Our Story

Kuseno (koo-SAY-no)

Who are we? We are Alan and Barbara and we are the founders of Kuseno Comfort Products. It all started with the idea of making our own pillows in late 2012 and we made our first buckwheat hull pillow in early 2013.

What prompted us to make pillows? Barbara was waking up with severe neck pain that was giving her a wicked headache in the morning. The pain was so bad that she was was throwing up, had blurred vision, light sensitivity - migraine symptoms. This was going on for years. Pills helped for the pain, but who wants to rely on that? Alan did some research and he found many forums where people were suggesting to change the pillow.

That started us on our pillow journey. Searching for the best pillow is time consuming and expensive and we accumulated quite a collection. At one point we had about 30 pillows piled high in the corner of the bedroom, all rejects. That really soft one in the store felt like it was trying to eat Alan's face when he slept on it. The one marketed as FIRM but is really just hard and flat and offered no support at all. The feather one was amazing! ... for a week until the feathers started to poke out and then it compressed too much and the terrible sleep and neck pain was back.

Side note: A natural feather pillow smells awful if you're not used to it. If you've used one that doesn't have an odour, it's because it was chemically treated. Not to mention the sometimes questionable practices of how the feathers are obtained. Oh, I did just mention it. Sorry.

We have the memory foam pillow (have you ever had to suffer through the off gassing phase of memory foam?? Why couldn't they make it smell like vanilla or something instead?). The cervical pillow. The Side-Sleeper U-shaped pillow (the hole for the ear was a great idea!). The Ikea pillows. The Walmart pillows. We have expensive ones and we have cheap ones. None of them were quite right. 

Alan's theory was that if Barbara could keep her head level and spine straight, that would be the perfect pillow. It's just so difficult to feel the pillow in the store with the plastic bag on it, so we'd buy it and take it home. After giving it several nights to allow for adjusting to a new pillow, it still wasn't what was expected. Even going to the mattress store, laying on the same bed we bought from them and trying a multitude of pillows, it still wasn't the same after a couple nights at home. And you're not allowed to return them so we added yet another pillow to the collection. 

Alan would often sleep with his fist under the pillow to raise his head up. Barbara used to sleep with her arm under the pillow until that caused shoulder pain. Then Alan got to thinking, what if he made a pillow with an adjustable insert? What if he filled a hot water bottle with air and put that inside a pillow? OH! What about a hot water bottle filled with water inside a pillow? Turns out a water pillow exists already. but he was sure that he was on the right track. Alan continued to do more research into pillows and he started to read about buckwheat hull pillows, but there was no store locally that carried them. What if they didn't like it? The sites he looked at were expensive and they had a No Return Policy (some of the online stores now accept returns and we like to think that we influenced that decision).

So Alan bought the fabric and ordered buckwheat hulls to make pillows for himself, Barbara, and their daughter, Katie. Alan and Katie had a great sleep after the first night! They both reported tossing and turning less, getting a deeper sleep and not waking up tired. It shaped to his head just like the memory foam pillow, but without the smell. He could poke a spot in the hulls for his ear. Later, during that summer, he would find that it stays cool, too.

Barbara was reluctant to try yet another pillow, especially one that wasn't big and soft and fluffy like a cloud. But after much pestering by Alan, she gave in and gave it a try. The next morning, she was like, "meh.. it was okay." She had bad neck pain that she had to undo and it took 3 nights of sleeping on the buckwheat hull pillow before she noticed a dramatic difference. On the fourth morning after she woke up she felt strange. She was moving her head from side to side, looking up and down and around, and .. no pain. NO PAIN! When you've been waking up in pain every morning for years, it's such a relief to finally wake up pain free. Since then, the pain only came back once when she decided to try her old pillow again. Two nights of that and the pain was back. Back to the buckwheat hull pillow and the pain was gone.

Pillows are incredibly personal. You don't see one or two styles in the store, you see many different ones. The buckwheat hull pillow is so versatile and you can make it perfect for you. After several months of getting absolutely amazing sleeps, Alan and Barbara decided that more people need to experience the comfort that a buckwheat hull pillow gives! And our business idea was born.

Barbara asked Alan, "What would make us different? How would we stand out against the other pillow manufacturers? More importantly, knowing what you know about buckwheat hull pillows, could you purchase one online for yourself?" All very good questions.

Sizes available: I saw the standard pillow size in Japan, where buckwheat hull pillows are very popular, is 14x20. The standard pillow size in North America is 20x26. Almost twice the size of the Japanese pillow. Sites I looked at for pillows had oddball sizes available. 15x23? What is that? I found 20x26 pillows, which I would have leaned toward initially, but then with my own buckwheat hull pillow I found that if there isn't enough fill in it, the hulls have too much room to move around and you end up with your head lower than you wanted and large mountains beside you. With the proper amount of fill, the hulls hit the limits of the fabric and the pillow is quite tall.
Solution: I offer a range of sizes and a range of fills for each size. I show how the height of the pillow is affected by the amount of hulls (commonly measured in pounds). A smaller pillow may not only be more comfortable, but more affordable.

Prices: Before I made my first buckwheat hull pillow, I was ready to buy a $150 memory foam pillow because I thought it would help with Barbara's pain. But what if it didn't work? I would be stuck with it. Even a buckwheat hull pillow is more expensive than most foam pillows and most sites didn't have a return policy at that time.
Solution: I offer a generous return policy with the comfort guarantee and 1 year limited warranty. I honestly hope you never have to use it, but I want you to have the peace of mind if you need it.

Quality of Materials: As I dug deeper, I found some sites that offered lower-cost buckwheat hull pillows used either cotton/polyester fabric, or filled with hulls that are either heat-treated (roasted), or rolled. All very cheap materials. The more expensive pillows used 100% breathable cotton and pillow-grade hulls.
Solution: I sourced out high-quality, low-cost materials and lowered my overall profit margin to be able to sell the pillows for less than most sites. I use 100% cotton downproof ticking with pillow-grade hulls that are grown and milled in Canada.

If I found a site that offered a range of sizes and customizable fill amounts, explained how more fill equals a taller (and firmer) pillow, used high quality materials (fabric and hulls), had a reasonable return policy and all at a lower cost than elsewhere, would I feel confident buying from them? The answer is Yes. And here you are at