Why This Northumberland Entrepreneur is on a Mission to Help Menopausal Women Beat Night Sweats
Midlife can be a time when women feel overlooked, but it doesn’t have to be that way
Midlife can be a time when many women can feel overwhelmed. When many women are dealing with the stresses of work and family life, whilst also facing an alarming array of peri menopausal, and menopausal symptoms such as brain fog, disrupted sleep and night sweats.
Many of us put our heads down and grin and bear it, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some women who lift their heads up and decide to fight back. One such woman is Amanda Linney who has come up with the perfect fabric to beat those night sweats.
Amanda Linney was born and bred in Stoke on Trent but has lived in the North East for the last 12 years. She currently calls the small village of Milbourne, in Northumberland, home.
When we meet up in Matfen, not too far down the road, I am immediately struck by her hair, which is initially wound up loosely in a bun.
However, as Amanda becomes more animated in the telling of her amazing story, she distractedly undoes the bun, instantly framing her face with her fabulous, long, blonde locks.
I also note how incredibly graceful and lithe she is and positively brimming with energy.
One of the reasons Amanda looks so fit is because she is fit. The reason she is fit is because she is on her feet all day.
‘I had my own little cleaning company when this all started, and I had two girls working for me and we were all just doing houses, and regular contracts, and one-offs,’ Amanda explains.
‘So we were busy, really busy. And it’s a physical job you know, eight hours a day cleaning. So I was the fittest I had ever been.’
Amanda, it turns out, cleans the business behind my house – something I was unaware of before we met to chat.
In fact my kids often like to wave at the lovely lady, with the lovely little dog, who they sometimes see in the window when they are playing out.
I had no idea that the lovely lady the kids talked about was the woman responsible for making the nighties that have changed my life.
Amanda is the sole powerhouse behind kavuclothing, which makes breathable nightwear. ‘Kavu’ being the Swahili word for ‘dry’ and also meaning ‘the perfect day’ after the night before.
I first became aware of Amanda and kavuclothing through Instagram, and three nighties later I am a complete convert. The reason these nighties have changed my life, is the same reason that Amanda felt the compelled to make them in the first place – night sweats.
Night sweats, in Amanda’s case and my case, brought on by fluctuating hormones. Fluctuating hormones brought on by perimenopause – something that many of us, unfortunately, have never heard of.
‘Ten years ago, I was 45, and I didn’t even know there was a perimenopause,’ says Amanda. ‘I didn’t have any idea. My brother had died of cancer and I was so distraught, but I think the perimenopause hit at the same time so with all the symptoms I was getting, I thought it was grief.
'I had nothing before it, my brother dies and my confidence went, I could hardly speak to anybody. I couldn’t stand up for myself. I put it all down to grief.’
Although this feeling eventually lessened, there were more symptoms to follow. ‘I got rage and night sweats – which were a nightmare! The worst thing was it stopped me working to my best potential the next day because I would be up so many times.
Getting changed, changing the duvet, cooling down and I was shattered. I just couldn’t do it. I was like, something’s got to change here.’
So Amanda set about looking at what changes she could make to her lifestyle, what ways she could find to help to alleviate the seemingly never-ending night sweats.
She searched and researched until she found a cream containing both progesterone and oestrogen, which she believes went some way to assuage the sweats.
She changed her diet, becoming a vegetarian, and once more saw a significant improvement. She and her husband bought a huge bed so she ‘sleep on one edge and he could sleep on the other’.
Next, she started to focus on what she wore in bed. ‘I thought what about what I sleep in, it’s always getting wet and then getting cold!
'I thought this is it. I’ve got to sort this out.’ So she set about searching for sleepwear to combat the effects of night sweats and believed she had found just what she was looking for.
Unfortunately, it was not to be, as Amanda explains - in such a candid way that I properly belly laugh. ‘I sent off for this nightie, and it arrived, I put it on and got into bed and my husband was like “What the hell is that? Are you going swimming?” It was just awful.
I thought, I can’t live my life like this. It did work to be honest, but it was made from plastic, reformed plastic. And it was clingy. It stuck to me. It kept the sweat off me but I must have been like a sweaty hot sausage.’
It was at that point, rather magnificently, that she decided that she would see if she could come up with a solution. ‘I thought, “do you know what? I can actually do better than this”.’
So each day, after work, she would come home, have a shower, get a glass of wine, sit down, get the laptop out and start researching.
This, it should be noted, was with no prior experience whatsoever either in dress design, or materials or fabrics. ‘At this point I didn’t even know what the word ‘wicking’ meant,’ she admits.
And so, she sat down with her laptop every day after work, day in day out, for 18 months – researching materials, looking for ways to combat sweating, gathering as much information as possible and eventually, she says, ‘became a bit obsessed’.
Ultimately, she settled on bamboo as the best possible material for nightwear, due to its natural, breathable and wicking qualities, and duly sent off for some bamboo fabric samples.
She sourced these through an international online marketplace – something she hadn’t previously known even existed. It wasn’t long, however, before she realised that the bamboo started to ‘look quite scruffy after a while’ and she wondered again how she might improve upon it.
She then checked out hemp but it just ‘looked shabby and lacked structure’. After further deliberating, she decided that what was needed was a second material, to complement the bamboo, to add shine and counter its tendency to eventually get a little scruffy.
So after more months of online research Amanda came across eucalyptus, which immediately made sense ‘as it has a shine to it and is more durable’.
