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Cushioning the fall

Cushioning the fall

Cushioning the fall

From humble beginnings in a time of crisis, the Heidegger family turned their Himmelgrün company into a thriving family business! Their courage to go ‘all in’ on an unknown product and their sense for the growing importance of health-promoting offers have led them to successfully produce pillows with natural ingredients.

If you’re going down, it’s best to cushion the fall. Arthur Heidegger knows all about cushions. He had been working as the managing director of a traditional bobbin lace factory in Egg when it closed down in 1998 and the machines were sold to China. “I was in my early forties at the time with two small sons, a new house, and debts – and suddenly I had no work,” says Arthur. Faced with a truly dire situation, Arthur and Waltraud Heidegger somehow succeeded in founding the Himmelgrün pillow company. Today, their natural pillows are supplied to almost 300 hotels and are sold online and in specialist stores in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. These days, their range of products also includes natural cosmetics, incense and dietary supplements.

“At a time when we had our backs to the wall, we somehow managed to look forward,” recalls Arthur. “I knew my way around the textile industry, and my wife had always been intensively involved in both nature and health. So we decided to combine our skills into producing our own natural pillows.” The company motto is “Creating good things with nature.” With this sentiment in mind, the Heideggers began to produce pillows with natural fillings made of spelt husks, millet shells, cherry and grape seeds, to which they added herbs they had collected themselves. Soon the raw materials occupied a prominent place in their garage. The work itself was done in the living room and at the kitchen table. “There were literally materials everywhere,” says Arthur with a laugh. “Everyone pitched in, the whole family, whenever there was time between cooking and doing homework.”

Even their sons Pascal and Philipp, who at the time were just eight and ten years old respectively, were involved. The first decade was tough, Arthur recalls: “Our pillows were unique in the world, but few understood the value of natural material at the time. As a result, marketing the pillows required plenty of explanatory work. But we never gave up and awareness for our products has steadily grown.” Since 2006, the Himmelgrün company has operated out of a large factory building clad in light wood at the entrance to the village of Egg. “These days the premises has become a real health centre,” says Waltraud Heidegger. Best of all, Himmelgrün has remained a family business to this day.

In 2014, his two sons Philipp and Pascal also joined the company. Father Arthur takes care of purchasing, sales and logistics, while mother Waltraud looks after the herbs as well as the trade fairs and product design. Philipp, now 32 and the older of the two sons, originally trained to be a car salesman. Today, he prudently watches over the finances, invoicing and order processing. Pascal, now 30, is a trained chef. He inherited his mother’s passion for herbs and operates the in-house research, ideas and development department.

Sustainable raw materials, climate-neutral production and environmentally friendly packaging materials are large part of Himmelgrün’s philosophy. So too are social, integrated jobs. Himmelgrün still produce pillows and cosmetics exclusively in the region. Hotel guests aren’t the only ones who can enjoy Himmelgrün pillows: on the website and in the shop in Egg, everyone can put together their own personal dream cushion. Fillings made from soft millet husks, stable original spelt husks or fragrant Swiss stone pine shavings can be individually combined with herbs such as mountain hay, marigolds, arnica, sage, lavender, thyme, St. John’s wort or hemp blossoms.

“Our herbs are pharmacopoeia quality and very high potency. Even should the intense smell fade with time, the herbs remain active for years,” says Pascal. “The body’s own heat stimulates their effects every night anew.” Were the two sons always interested in working at Himmelgrün? “Yes!” says Pascal. “No!” says Philipp. “We didn’t force anyone to do anything,” Arthur laughs. Working in a family business has many advantages, everyone agrees: “From generating great ideas to the opposite: as a family you can be totally honest and much more carefree,” says Philipp. Father Arthur is more cautious: “It also takes a lot of tolerance to work with family.” In 2020, the parents signed their company over to their two sons. Has responsibility changed the two brothers? Philipp nods: “We weigh our ideas much more carefully these days, because we know we have to face the consequences as well.”

Author: Babette Karner
Issue: Winter 2021-22 Travel Magazine