankets are designed to resist punctures and tears and weigh 30% less than woven blankets. The blankets are sold in packs of five for a retail price of $24.95.
Outside the Box’s blankets are created from hydroentangled synthetic polymer fibers in sheet form, which is processed through a napping machine and cut to specific dimensions. The company’s outsourced converting facilities in Mexico have the capacity to produce two million units per year.
Due to their affordable pricing, the blankets account for less than 10% of the company’s $2.5 million in total sales, but they are a consistently popular item on ProTravelGear.com. In the future Outside the Box will consider expanding its distribution channels, said Mr. Dillinger, by perhaps selling or licensing the blanket’s patented design to existing manufacturers.—E.W.