By Mary-Cathryn Kolb, Founder & CEO of brrr°

Each year, a panel of editors and business leaders at CNBC select 100 of the most influential startup companies in the nation.

The judges consider whether these young companies are shaking up established industries or finding creative ways to solve vexing problems, and hundreds of companies apply each year. 

Past winners of the CNBC Upstart 100 ranking include women’s intimate apparel company ThirdLove, electric toothbrush maker quip and ATTN:, a digital entertainment news platform backed by Ryan Seacrest.

This year, we are incredibly humbled and honored that brrr° was chosen for the CNBC Upstart 100.

I started brrr° with a vision to improve the fabrics we wear and touch in our everyday lives with advanced cooling, wicking and drying technologies. We are restless and relentless as we invest heavily in research and development to hunt for new ways to make cooling fabric even better.

And we are certain that consumers are hungry for more. The textile industry is making major strides in cooling fabric technology innovations, and that segment of the fabric industry has a projected compound annual growth rate of more than 11% through 2025. 

A Leap Forward for Cooling Fabric

Several decades ago, the apparel industry started to improve fabric by adding features like spandex for stretch and incorporating wicking technology into the yarn.

The wicking feature drew away moisture, which promoted the evaporation of sweat. Some retailers equated wicking with cooling and started to call their clothing “cool” — even though it didn’t actually draw away heat or feel cool to the touch.

But it sounded good in advertisements for things like cooling shirts and consumers seemed to like it, so the industry became complacent and “moisture wicking” was widely adopted by companies that make athletic apparel, casual clothes, and even some business and office wear.

Things pretty much stalled after that.

Most fabrics didn’t get a whole lot of attention or innovation until a handful of years ago when consumers began to demand more from their clothing, bedding, furniture coverings and other fabrics.

It was high time for fabric to take a major leap forward in performance and comfort.

Could performance fabric actually improve our focus, concentration, and confidence at work and at play?

Could advanced textiles draw heat and moisture away from our skin?

Could fabric actually keep us cooler?

Why, yes. Yes, it can.

The Struggle for Thermoregulation is Real

Our bodies work hard to regulate our temperature and keep it as close to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit as possible.

When we are too cold, our muscles shiver to create warmth. When we are too hot, we sweat and the evaporation of that sweat draws away heat to cool us off.

This struggle for thermoregulation is constant, and when we’re on the wrong end of it, we can quickly become exhausted and lose focus.

Our clothes often exacerbate the situation, trapping heat and moisture. That can make us feel self-conscious, distracted and lethargic — and hinders our performance.

In a survey by CareerBuilder, nearly a quarter of workers in the U.S. said a workplace that’s too hot makes it difficult to concentrate and negatively impacts their productivity.

For athletes, fatigue and distraction can hurt performance just as much as actual muscle pain and physical exhaustion, according to Sports Illustrated.

An increasingly hot planet isn’t helping. Earth has been rapidly warming for several decades, and July was the hottest month on record.

Cooling fabric technology can help our bodies do a better job at thermoregulation.

By drawing heat and moisture away from our skin, fabric that stays cool in the heat can help keep our core temperature closer to the ideal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Natural Cooling Minerals

Earlier in my career, when I was an executive at SPANX, I became intrigued by the tiny little fibers that could stretch, lift and support our bodies so effectively. 

I began to wonder: what if those little fibers could do even more for us? What if they could actually help keep us cooler and more comfortable?

I left the corporate world in late 2014 to start learning everything I could about cooling fabric technology, and soon the idea for brrr° took shape.

Scientists and researchers have known for years that certain natural minerals can create a cooling sensation. These blends of salts and other minerals are very efficient at conducting heat, which enhances the natural thermoregulation that our bodies are constantly doing.

We developed and tested numerous recipes for cooling minerals before landing on the ideal combination — a proprietary blend of brrr° cooling minerals that work together to instantly and continuously draw heat away from the skin.

Those secret mineral blends are embedded right into nylon or polyester yarns that are later made into fabric, which means the brrr° cooling minerals are a permanent part of the structure of the textile and won’t ever fade or wash out over time. That’s a big difference compared with some other companies that achieve a cooling sensation with sprays and coatings, which are temporary and eventually diminish after repeated washings.

brrr° cooling minerals are a major innovation in cooling fabric technology, and independent lab testing proves it.

One way to test whether fabrics are “cool to the touch” is with Qmax testing, which is an internationally recognized and respected test used by the textile industry.

brrr° cooling nylon is more than twice as cool as other brands in Qmax testing, while brrr° cooling polyester also handily outperforms competitors.

The Triple Chill Effect

brrr° cooling minerals are just one leg of the stool for creating the most cooling fabric.

When our proprietary blend of cooling minerals is combined with other innovations such as active wicking and drying technologies, these three cooling elements work together and amplify each other’s cooling capabilities in a more powerful way.

Together, brrr°’s natural cooling minerals, active wicking, and rapid drying technologies create a “Triple Chill Effect” that consistently outperforms other brands in independent tests by globally recognized labs.

For example, in a standard test used by the fabric industry, brrr° nylon wicks 30 minutes faster than some other products, and the dry rate for brrr° nylon and polyester fabrics is several minutes faster than some other brands.

You can see the full results of independent lab tests on brrr° fabrics here, and here’s a short video that shows how the brrr° Triple Chill Effect makes fabrics cool.

brrr° licenses its cooling fabric technology to other retailers and manufacturers as a premium ingredient brand, and it has quickly been adopted by Jos. A Bank and Men’s Wearhouse to make cooling shirts for the office. Southern Tide uses brrr° to make cooling shirts, cooling shorts and other casual apparel. Mizzen+Main, Greyson golf apparel, NinetyEight6 tennis apparel, Coral Coast Clothing, and CAT Workwear also make their clothing even better with brrr°.

Business Insider Says It’s ‘Perfect’

The cooling capabilities of brrr° have also been winning accolades from major business media publications.

Business Insider recently tested the Southern Tide Intercoastal Performance Sport Shirt featuring brrr° alongside eight other cooling shirts and raved about the comfort and crispness of brrr°.

“I tested this shirt on one of the first warm days of the year, and beyond reducing sweat, the fabric really helped keep me cool throughout the day,” wrote Danny Bakst of Insider Picks for Business Insider. “The shirt is exceptionally stretchy, and is perfect for the transition from the office to happy hour.”

Forbes writer Jeff Kart recognized our scientific rigor in a recent article, saying: “Test data from an independent lab that shows brrr°’s technology can keep people cooler and more comfortable in everyday activities.”

Delta Sky Magazine lauded the way things made with brrr° are “specially designed to beat the heat.” 

Where We Go From Here

But we’re not resting on our laurels. brrr°’s pursuit of new advances in cooling fabric technology is just as unrelenting as it was on our first day in business.

We invest heavily in research and development, and at any given time we have dozens of new products or techniques going through rigorous testing to determine whether they deserve a spot in our library of 500 fabrics and products.

Some of the things we are excited about include advanced methods for cooling mineral dispersion, and the potential for amplifying the effects of certain materials by increasing the surface area of the minerals in the yarn.

Those are just a couple ways brrr° is working hard to shake up the textile industry with better cooling fabric technology, as the judges of the CNBC Upstart 100 ranking recognized.

Whatever the future of cooling fabric technology brings, brrr° will be front and center as a tireless and relentless innovator.