By Michael McCord

Hampton Union, Tuesday, January 11, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Tom Moulton, chairman of Sleep-net, a specialized Hampton business that produces ultra comfortable sleep masks for sleeping disorders.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

HAMPTON — Tom Moulton, chairman of Hampton-based Sleep-net Corp., suffers from sleep apnea, which is caused by blockage of the airway during sleep.

He’s not alone.

Apnea is a Greek word, which literally means “without breath,” and according to the National Institutes of Health, it affects the sleep and good health of more than 12 million Americans.

When he was diagnosed more than two decades ago, Moulton said he was frustrated by the types of oxygen masks he was given as they were often hard and uncomfortable and left marks on the face after a night of restless sleep. He and a few other investors decided to get into this emerging medical market and since 1990, Sleepnet has evolved into a multi-million dollar company with international reach and a product line of five distinct masks for adults and children.

“We are proud that our masks are developed here and are hand-made here,” said Moulton, a University of New Hampshire graduate. He lives to make improvements that benefit him as well as others, he explained. This means he’s personally involved with the testing of the specially designed gel masks and works directly with Sleepnet’s engineers to develop patented features to create maximum benefit for the user.

“They say manufacturing is dying in this country, but we are digging in our heels,” Moulton said. The company moved from Manchester to its current location on Merrill Industrial Drive in 2006. The company has 25 employees, but Moulton said he could double both its employee numbers and manufacturing if the company can increase market share.

Sleepnet is in a tough fight for market share with two large multinational corporations (Philips Respironics and ResMed). Moulton and Sleepnet President Mary Getty said their competitors strong-arm larger institutional clients from considering Sleepnet products.

“They have built a moat around the entire industry,” said Getty, a lean manufacturing expert brought in to take Sleepnet to the next level.

Moulton said the company needed to alter the path it was on and he takes full responsibility for its less than robust sales and marketing efforts, especially in domestic markets, which depended mostly on strong word-of-mouth recommendations

“We are a great little company with the best products in the world, but we didn’t do a good job of translating that,” Moulton said. “We needed to change the way we were doing things.”

While Moulton has focused on developing and refining the latest generation of masks, Getty has taken on the task to expand market share, one institutional client and insurance company at a time. Getty said she is working to get Sleepnet into more sleep study laboratories, into government procurement markets such as the Veterans Administration health care system and into nursing homes and prisons.

She added she has also received assistance from insurance companies such as Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Hampshire and Maine in understanding how to make its products available through health care delivery systems. Sleepnet has also hired a full-time social media expert to help the company leverage social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook and Internet town halls to spread the word.

“It’s a very dynamic situation and we want to use traditional and nontraditional forms of marketing,” Getty said. “We can’t afford to take an ad out in the Wall Street Journal.”

For his part, Moulton oversees a product line that has evolved from the Phantom, which allowed for many different facial shapes and sizes, to the iQ, its first nasal mask, to the Mojo, its first full face mask and then to the MiniMe, for children. The goal, he explained, has been comfort and maximum efficiency to counter the serious effect of apnea, which, if untreated, can lead to a wide range of health-related consequences, including high blood pressure.

Ironically, Sleepnet has had far more success selling in the European markets in part because it has flown under the radar, Moulton said, adding their product superiority is not disputed. But he believes they will break through to provide comfort for potentially millions of apnea sufferers.

“It’s David vs. Goliath right now,” Moulton said about his company’s competitive situation. “We can control our own destiny because we have the best pricing for the best product.”

For information, visit

Megan Haley, a manufacturing specialist at Sleep-net in Hampton, uses a high-tech machine to mold cusions for sleeping masks.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

Tom Moulton, chairman of Sleep-net, displays his line of U.S. pattened sleep masks designed in the Hampton facility.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

Mary Getty, president, top left, and Tom Moulton, chairman, hope to make Hampton-based Sleep-net a major player in the market as makers of specialized masks for people with sleep apnea.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]