Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interview: Iris Shamus, Allermates

This interview is with Iris Shamus, founder of Allermates, allergy aware products.

What made you decide to create Allermates, do you or your children have food allergies?
My son, Benjamin is five years old and has multiple food allergies… tree nuts, eggs, fish (specifically salmon) and just lately we’ve discovered that he is allergic to sesame (but not the roasted kind you find on crackers or bagels, only in it’s raw form like in tahini -which apparently is becoming very common). When he started a preschool program at the age of two, a classmate, with multiple food allergies as well, was accidentally given a snack he was allergic to by his teacher. As you could imagine, it caused a bit of a ruckus which resulted in their teacher (who had been with the school for over 20 years) resigning as a result of the incident. It became painfully obvious to me that there was a great need for kid friendly allergy awareness products. Something that kids could wear to serve as a constant little reminder of what they were allergic when they were under other peoples care... which winds up being a lot of the time! I felt it was very important for those products to be fun for kids so that they would actually want to wear them. I wanted kids with allergies to feel good about themselves.

Many people or families have more than one allergy, what products would you suggest for them?
According to the research that we’ve done approximately half of all kids who have food allergies have more than one allergy. We wanted to create products that accommodated both kids with one allergy and kids with multiple allergies. We chose to offer our dog tags separate from our necklaces so that you can choose just one or however many tags are right for your child and place it on a necklace. Then we created Single Allergy Bands where every type of allergy/character comes on a different color band – you can wear one band if you only have one allergy or you can wear more than one band - it’s kinda hip these days to layer your wristbands. Lastly we will be coming out with a Multiple Allergy Band which will have our “alert” logo in the center and then holes that go around the band. The allergy characters will be offered separately as charms (similar to the crock charms). You’ll be able to place multiple allergy characters on one band. This band will be adjustable as well.

Your tags, and necklaces charms have both cute allergy characters, and a clear allergy message what inspired them?
Whether they appear in books, movies, television, (or these days the internet), I knew from my experience in the toy industry, and hey, let’s face it… just from being a mom, how fascinated kids are with characters of all sorts. By creating a line of colorful images and stories which represent various allergies, I hoped to offer children a fun way to identify and even learn about their allergies.”

Your products are nickel free, are they also latex free? Yes, everything is latex free. Making the tags nickel free was more costly but of course had to be done.

You have many more designs and allergy aware items coming. Can you tell us about them? Well the multi-allergy band is coming out next… hopefully in time for the holidays. We’ve had tons of requests for lunch bags so we are developing those as well.

Pins, stickers, apparel and an educational guide for kids featuring the Allermates is all stuff we will be offering in 2010. Also we have another tree nut character, a shrimp, a lobster, latex, penicillin and pollen characters all ready to go. Also I should mention that we are completely redoing or website and so much more information will be available as well as fun

Thanks to Iris Shamus, founder of Allermates, for this interview.

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