In the same issue that The Canadian Business Journal features a detailed profile on the Canadian Curling Association, it is only fitting that we also spoke with Barbara Armstrong, President of Ice Halo Ltd.
Like many entrepreneurial startups, Ice Halo Ltd. began after its founder noticed a gap in the marketplace. Suffering a head injury after taking a spill while curling, it was at that time when Armstrong set out to begin Ice Halo Ltd.
How it all began
Ice Halo Ltd. is the company owning the Ice Halo, a protective, headband-style product designed to prevent head injuries. Armstrong, an avid curler, said she nearly quit her new-found passion after her first game because of a head injury. Falling on the ice and suffering a severe concussion, and with nothing protecting herself or her head, the injury sidelined Armstrong from the ice, while her time away only further contributed to her apprehensiveness to return playing.
Pushing to return to the rink, in October 2007, Armstrong decided to craft her own piece of equipment that allowed her to return safely, designing a piece of protective head gear that did not obstruct her view and did not become too hot while wearing it. With that, the Ice Halo was born. Lightweight, comfortable, and secure, the Ice Halo provided Armstrong with the protection and confidence she needed to return to the ice.
With a wider back than traditional winter hats or helmets, the Ice Halo ensures sufficient coverage and minimizes head injuries and concussions. The Ice Halo is also available in a variety of sizes, styles, and patterns.
“The Ice Halo is unique in its field, filling a niche that has been in need but never in demand until the level of awareness about the dangers of concussion increased as much as it has recently,” Armstrong said.
Product into a business
The following month, a representative from the Barrie Special Olympics spotted Armstrong wearing the Ice Halo, and Ice Halo Ltd. snowballed from there. So keen on the Ice Halo, the Barrie representative wanted to purchase her own, and 18 Ice Halos were sold to the Barrie Special Olympics.
In 2009, Ice Halo Ltd. began to see exponential sales growth of its product. Armstrong commented, “The more people wearing the Ice Halo, the more people wanted to buy it and the more retailers and pro shops wanted to sell it.”
Today, the Ice Halo is sold worldwide, with retailers across North America, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. Expansion and global reach are growing as well, with online sales to customers in Denmark, Hungary, and Switzerland.
“Everyone at some point will or has slipped and fallen and hit their head. It’s as inevitable as getting out of bed,” Armstrong explained. “Concussions happen worldwide so the Ice Halo is available worldwide.”
Armstrong is quick to attribute much of the success of Ice Halo Ltd. to a business course known as Grow Vantage and her business mentor, Donna Douglas, which both provided support to Armstrong and the Ice Halo.
Future product development
This year, Ice Halo Ltd. will integrate its entire network of product designs, seamstresses, and product assemblers into one single, large-scale manufacturing facility.
Ice Halo Ltd. pushes the envelope on product development, testing and manufacturing protective sportswear. Ice Halo Ltd. has also worked alongside a number of organizations to raise awareness of the Ice Halo and concussion and head injuries in general.
“The Ice Halo and the new line of Halo fx® address the stigma of wearing head protection and other protective sportswear. It’s the most fashionable piece of safety equipment you’ll ever wear!” Armstrong exclaimed. “Ice Halo Ltd. continues to refine the design and seek out other areas where it might be able to help provide a safer and more comfortable world.”
Significantly reducing the impact force and slowing the impact by absorbing G forces, the Ice Halo has been tested by two independent facilities. With a mandate to raise awareness about concussions and to offer protection against concussions in all areas, Ice Halo Ltd. is launching Halo Effects™, which utilizes new, revolutionary Sp1ke foam architecture to cover the gap between wearing a helmet and wearing no head protection. With sales of the Ice Halo increasing every day and with retailers as far away as Australia, Ice Halo Ltd. expanded its product line to Halo Effects.
Originally designed for curlers, the demand for the Ice Halo quickly spanned across several fields, embraced by figure skaters, ice dancers, and protective uses for children, while many hospitals and senior care facilities also supply the Ice Halo for the elderly with balance issues.
“The Ice Halo is a good alternative to not wearing any head protection,” Armstrong said. “A winter hat will protect you from the cold, bitter winds, sleet and snow, but it will not keep you safe if you fall and hit your head.”
United States Figure Skating Association Gold Medalist Gayle Delaney also discovered the Ice Halo the wrong way—after falling during a skate and cracking her skull. Now the U.S. spokesperson of the Ice Halo, Delaney advocates for ice safety and Ice Halo Ltd.
Armstrong concluded, “The fact that these people and thousands of others believe in the product drives me to work hard to ensure more people are safe on and off the ice and in any situation where head injuries can occur.”