Industry: Bioscience & Medical
Products: Drug delivery systems
President Lance Ferrin is banking on innovation to drive success in the staid syringe market.
Launched by Ferrin’s father, Allison Medical began as CSI International, a maker of custom molded rubber components. A decade later, it was renamed Allison Medical as a way to honor Ferrin’s sister, Allison, who died unexpectedly at age 19 — and to reflect the company’s move into manufacturing syringes.
The company began in the veterinary market. “There were no FDA regulations at the time in veterinary, so we thought it would just be easier,” Ferrin says. Plus, he says, there was a lack of low-cost but good-quality syringes in that area.
In 1998, the company entered the human market with insulin syringes. “That’s when we really started our growth,” Ferrin says. The company has grown every year since 2000.
That growth, he says, has enabled the company to add other products, such as pen needles. “Pen needles is a huge product for us now,” he says. Allison’s line of general-use syringes has grown a lot as well, he says.
Allison Medical has three lines: SureComfort for its insulin products, its CarePoint line of general syringes and CarePoint Vet. The company’s sales are mostly through retail pharmacy and hospitals; Ferrin sees most of its future growth in the hospital pharmacy market. Its veterinary products are sold in stores such as Big R and to veterinary offices through distributors. The veterinary side now makes up about 15 percent of the business, Ferrin says.
Allison Medical is now looking to bring a new, dual-chamber syringe to market that Ferrin says could create quite a stir at hospitals. While there’s been “unbelievable response to it,” he said, it’s too early to offer many details.
One way the company stands out is the way it treats its customers, Ferrin notes. “We’re not just looking to sell product,” he says. “It’s really so much more than that. We try to give time, money, effort to different charities. It’s all part of this plan to treat people right.”
Challenges: “Our biggest challenge was the same challenge I think every business has, and that’s financing,” Ferrin says. Early on, the company found itself in a hole after its two biggest customers filed for bankruptcy within six months of each other. It was difficult to get a loan from a bank, Ferrin says, “so we really financed our company in the early days with our houses and also, believe it or not, with credit cards.”
Once the company got momentum, though, it found a bank to partner with. “UMB has been great helping us with our financial growth,” Ferrin says.
Another challenge is growing competition. When Allison Medical started in the veterinary market, there were few rivals, Ferrin says. “Now there’s quite a few.”
Opportunities: The upcoming dual-chamber syringe is Allison Medical’s biggest opportunity for growth, Ferrin says.
“I think we can continue to grow because we have our brand out there, but I think we have to be innovative in the products that we are selling and how we get them to our customers,” he adds. “A lot of the companies are not adding new vendors because there are so many similar products. You really need to get out there and have something that sets you apart, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Needs: “I think we just need to stay focused on our plan, what we have going on now,” Ferrin says. “We have a definite plan for growth, which is going to be substantial; we just have to stay focused. There’s so much opportunity out there for us at the moment, and you can’t go chase after every one of those and be successful.”