Six years ago, Kipp Kofsky purchased Arcadian Services, a 40-year-old, family-owned and operated chemical manufacturer in Florence, Alabama. This nine-person company, which makes industrial cleaners for the car wash industry, also specializes in custom order formulas and private label products.
“Before purchasing Arcadian Services, I worked for 30 years for a multinational industrial lubricant company and had always wanted to own my own business,” Kofsky said. “So with my experience in chemical manufacturing, when this company came up for sale, it was a great fit.”
In 2017, due to international exchange rates, the company began seeing a few of its top customers taking their business to foreign competition. As that occurred, Kofsky became aware of the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) at Georgia Tech. A federally funded program supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, SETAAC provides matching assistance funds to firms experiencing declines due to import competition. He connected with Tracy Barth, interim director, to get a better understanding of the program and the process to apply for the funds.
“Tracy walked me through the process and a short-time after our petition was submitted, our application was approved and we were provided funding assistance to work on projects that would help grow our business again,” Kofsky said.
Arcadian Services used these matching funds — and working with SETAAC vendors — to redo its information technology infrastructure, which included updating the wiring, increasing network speeds, and upgrading servers. The company also revamped its website, redesigned its product catalog, and invested in marketing expertise.
“The website vendor that SETAAC connected us to was the best company I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “They really understood what we were trying to accomplish and were able to deliver.” Additionally, through a new and robust social media presence, Kofsky also engaged an industry expert, who used his knowledge to help Arcadian Services develop new products and utilize his car wash location as a test site for new chemicals the team was developing.
Just as Kofsky’s business began to grow again, the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the world, something Kofsky knew would affect Arcadian Services. “I knew this would have a huge impact on our business. People weren’t going to be able to go anywhere, so they wouldn’t be taking their cars to get washed,” he said.
For the industry as a whole, business quickly dropped between 25 to 50 percent, based on location, so Kofsky approached his team with the idea to pivot and use their chemical background to produce hand sanitizer.
He said, “I’ve always believed that everything is in a state of constant change and if we aren’t able to change quickly, then we won’t be here.”
And that’s just what he and his team did.
They began producing batches of hand sanitizer and within the first three hours, their car wash customers purchased all of their product. They then started a next batch that was set to roll out to the locals in Florence. Through word of mouth, it sold out immediately. The team then regrouped and came up with a plan to ramp up production and began producing and selling hand sanitizer in three sizes – gallon jugs, 55-gallon drums, and 275-gallon totes.
Within two months of switching gears, Arcadian Services is producing large orders for numerous customers both locally and across the country — from providing product to local community schools to donating hand sanitizer-filled spray bottles to local first responders and to the Visiting Nurses Association of New York City. The company also updated its website to include the new product line.
“It’s been exciting to see my employees’ reactions and adaptability. We had to retool everything to make this happen and it’s been all hands on deck,” he said.
Back when this was all beginning to come to fruition, the team decided to invest in the new product so that they could keep this line of business going in the future.
Said Kofsky: “SETAAC has been a blessing for our company. They’ve really helped us change for the long-term.”