Home Entrepreneurs Keep losing a mitten? MN startup Chopper Mill replaces singles

Keep losing a mitten? MN startup Chopper Mill replaces singles

by Ozva Admin
Keep losing a mitten? MN startup Chopper Mill replaces singles
A woman in a winter coat and a handful of mittens.
Jill Kaufenberg, founder and CEO of Chopper Mill Inc., displays a selection of the mittens her company makes and sells near her office in Stillwater on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

never failed. As soon as Jill Kaufenberg bought a decent pair of gloves for one of her three children, one of the gloves would go missing, time and time again.

Both of her daughters didn’t mind wearing mismatched mittens, but her son Kye, who was particularly prone to losing them, only wore a matching pair, she said. “There was no negotiation.”

Kaufenberg, 43, of Marine on St. Croix, began looking for companies that sold replacement gloves.

“I hate having to buy pairs all the time because it’s wasteful,” she said. “I searched the internet thinking there has to be a company doing this. Once I realized there wasn’t one, I decided to start one. It was really out of desperation.”

Kaufenberg launch chopper milla Stillwater-based e-commerce children’s mitten business earlier this year.

The mittens retail for $89. The sale price includes the company’s trademark re/PAIR replacement plan: the first Chopper Mill you lose, the company will mail you a free replacement.

Another plus: Parents can always buy a single mitten, for $45, in case their child loses another without having to buy another pair, Kaufenberg said.

‘A perfect pair of mittens’

Kaufenberg said he spent three years researching, developing and designing “the perfect pair of kids’ gloves.”

“There are a lot of good ones out there, but even with the best, I thought I could do better,” he said. “If the children’s hands are warm, they will stay outside playing in the snow a little longer. That is the goal.”

Kaufenberg’s three children: Finley, 12; Kye, 10; and Talia, 7, were his test subjects. They play hockey, skiing, sledding, and skateboarding. They attend River Grove Elementary School in May Township, where they go out for recess twice a day. “It’s the perfect testing area because those teachers are very committed to getting them out there,” she said. “They’d come home from school and I’d say, ‘Okay, give me all the details. They got wet? Were you able to grab things? Were you able to build things? What were the problems? Did the snow get into your fist? We did that for a year.”

Kaufenberg said he knew he was right when Finley came home one day and said, “Mom, all the kids at school want to know where I got my gloves,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is a good sign.'”

Special features

The mittens, which come in white and tan, are made from goat leather, which is supple and dries quickly; Cordura performance material; 3M Thinsulate, which allows them to withstand freezing temperatures, and a waterproof-breathable Hipora membrane, she said.

They were designed “pre-curved” for maximum dexterity, he said. “As a kid, a lot of times you want to grab sticks or make snowballs, and if you have a really warm mitten, sometimes it’s not made for that,” she said. “If the kid isn’t strong enough to make a fist, that’s a big problem, and they don’t want to stay outside and play. That was my number 1 priority: making sure it was something the kid could really feel like it was just an extension of their hand.”

Kaufenberg also designed the mittens with extra deep cuffs to keep the wrists free of snow and moisture. To get the length just right, he spent hours analyzing the angle at which they would easily pass over the different coat sleeves.

“The angle was more important than the length, honestly, because if a kid can’t stop it easily, it’s game over,” he said. “He really wanted them to be in charge of his destiny, with the ability to put his mitten on over his coat cuff.”

Chopper Mill mitt cuffs are uninsulated “because you don’t need it where your arm is, do you?” she said. “Especially for younger kids, they can more easily put it on instead of just going over the jacket that’s already insulated.”

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