Coronavirus: Dayton’s Tempagenix grows to $3M business almost overnight

Easy monitoring of temperature has become a pressing global need, and in a little over two weeks, Dayton-based Tempagenix has met its moment, growing from a $290,000-annual-revenue company to a $3 million business.

And at this point, growth promises to do nothing but continue.

April Pollock and Shelly Heller formed Tempagenix LLC in 2016, channeling the production of Dayton-made disposable paper thermometers that can be worn on one’s forehead for the retail market.

In the COVID-19 era, the pair are being deluged with orders.

“We have grown to a $3 million business in about 17 days,” Heller said in an interview Thursday. “And there are only two of us.”

Tempagenix has been shipping weekly to Target since April 2019. Just a “handful” of orders were slated for until recently.

But orders and inquiries have skyrocketed in recent days.

“Ninety percent of that came from the second half of March,” Pollock said.

The company was supposed to have a limited launch in May in Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores in just four states.

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“Instead, we have already shipped out over 750 cases to all of Kroger, and we are working on their second order now of almost 1,300 cases,” Heller said.

And the company hopes to ship Friday to about 5,000 CVS pharmacy locations.

Tempagenix works with CAVU Group, a Moraine company with FDA qualifications to make similar thermometers, maintaining quality analysis along the way for Tempagenix.

The company is also expanding with a new product, offering a mylar-material thermometer. The flagship paper “Temp-n-Toss” product was mainly meant for retail outlets. But the mylar product is aimed at more industrial customers, such as Chrysler, Cintas and others who are taking their employees’ temperatures each day.

The original idea was to go beyond pharmaceutical companies and hospitals — which is CAVU’s focus — and to develop the strips for retail settings.

The Temp-n-Toss product was the result of that retail focus. But all kinds of institutions see the need. Recently, Dayton government accepted a shipment of 10 cases.

“We’re feeding Dayton (customers) first,” Pollock said.

The two women have known each other for 14 years. When they formed Tempagenix, they already owned their own well established local businesses — Heller ran (and runs) Moraine-based Allied Shipping & Packaging Supplies and Pollock owns Oregon District marketing firm C-3 Group.

Tempagenix works with Better Living, which employs adults with disabilities, and Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley to assemble product packages. The arrangement with Goodwill is recent, spurred by new demand.

“Now that this volume has come so quickly, we went to Goodwill Industries … and they’re going to sort split the assembly between those two institutions,” Heller said.

Being owner of Allied Shipping is proving convenient for Heller and Tempagenix.

“It’s rather perfect, because we have shipping supplies and trucking and docks and all of that,” she said. “These corporations have been gracious enough to pay all the freight. We literally ship it all out of Allied.”

And Pollock’s C-3 Group handles marketing.

Women’s Business Enterprise National Council-certification has also opened doors, the women say.

Such certification “gives us access to supplier diversity buyers and was responsible for our relationship with Target, Walmart, CVS and Kroger,” Pollock said.

The certification also means Tempagenix is “eligible for items such as preferred payment rates and waived slotting fees to be in store,” she said.

A client of the Entrepreneurs Center for more than a year, the business incubation center has helped Tempagenix secure a design patent, which is now pending, and scale production.

Asked if production and assembly will remain local, Pollock said, “Oh absolutely. That is non-negotiable.”

“We will not go anywhere else,” Heller said.

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