By Kay Richardson The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A Washington state couple who were struggling with the husband's uncomfortable CPAP mask created a soft, washable CPAP cover that they are now selling to other CPAP users who are battling to sleep in comfort.
The use of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) masks is a huge advancement in improving lives of those affected by obstructive sleep apnea. But it isn't an easy adjustment. Challenging factors include skin soreness and air leakage, which can cause patients to stop using their devices.
Norman Paulk is a CPAP user who, with his wife, Vicki, knew there had to be a solution. Like most entrepreneurs, they used problem-solving aptitudes and determination to come up with a soft, washable CPAP cover -- made in Spokane -- that has their customers sleeping in comfort again. "It was clear to us what the problem was, and what the solution was. It's deceptively simple," Vicki said.
Name: Vicki Paulk.
Residence city: Camas.
Business name: CPAP Comfort Cover.
Professional background: My career was in elections administration, with 18 years as director of elections for Multnomah County, Ore. I retired in 2002.
How and when you got started in your business: My husband, Norman, is a CPAP user and was experiencing the redness and sore skin that caused him to go off his sleep therapy for days at a time while his skin healed. In December 2014 he went to his sleep therapist to see what could be done. She gave him the only thing she had, which was a disposable piece of cloth with a hole in it. Norman, the entrepreneur, knew there must be a better way. We immediately started designing, prototyping and testing. Our finished product is soft, absorbent, reusable, and stays attached to the CPAP mask with elastic. We launched our website for online sales last year.
Personal/business philosophy: Good sleep is critical to good health. Our goal is to help those with sleep apnea be able to continue their sleep therapy.
Most rewarding part of job: When we get feedback from customers telling us how the use of our simple product has made such an impact for them.
Most challenging part of job: The process of reaching potential customers is very slow. We have to be patient even as our business is steadily growing.
Best feature of your Clark County community: It has the resources of a large city with the friendliness of a small town.
What would make your community a better place: I wish we had better access when we need to cross the river into Oregon. It could mean less driving and congestion here.
Your favorite travel destination: We love to fly to Las Vegas for a few days of fun and visiting with friends.
Favorite restaurant: There are a number of restaurants that we frequent but I would say our favorite is Stardust Diner. Hobbies: I enjoy gardening and sewing. I also spend time scanning, labeling and organizing our years of pre-digital pictures.
Most enjoyable book, etc: Norman is a voracious reader but our favorite activities are getting together with friends and family, playing games and going out to eat. I also try to watch every Mariners game. Something you'd like to do this year: Our immediate goal is to continue to grow the company so we can reach more people.
One word to describe yourself: Thinker. I like to mull things over, processing them internally. It helps my creativity and problem-solving.
Person you'd most like to meet: Bill Gates. He also started "in his garage," was able to build his company and uses his resources to help solve problems.