Concerned about keeping his employees safe, Alex Sikorski, owner of Premium Tech Coating that specializes in automotive, architectural, safety and specialty window films, began studying ways his company could also manufacture face shields to protect them. After some research, he learned that a particular grade of the same material the company uses in its window films would make an effective disposable face shield.
After the company started making the shields, they also gave some away free to customers and organizations. It didn’t take long to learn there was a much bigger need. “We decided to start the business to help the local community,” said Sikorski. Turns out that was a good business decision, too.
The grade of material used in Premium Tech’s face shields is easy to see through – even truckers have been using it — and it is lightweight. It’s also FDA approved and was available through the company’s supplier. Wearers like that the shields are disposable, too.
“Now we are receiving inquiries from companies that want to put their logos on their shields so we are doing that too,” Sikorski said.
COVID CRASH COURSE
COVID, of course, has brought on a crash course in crisis management for small businesses across the nation as they navigate this monstrous pandemic. And for a textbook case, consider what Sikorski did to prepare his employees and help his 21-year-old company to not only survive, but thrive.
In mid-March, he gathered his employees to hear their fears and concerns and fill them in on what is going on. “I started instructed them in workshops and talked to them about CDC guidelines and the work environment,” he said.
The business closed to customers, but the county’s ordinance allowed the manufacturing business to work on phone orders, Sikorski said. “A lot of other states closed [their window film businesses] so we were able to provide to them. Also we supply construction sites, and sites were still open and needed product so we kept working.”
But first the business closed on the weekend and did complete disinfection of the work site and started providing PPE – cleaning disinfectants, gloves and masks at every work station. Yet, it was difficult to get some materials “and then we thought we could make face shields,” Sikorski said.
“I studied different kinds of materials we could use, and decided we had the solution here – vinyl for the frame and for the disposable shields from the film we used. We bought a machine for cutting the shields. Everything started with our own need for employees.”
FOUNDED IN 1999
The small manufacturing business founded in 1999 employs 10 people and did not have to lay off anyone. In fact, Sikorski hired two more people his spring.
For nearly three years, Premium Tech has been a client of Florida SBDC at FIU, which provides free business consulting to small businesses. The small business has received help with HR, finance, marketing and more from SBDC’s team of certified business consultants, and Sikorski described the experience as easy access with a friendly and knowledgeable team.
“The help they provide is very, very important for small companies like us. We get so much information and are able to structure our companies in different areas – finance, marketing, you name it. We are right now refinancing our building and SBDC has been assisting us with that. It’s all thanks to the guidance we have received.”
While the window business continued, shields sales have been going well. Banks, restaurants, and transportation companies have been reaching out, Sikorski said. “We have produced some custom ones for restaurants in Miami-Dade. Anyone can buy off the website [Premiumtech-shields.com]”
A University of Iowa study found that face shields can reduce up to 96% of the viral infection.
“The face shield is going to be the new mask. There are benefits for the hearing impaired,” said Sikorski.
And there is one other benefit in these trying times, he said: “You can see smiles on people’s faces. There is no price on that.”
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