What does milkweed have to do with luxury down bedding?? To the blind eye; probably nothing, but to the creative dreamer; everything. Chief Dreamer and Founder of Ogallala Comfort Company, Herb Knudsen, discovered the amazing qualities of milkweed fiber for bedding after ending his career with Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio).
Sohio had a $2,000,000 research budget for special projects, and reached out to Herb to be their creative genius to develop alternative oil sources. This was the beginning of Herb’s connection with Milkweed. It wasn’t long before Kimberly-Clark of Wisconsin contacted Herb about his research. They had been interested in Milkweed for some time, but for different purposes. Sohio was in it for the oil and Kimberly-Clark wanted the Floss, or the silk-like fibers inside of the Milkweed pod. Through extensive testing, Kimberly-Clark found that Milkweed Floss tested high in warmth and absorption, as well as obtained hydrophobic, or waterproof qualities. This research project was short lived after Sohio was bought out by British Petroleum, who had no interest in many of the special projects Sohio had started.
After having his job eliminated with Sohio, Herb continued with the milkweed project on his own; discovering quickly that producing results as Herb Knudsen, rather than Sohio, was much more difficult. Though he encountered rough roads to his success, Herb never gave up. He knew that milkweed was much more valuable than just a weed farmers considered to be a pain in their crop fields.
For his continued research, Herb needed to grow milkweed; which was not a problem when he was with Sohio. He knew to be successful, he needed to find a location west of the 18” rain fall line. After asking around, he came up with the name Ralph Holzfaster, who had previously worked on a Chick Pea project with Sohio. Herb flew to Nebraska to meet with Ralph about growing milkweed. After much discussion, Ralph agreed to plant milkweed in a field of his where no other farmers could be disturbed by it. Naturally, this field seemed to be the target of many hailstorms and suffered much frustration, but eventually, the milkweed grew. Herb still lived in Cleveland, Ohio at this time and spent two years flying to Nebraska every other week to continue his research. Eventually, he move to Nebraska with his wife Karen, and their four children.
In 1987, Herb founded Ogallala Comfort Company after discovering Milkweed Fiber was comparable to down; actually Milkweed Fiber was better than down alone. He sought out several different down companies to share his research and propose that, instead of using 100% down in products, they blend the down with his Milkweed Fiber. This would create a higher quality product with a lower volume requirement. Many told him he was crazy, down was great on its own. He refused to feel defeated though and he kept going. He finally decided that he would make his own down comforters and pillows after the lack of interest from other companies. He trademarked the name Hypodown® because Milkweed Fiber was discovered to be hypoallergenic, more durable and more breathable – how AMAZING! It took Herb years of his time, mounds of his effort and perseverance, and a dream that most deemed “crazy”, but Hypodown® proves itself and has continued to grow throughout the 30 years of business. Now you know why Herb will always be our “Chief Dreamer”.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the title on his business card ;)
-- Marlee Waugh