A devastating storm in 2007 might have saved toothbrush maker RADIUS from the full brunt of the recession. At the very least, the insurance covering $2 million in storm damage put the Kutztown toothbrush and accessory maker in a prime position for the recovery.
"It helped us through," said CEO Saskia Foley, daughter of co-founder Kevin Foley. "It would have been rough going without it."
For RADIUS, it was rough going before the recession.
The storm forced a four-month pause in production because of severe damage from a thunderstorm at the 207 Railroad St. factory. RADIUS lost $1 million in inventory. The storm ruined the $450,000 injection molding machines, but the company got new ones through guaranteed replacement insurance. The sales and administrative staff worked out of a trailer for 10 months. In the summer of 2008 sales were down 30 percent from 2007.
With a marketing plan focused on retail and show sales and a lot of frugality, RADIUS has emerged stronger than ever.
Foley, 34, took the helm of RADIUS in 2011, but she had long been involved in the company her father co-founded with James O'Halloran in 1982. She had worked summers in assembly and spent several years as vice president of sales and marketing. Her father remains with RADIUS as president and a research and design consultant.
RADIUS has grown from a staff of 12 a year after the storm in 2008 to a staff of 25 this year.
Going into the holiday season, RADIUS already has beaten last year's record production of 3.1 million toothbrushes, travel cases and replacement heads, Foley said. The company sees 40 percent of its annual sales in the holiday season. So far, they've sold 4.1 million molded products.
"We're growing more than 50 percent every year for the last three years," Foley said.
The company's product line has expanded from its original sleekly designed toothbrush with interchangeable heads to floss and travel cases. It's Totz brush is the No. 1 baby toothbrush in South Korea, thanks to a partnership with Tai-won Trading. The travel case is becoming popular, and its production is unique in that there is no assembly work required.
"It's designed to be made by machine," Foley said. "No one even touches them."
That's more than a cost-saving nuance, Foley said. The design goes to the very RADIUS brand: simple, elegant, beautiful.
RADIUS got a boost from Martha Stewart during a segment on her television show about heart health in which Terri Trespicio of Whole Living magazine talked about the value of good gum health. Stewart picked up the RADIUS toothbrush and claimed it for her own.
"I hope nobody has used this because I've adopted it," Stewart said as she held a toothbrush with a handle made with recycled material.
This summer Martha Stewart Living selected RADIUS as a finalist in the style, beauty category in its 2014 Made in America competition. More than 900 companies were named in four categories. RADIUS didn't win but Foley said it was good to be included. Most items made with injection molding are made outside and Stewart's nomination highlights that RADIUS is made in the U.S.
"We appreciate the interest in RADIUS," Foley said.
While the national exposure certainly has helped, Foley has been positioning RADIUS for several years. Her strategy is to place RADIUS products in natural foods stores as a premium item. She also started an inside sales department.
In addition to traditional natural products customers, Foley said other customers also walk into natural foods stores and high-end independent retailers looking for premium products.
RADIUS works closely with retailers for display and other boosts.
Kevin Foley has conducted presentations at Henning's Market in Harleysville, Montgomery County, said Sherry Post, health and wellness coach and specialty buyer for Henning's.
Post said sales of RADIUS products have almost tripled in the last year.
"The marketing plan was to educate our local community about the benefits of using RADIUS toothbrushes and travel cases," Post said. "RADIUS is one of our No. 1 selling Bisphenol A (BPA)-free, latex-free, and phthalate-free toothbrushes. When we do our promotional demos and sales here, we sell out just about every time."