When the underdog wins, it makes a great story. It's easy to think of times when the presumed loser prevailed. As Team USA laced up their skates and stepped onto that hockey rink in Lake Placid in 1980, they believed in themselves and skated an incredible game. When Erin Brockovich became an environmental activist, she spearheaded litigation against one of the largest utility systems in the United States. As JK Rowling sat in an English coffee shop with a story on a napkin, she continued trying to get published as the rejection letters kept coming. All these underdogs deeply believed in their causes and overcame many stigmas to win.
Small businesses are much like underdogs. They embark on a journey in which they totally believe in their product. Because they have seemingly insurmountable odds against them, small businesses tend to look at problems and develop unique solutions that the big corporations ignore. Exactly how 3B Medical began in Winter Haven.
Tom Thayer Sr. is a serial entrepreneur and third generation citrus farmer, and he saw a problem in respiratory care products as he cared for his wife, Anne, in her battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He saw an urgent need to bring new and better products to market. Thayer and Alex Lucio formed 3B Medical with innovative new solutions for the respiratory and sleep aid industry. As with most small businesses, there are many obstacles to hurdle, and this is where David met Goliath.
Within 90 days of launching 3B Medical, litigation was filed, and it continued into 16 lawsuits across three continents. At that time, Lucio, 3B Medical's CEO, spent most of his time managing complex litigation and coordinating defenses with four different law firms representing the company. 3B Medical recently reached a confidential global settlement agreement, and they are now aggressively moving forward with new product plans and expanding manufacturing.
Calling Central Florida home with headquarters located in Winter Haven, 3B Medical began as an underdog and dreamt big. With 40 percent year over year growth, the company is living through the adage about slow and steady wins the race. Their determination to fight through litigation so they could provide top notch products that consumers demand has driven the company from day one...starting with comfortable respiratory products.
The respiratory industry is substantial as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that 29.4 million Americans are afflicted with obstructive sleep apnea. The most common problem expressed to physicians is equipment discomfort for treatment with reportedly more than 40 percent of patients stopping treatment because of the lack of a comfortable mask and other accessories. With Thayer's personal experience and his entrepreneurial spirit, 3B Medical embarked on improving these products with patient comfort leading the effort.
"Our goal is to make our mark in the respiratory product space through innovation and new product design," said Lucio. "This year we are launching six major products, each very different and unique, and each changing and redefining the landscape of the product sector they are in."
Products have been so well received that production quantity for the newest introduction, the Lumin, a disinfectant machine for a CPAP mask, was expected to last the first quarter and was completely sold in two weeks. To help support the growing product demand, the company will be adding a manufacturing location in Central Florida by the end of the year expecting have around 50 employees.
Branching into three distinct markets of sleep therapy, oxygen therapy and disinfection, 3B Medical has ambitious production introduction plans for the next 18 months. The company has an extensive portfolio of patents and patent applications, and recently completed the acquisition of VBOX, a Minnesota research and development company with a broad offering in the portable oxygen product space.
"VBOX provided 3B Medical with a very fast ramp into a second large product space, oxygen therapy, with leading edge proprietary technology," explained Lucio. "One thing we learned from litigation was the importance of developing and owning our own intellectual property around our own technology. Very rapid new product development is the heart of this strategy, and 3B Medical has a new product pipeline that rivals that of companies 10 times our size."
After years of being dragged through the legal arena, the underdog emerges into the limelight of success. This Central Florida company fought Goliath and now boldly embarks on becoming one of the respiratory and sleep market leaders.