Dayton startup grew from $300,000 company to $3 million company almost overnight
While some companies have had to find a pivot in order to succeed amid COVID-19, Dayton’s Tempagenix has been thriving since the moment the country became aware of the virus. The company created a wearable, disposable thermometer strip in 2016, a product that has become a necessity in retail, home and health care use in recent weeks. Since the beginning of March, Tempagenix has grown from about a $300,000 company to a $3 million dollar success story with no signs of slowing down. For co-owners April Pollock and Shelly Heller, it’s been a hectic but empowering ride to reaffirm their strong business and make a difference when it’s needed most.
“We’ve just had an insane amount of growth,” said Pollock. “We’ve had to expand our product lines and come up with new product offerings like a bulk thermometer roll and custom designs for hospitals with their logo. It’s not only our signature product, but what we’ve carried to help meet the demand. As soon as Gov. DeWine said, ‘Everybody needs to take their temperature,’ we just exploded.”
With Tempagenix’s overnight growth has come a whole new wave of challenges. The company is now responding to more bulk orders than ever, and has companies like Home Depot ordering a million thermometers at a time. But for Pollock and Heller, the challenge has been a welcome one. Not only are they able to provide a useful service, they’re finding out how nimble and adaptable their business can be.
“We have been innovating on the fly since this started and we’ve really learned how agile we can be,” said Heller. “We’ve gone from selling small retail packs to now selling to Target, Kroger, CVS and Walmart. We’re working with large companies in the automotive, retail and gas industries that want to protect their employees by putting a thermometer on their heads to check them coming in and out. Being helpful is what drives us every day, knowing that we’re helping people, even just by relieving their fear of standing next to someone.”
Community is important for Tempagenix. Pollock and Heller are longtime Dayton residents, and said they take pride in not only establishing their business there, but being part of a new generation of Dayton entrepreneurs who are continuing the city’s tradition of invention and innovation.
“It’s been brought up a few times now: Do we want to get it to a point where we can sell the company? The answer has always been no,” said Pollock. “This has been our brainchild and we are so passionate about being able to create jobs in the Dayton area. Everything in this product is sourced and manufactured in Ohio, primarily in Dayton. So to be able to do something for our community and our region while growing and evolving the company is pretty important to us.”
It isn’t just that Tempagenix makes thermometers, it’s that their innovative thermometers are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19. The company makes disposable paper strips that can read a temperature right from the skin, allowing safer and easier readings for everyone from babies to essential employees. It’s a unique product, and one that has major benefits in a pandemic.
“We have the first paper thermometer strip available in the retail market,” said Pollock. “It’s essentially a sticker for your forehead that uses a patented liquid crystal technology like a mood ring that allows it to continuously read temperature. We have a medical grade adhesive that allows it to be on your forehead for up to 48 hours and it will continue to read so you don’t have to wake a sleeping child. But it can be used on everyone. It just needs to remain on the forehead. If the fever spikes or breaks, you’ll continue to see the color change up and down the strip.”
Tempagenix isn’t just looking to survive, they’re expecting to thrive. And for its co-owners, who have plenty of experience in the business world, the goal is to create a company that can stay strong even through difficult circumstances. And they couldn’t have a better home than Ohio.
“Having lived through the recession in 2008 and 2009, I never want that to occur again, so it’s a core value for both April and myself that we put people to work in Dayton,” said Heller. “And Dayton is being recognized as being innovative and on the upswing — that’s the most exciting thing to me. To be part of a group of people that are innovating is incredibly exciting. We always think of our people in Dayton and Ohio first.”