Former Eli Lilly sales manager and volunteer firefighter Zachary Green started
, which makes Foxfire high intensity photo luminescent (glow in the dark) coatings and products for firefighters, in 2010.
Green, a Marine Corps veteran, worked in the corporate world for 18
years, first for SAP and then later for Eli Lilly. He had been at
Lilly for eight years when the economic recession hit. His choice: move
to Indianapolis or take a corporate buyout during one of the worst
recessions in history.
"I'm not the type of guy that's meant to be in a cube," says Green.
As a volunteer firefighter, Green saw an opportunity to use the glow
technology to coat equipment that firefighters use in the dark. "I had
put the coating on my helmet and then used it in a fire," he says. "The
other firefighters were amazed at how effective it was and wanted to use
it on their helmets. I knew we were on to something."
Three of the top risks faced by firefighters are visibility,
accountability and disorientation. Foxfire illumination helps
firefighters keep track of their tools and each other in a dark, smoky
fire. The turning point for Green was the Fire Department Instructors
Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, the largest conference and tradeshow
for firefighters, which welcomes 34,000 firefighters every year.
"We were the busiest booth in the tradeshow," Green says. "We ran out of product
samples three times and had to send people back to Cincinnati to get
more." That month, the company received over $85,000 in orders,
beginning a trend that hasn't stopped.
The new challenge is managing a startup that is growing really quickly –
and keeping enough cash in hand to turn around orders. Green has
self-financed his company and has used a line of credit to manage the
time between manufacturing product and getting payments from customers.
"My training from the Marine Corps taught me to always plan for the
worst case scenario, so I had contingency plans for how to manage large,
unexpected orders," Green says.
Despite the anxiety that comes with starting a new company in a down
economy, Green has no regrets. "I'm having the time of my life."
By Elizabeth Edwards