Personal Protected, LLC was born from Hitch-Hiker Manufacturing and the COVID-19 crisis. Both companies are owned and operated by Jeff and Holly Swartz. Over the past 52 years, Hitch-Hiker Manufacturing has become the premier concession trailer manufacturer for the Food and Amusement industry. In Spring 2020, they saw the abrupt end to new orders and all in progress orders were postponed as COVID-19 restrictions caused fairs, festivals, and gatherings across the country to be canceled. Jeff and Holly began to strategize different ways to pivot and adapt their business to meet the new needs of their clients and the community. It was during one of the Ohio Governor’s COVID-19 daily updates that Jeff used his 35 years of knowledge to develop the idea of creating a touchless, high-volume hand washing station that allows four users to safely wash their hands at once while remaining socially distanced. Initially, the Quad-Sink was constructed to provide safe conditions for the outdoor amusement industry and to help get it back on track, but the device turned into something more when Jeff and Holly began seeing a demand for the product in universities, schools, and other industries. Jeff and Holly took a leap of faith and established Personal Protected, LLC, transitioning their entire business model of manufacturing mobile concession trailers to manufacturing portable high-volume hand washing stations.
Personal Protected, LLC was able to transition all 20 of their employees so they did not lose their jobs. They had quickly found success with Youngstown State University and wanted to expand to other state universities and school districts. Having been in the private sector their entire career, Jeff and Holly wanted to make sure they entered the government marketplace the right way. After finalizing their first sales through Youngstown State University, Jim Tressel, President of YSU, introduced Jeff and Holly to the services of the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU that is part of YSU’s Williamson College of Business Administration. Jeff and Holly met with the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU who helped them create a strategy to market themselves in the government sector while connecting them with opportunities with local agencies in Ohio.
The Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU guided them through the SAM registration process and helped them craft their capability statement. The organization’s continued assistance enabled Personal Protected, LLC to successfully navigate the procurement process and enter a new market. The resources and connections provided by the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU enabled Personal Protected, LLC to find promising contract opportunities with government entities not only in Ohio, but throughout the country. The Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU equipped Jeff and Holly for their first Ohio Matchmaker and Tri-State Matchmaker events, which proved to be successful networking opportunities for their company. Since working with the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU, Personal Protected, LLC has experienced new opportunities being an integral single-source supplier for universities and K-12 school districts through the state of Ohio. With the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU’s assistance, the company has been able to secure nearly one million dollars in contracts within the past year from Youngstown State University, Bowling Green State University, Mahoning County Commissioners Office, City of Youngstown, OH, and other organizations.
“Personal Protected, LLC has just scratched the surface of the opportunities in the government marketplace. Working with the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU has been a great thing! I have had guidance from them to register on the SAM.gov site and also create my company’s capability statement,” says Holly Swartz, Vice President of Personal Protected, LLC. “My involvement with the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU has given me the opportunity to participate in the recent online Ohio Matchmaker and Tri-State Matchmaker events with great networking success! I believe that the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU have been such a highly valuable resource for my company at such a critical time of need.”
It is because of Personal Protected, LLC’s persistence, entrepreneurial mindset, and guidance from the Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU that they are winning new contracts and opportunities. “Personal Protected is a wonderful example of innovation at its finest,” says the Director of Ohio APEX Accelerator at YSU. “Ever since our first meeting, I could tell the compassion and drive Jeff and Holly have permeates everything they do. They managed to not only protect their workers but also to create something that will help people long after this pandemic.”