How this woman-owned Moraine firm eclipsed 1,600% growth

Tempagenix isn’t a new face in Dayton’s startup scene.

Based in Moraine, the woman-owned firm has been selling its disposable, eco-friendly thermometers through Target since 2019. At that point in time, the company was looking to connect with even more retailers, and co-founder Shelly Heller said she wanted Tempagenix to be part of a global solution.

So when Covid-19 rocked the international supply chain less than a year later, Tempagenix rose to the occasion.

From mid-March through the end of May, Tempagenix worked nonstop to produce millions of thermometers at a time when demand far outpaced supply. The company began selling its thermometers in bulk rolls — between 3,000 and 5,000 per roll — and expanded its portfolio to include mylar thermometers in addition to its flagship Temp-N-Toss brand.

“They shut all the ports down in China, and then they shut the ports down in California,” Heller said, recalling the outset of the pandemic in early 2020. “Nobody could get infrared thermometers with batteries in them. But we didn’t have batteries, and we were American made. That really made a difference.”

By May, Tempagenix had caught the attention of Kroger and CVS Pharmacy, both of whom made emergency buys. CVS ordered one case each for 4,600 stores, and Tempagenix products were in more than 1,700 Kroger locations by the end of the year, co-founder April Pollock said.

“We definitely had to ramp up, and we definitely had to innovate,” Pollock said.

It didn’t take long before Tempagenix and its contract manufacturer, CAVU Group, found themselves in the B2B space as well. Companies like Fiat Chrysler, Ford Motor Co., Home Depot, Huntington Bank, Frito-Lay, Grainer and Cintas Corp. collectively ordered millions of units to keep their workers safe.

“We had people coming to our office and buying boxes of thermometers — companies all over Dayton and Ohio,” Heller said. “We were sending to colleges; we were sending to Boys and Girls clubs. A lot of small businesses heard about us and wanted to support another small business, so that was a great blessing.”

By the end of 2020, Tempagenix posted a record $5.3 million in revenue, Pollock said — a 1,600% jump from the prior year. Most of that revenue came between March and June, when the company was operating at max capacity.

“(CAVU Group) is truly remarkable,” Heller said. “Without them, we would have never been as successful as we were.”

The surge in demand also brought new opportunities for collaboration, she said. Tempagenix worked with local employment services agencies like Better Living, Eastco and Goodwill for its kitting needs; and it relied on Heller’s company, Allied Shipping & Packaging Supplies, for order fulfillment.

For Goodwill and Better Living, the partnership helped keep people working at a time when unemployment was sky high. And for Eastco, the influx of demand prompted the organization to hire about 50 more workers.

“Our core value is to lift up Dayton, and we used all the people we possibly could to get this done,” Heller said.

It also brought employment gains for CAVU Group and Tempagenix.

“For several months over the summer, we had to scale so quickly that we employed 53 college students who came to the facility and helped assemble,” Pollock said. “We also hired Jamie Hunt, who is our full-time operations manager.”

Tempagenix has scaled back production since the mid-2020 spike in business, Pollock said. But now, the company is taking advantage of the downtime to pursue new product development.

Currently, Tempagenix is working on three new temperature monitoring devices, and a selection of the company’s products will be featured in the August edition of a survivalist-themed monthly subscription box service as well.

“We’re really trying to lift up Ohio and Dayton by using what’s around us,” Heller said. “It’s just the best way to do things.”

Founded in 2016 by Shelly Heller and April Pollock, Tempagenix is a woman-owned, Moraine-based startup that produces disposable forehead thermometers for the retail market. Its eco-friendly thermometers detect body temperature through medical-grade adhesive and can read a temperature in about 15 seconds.