When the coronavirus hit, Sean Kelly saw an opportunity to help. Kelly, who is in his early 20s, was running Jersey Champs, an online store that sells sports and rapper-themed jerseys. He’d grown it into a million-dollar, one-person business after founding it in his dorm room at Rutgers University in 2016.
But with hospitals and nursing homes unable to secure the PPE they needed in the early days of the crisis and facing price gouging, he sprang into action to use his skills to help get N-95 masks, nitrile gloves and other needed supplies that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) into their hands at reasonable prices.
Teaming up with a silent partner who had relevant experience, he formed PPE of America, a distributor based in Delaware, and began looking for hospitals and other healthcare providers that needed help. “I would either get a warm intro
Sean Kelly, founder of Jersey Champs, pivoted into selling PPE at his company PPE of America.
or send cold emails. We tried cold calls but they didn’t work,” says Kelly.
The company works directly with procurement professionals at major hospitals, healthcare and government organizations, and first responders such as police, firefighters and emergency medical services. It has set up a form on its website to find out which items are in the greatest need and has been able to arrange donations in some cases.
In 2020, the company brought in $15 million in sales. The margins for products like this are thin, Kelly says, but selling them allows him to help institutions that have been on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus. His company has kept the cost of supplies down by sourcing protective products directly from manufacturers and distributors. His company acts as a middleman that connects sellers to buyers. PPE of America also sells items such as the Orbel personal hand sanitizing device.
One reason the business has grown so quickly, says Kelly, was that he was able to help hospitals deal with challenging supply chain issues, with shipping from Asia still backed up. “A lot of big hospitals and states never got products they paid for,” he says.
Many fortunately now have the masks they need. With the second wave of infections, however, he says, “the one thing that’s still lacking is nitrile gloves.”
Kelly hired two employees to help him grow the company, a website developer and someone who handles customer relationships. Everyone is working remotely. “None of our deals are in-person deals,” he says.
In the meantime, Kelly continues to run Jersey Champs. He has also begun supplying a shop that musician Steve Aoki runs in Los Angeles with sports trading cards—now hotly sought after by investors. “Gary Vaynerchuk was pushing it really hard on social media,” says Kelly. “I looked into it.”
When you’re an online entrepreneur operating in a remote environment like today’s, there are so many opportunities, so little time.
Source by www.forbes.com