In 2010, Zachary Green created photoluminescent firefighting equipment to help him in his duties as a volunteer firefighter for the city of Wyoming, Ohio. He found that the steady glow from the equipment improved visibility in the dark, creating safer situations for emergency responders. Through the SBA exporting program, he was able to expand his business, delivering glow-in-the-dark safety equipment to 25 different countries.
“I tested the product at a local fire. Afterwards, the rest of the firefighters wanted to know who was glowing in the dark,” Green said. “When I showed them my helmet, they wanted to know where they could get one. Soon whole fire departments were ordering my product.”
The glow in his products is created by the element strontium and does not require electricity or an external battery. It is instead re-charged through exposure to light. As his product grew in popularity in the United States, Green met with the SBA in 2013 to talk about exporting options and resources. Through SBA counseling, he was able to double the number of full-time employees at his business to 12 employees and provide them with healthcare benefits.
“Most people think you have to be a multi-million dollar company to export,” Green said. “You don’t. The SBA and the Department of Commerce cut through the red tape for me, establishing my legitimacy to overseas customers as well as helping me research potential customers.”
Green, also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, takes pride in his product and the opportunities available to him as a U.S. citizen.
“There are very few places in the world where you can open a business in a matter of days. America is one of those places,” he said. “I had the opportunity to make my dream come true and it’s validating to know that my product helps save lives.”
He credits his military service with teaching him to persevere during the business’s difficult times.
“There have been so many times that I thought I was going to fail,” he said. “The Marine Corps taught me grit. It taught me that there’s always a way to make it work. It might not be pretty, but you have to find a way to adapt.”
His perseverance and use of SBA and Department of Commerce resources have helped him to adapt to foreign markets and he encourages other small businesses to think of exporting as a viable option. Countries including the United Arab Emirates, Spain and China are lining up for Green’s safety products, using photoluminescence in firefighter gear and to light stairwells and exits in case of power outages.
“The ‘Made in America’ brand carries a lot of respect in other countries,” Green said. “Customers know that our brand means quality, safety and credibility. They also know that because we are a small business, we are more flexible and able to meet customers’ needs more quickly.”
-Originally published by U.S. Small Business Administration | 409 3rd St, SW. Washington DC 20416