Gelling Agent Used In UEP’s Battery R&D Gave Company A Strategic Edge
You know those ‘aha’ moments, those jot the thought down on the paper napkin moments because there might just be something there?
That’s exactly what happened at Urban Electric Power, a Rockland-based innovator that has been working for years to develop a small rechargeable, an environmentally-friendly battery pack that can power a house through a blackout as well as store usable energy sources.
In what no one would have seen coming, UEP over the past few months has thrown resources at manufacturing hand sanitizer, branded Ohm Products. Some pandemic pivots seem obvious. In this case, readers need to understand the smart folks at UEP recognized they had a precious commodity at their fingertips: a gelling agent used in their battery development.
“We were told we had to shut our doors on March 22,” said Gabe Cowles, VP of finance and business development. “We were frantic, but we put our heads together and asked ourselves whether we can make some kind of PPE (personal protective equipment) in order to keep our doors open?”
Sanitizer, Cowles said, was a “natural cross-over” because the company had mixing equipment and hard-to-come-by gelling agents that were in short supply in mid-March and April. Hand-sanitizer ‘want-to-bes’ in the early stages of the pandemic were rolling out “liquidy” hand sanitizers that did not coat the hands and were difficult to refill in dispensers.
Hand sanitizer formulas are not, rocket science. They are nowhere near as complicated as a clean-tech alternative battery that is cleaner, smaller, and ultimately less expensive.” In fact, formulas – which largely contain alcohol, water, hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, and a gelling agent – are readily available from the World Health Organization.
UEP is largely focusing on selling locally to Rockland County. The Ohm Product line has been generating revenue through sales to school districts, public works departments, and small businesses. Keeping its product competitively priced with national brands, coupled with truck delivery that saves procurement departments shipping costs, has jump-started the sanitizer business. A pack of two 12-ounce bottles costs $24 at retail but the company offers bulk pricing and free delivery in the county. However, Cowles said the e-tail website has begun attracting business from as far away as Kansas and Hawaii.
In April, UEP worked to keep up with the panicked rush for product. Over the past several months, hysteria tapered off and demand has been less acute but steady. UEP has no plans to compete on a national scale with major brands that pump out hand sanitizer but for now the company will focus on building brand loyalty locally.