In April of 2006, Jessica Smith broke her left arm, nose, and toe in a cycling accident—just two weeks away from her college graduation. Not trusting any of her friends to sign her cast, the fine arts major picked up waterproof, puffy paints and began decorating her black cast in spurts. “It all started with a [huge] sunflower in the middle,” she said. “There was a dove [spreading its wings] on the underside of it. I had gotten a puppy [with a]…big white blaze on her chest that looked like a dove.” Over the course of six weeks, she added shooting stars, yellow and blue beads, and a cloud-covered sun. While the paint dried at a snail’s pace and required “every little piece of it [to be blasted on high] with a hair dryer, it became a conversation starter, a silver lining to this whole broken bone thing.” Smith’s original “Castoo” ultimately became the springboard for what’s since become the Happy Healing Company.
A global phenomenon, Smith has sold hundreds of thousands of orthopedic cast tattoos to consumers and care providers, who can up their marketing game by branding the product with their clinical logos. The Happy Healing Company offers 40 different designs in four sizes. Application is a cinch: peel, press, and dry for 10-15 seconds with a hairdryer on medium or high heat. “The flames, fairies…, and those little, traditional candies are really popular” Smith said. Drawing design inspiration from “everywhere”, this globe trotter and nature lover can turn “whatever you can think of…into a Castoo”, even your authentic x-rays.
The Happy Healing Company is run by just two staff members and three, part-time interns. “When I was living in Boulder, [Colorado,] I started up an internship that utilized art students from the art department every semester,” Smith said. “I’m firing up that program again at Oregon State University.” The paid internship is fairly competitive and extremely rigorous. “It takes them [an art, computer science, and business intern] through every step,” she said. “The art student, for example, goes through the business of being an artist and what that means:” marketing yourself, protecting yourself, and selling your art.
However, Castoo is about to “turn everything upside down, shake it up, and put it back out there.” With 40 brand-spanking-new designs, customers will be able to order metallic and glow-in-the-dark Castoos.
“Now we are starting to get into some licensing,” she said. “Disney is coming. It’s only a matter of time, [and] luckily, I’ve had universities and professional teams start coming to me, wanting [to directly sell] the product for their fans or for their players.”
The Happy Healing Company, though, is definitely firing up a line of Castoos for prosthetic limbs, which on average cost $5,000 to $50,000 and only lasts three to five years. “Base models are very plain, and you’re looking at someone who suffered a tremendous loss,” she said. With a semi-permanent adhesive, amputees can jazz up limbs without their Castoos rubbing off. However, if they outgrow or get tired of the design, they can remove it without damaging their limbs.
Castoo is changing the face of healing, spinning that depressing downtime into a positive experience by chipping away the embarrassment of being the “clumsy kid”.
“Now, mind you, most people don’t want to use the product again,” Smith laughs. “They don’t want to have to, but you’d be amazed at how many repeat customers I have. Parents that said, ‘I ordered this for my son, and his best friend just broke his arm, and we want to send him this [Castoo] for joy.'” Happiness: ultimately, that’s what these “beauty for breaks” are for. Proving, in Smith’s case, that “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.”