She was sure she had found the answer, that if she could just add eucalyptus to the bamboo she would have her perfect material but there was a problem.
‘No one does eucalyptus as a material, I looked everywhere and it just wasn’t available to buy anywhere.’ In the end she approached the company in China that had sent her the bamboo samples, and asked if they could source eucalyptus and put it together, for her, with bamboo.
Which they said they could and they duly did and in due course sent her over a batch. And yet, instead of being excited to get her hands on this new fabric, her new fabric, Amanda couldn’t help being worried as to whether it would work, whether it would make any sense.
She laughs as she recalls her fears. ‘I was like, what if it’s rubbish, what if I’ve worked at this for 18 months and it doesn’t work?’ But it did, it was exactly as she had imagined. It was perfect.
At long last she had her perfect material – 49 percent bamboo, 49 percent eucalyptus and two percent spandex.
So now she had a company in China who could produce her perfect material and they in turn put her in contact with another company who could actually make the nightwear.
She checked both out thoroughly to reassure herself that they were ethically run. And they did more than just make the garments for Amanda, they also helped to keep her and her vision in check.
‘I had in my head I was going to make pyjamas, I was going to make a nightgown, I was going to make this and I was going to make that!’ But she was advised to slow down, to be selective, to see if it all worked first and to just make a nightie to start off with.
Having agreed that a cautious approach made sense, Amanda set about choosing colours for her bamboo and eucalyptus nighties, a process she thoroughly enjoyed, and one which meant she was again acquiring new information as she went along.
‘I learned there was something called ‘Pantone’ colours, I didn’t even know about them, so that was quite the learning curve.’
At this point, the company contacted her with a request, a request that rather took her by surprise. It is, to be honest, a little surprising to hear that it came as a surprise.
And yet Amanda had become so immersed in the process of researching and planning and learning and obsessing over each detail that she wasn’t prepared when the company asked for a pattern.
‘I was like “what are you talking about? Oh no, I hadn’t even thought about that, I’ve never made a pattern before!”’ Prompting another belly laugh.
And so it was back to researching once more, looking at every available nightie out there, nighties that she liked the look of and nighties that were popular.
She tried them all out and for all she liked the neckline of one, she didn’t like how clingy it was, and for all she liked the ‘flarey-bit’ of one because it stopped the clinging, she found the design a bit old fashioned. And bit-by-bit, with a bit from this and a bit from that she had her design! She sent it off and waited.
And interestingly when I ask Amanda whether she found the whole process stressful she immediately replies that it wasn’t stressful at all.
‘I was really enjoying doing it. The only stressful bit was when the boxes of the finished product arrived. It took me five days to open them. I couldn’t do it! I was, like, I could have really messed up here. This could be really bad.’
When she did finally open them, after an ultimatum from her husband who insisted if she didn’t, he would, she loved them. Thank goodness. ‘But then I thought, I don’t even know if they work, because of course I hadn’t ever actually tried the material.
So that night I wore one and I thought it worked really well.’ But in case it was just wishful thinking she sent one to her sister, her sister-in-law, her best mate and the one person she knew would be completely honest – her husband’s ex-wife (once more I can’t hold in my laughter). They all loved them.
So, a rip roaring success, but the hardest part was yet to come, as Amanda explains. ‘How do I sell them? That was the trouble.
'And that, honestly, has been the hardest bit. First getting people to appreciate that they work, and second is where do I sell them?’The boxes arrived in August 2019.
‘It wasn’t until Covid hit in 2020, and we were all in lockdown and I couldn’t clean anymore and my husband said, “why don’t you launch it now? You’ve got no excuse.”’
But as she says, it’s not always as easy as that. ‘How do you put yourself out there? I was terrified!’
But she had come this far and she wasn’t about to give up now. So, she learned how to build a website, she took photographs of herself modelling the nighties (‘as no one else would do it for me!’).
However, as she explains, even with a website set up, ‘no one knows you’re there!’ So she joined Facebook to try and get the word out, but it wasn’t her cup of tea, so eventually she tried Instagram.
Which is where I found her, and where I discovered her nighties, which really do work, and which really don’t make you feel like a sweaty sausage.
I wish all women knew about her nighties. If I had my way she would go on Dragon’s Den – but she won’t be persuaded! She is just quietly gaining more and more customers through word of mouth.
When I ask Amanda what spurred her on to create this fabric her answer is simple. ‘Desperation. That was it. That was me.’
And when I ask where she found the confidence, the boldness to decide she was basically going to invent a new fabric she quietly replies: ‘Well it was easy wasn’t it? Because I was doing it on the quiet.
'I didn’t tell my sister, I didn’t tell my mum. I didn’t tell anyone. I just got on with it…. I didn’t want to be dissuaded.’
It makes me smile to think that as much as I had no clue that the lady the kids waved at had changed my life with her amazing nighties, many people Amanda knows still have no clue.
‘I didn’t dare tell my customers either. You know, you’re a cleaner, and you clean these people’s houses and that’s what you do, and that’s what they expect and they’re very nice about it and they’re lovely but they don’t expect you to go off and do something completely different. What would I say?’
I think she should be shouting it from the rooftops. I think it’s a sensational second act story. I think that when you are bold and brave amazing things can happen. I don’t use this word lightly but I think Amanda is an inspiration to us all.
Amanda's website is kavuclothing.com