The contrast could not have been more stark. When John Tepel, President of Mayday Industries, Inc., Westminster, CA, got word of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, and utter destruction of Port-Au-Prince (the capital), he was on a leisurely vacation in beautiful Hawaii. He didn’t wait to hear later reports on the climbing toll of dead and injured. He immediately got on the telephone to his California office to begin preparations to donate emergency food rations, water, tarps, stretchers, and other critical items. “It was just something that had to be done, and when there are disasters, I try to help out,” he says. “We were very gratified to receive photos from a person on the ground in Haiti, of people using our relief supplies. So many times when we donate materials for different disaster situations, the products never make it to the people.”
“We manufacture emergency food rations and drinking water, among other products, and after the tsunami a few years back, we donated a lot of supplies. Unfortunately, they were eventually thrown out because of logistics bottlenecks. This time, it was heartwarming to see that the food and drinking water were actually used by those who needed it most.” As tragic as events are in Haiti, Tepel feels that there is a chance now to improve living conditions for everyone, “It is tragic that hundreds of thousands of people had to die to bring the focus of the world on this country. That focus needed to be there even before this tragedy. Hopefully, when the infrastructure is rebuilt, there will be better building standards employed. Many people died in this earthquake because of the poor building standards and shoddy construction practices.”
Everything that Mayday Industries produces and sells has to do with emergency preparedness, or is disaster related. “In fact, we got a note from the Sergeant at Arms in the U.S. Senate, that it decided it will only use our water, so we had to send an additional shipment to the Senate recently. Our products are now everywhere.” Mayday tries to be the go-to company for all disaster preparedness products. It has about 300 products, and every week is adding new ones. How did Tepel get into this business? “I started it 20 years ago in my living room, with my living room acting as my warehouse,” he recalls. “It grew from there. We got into the manufacturing end of it for the food and water, and here we are today. Two years ago, we made INC. Magazine’s top 5,000 growing businesses in the U.S. We were quite proud of that.”
What spurred Tepel to get into the business was that many companies that were in it seemed quite passive. That is, they would open their doors, put an ad in The Yellow Pages, and wait for the phone to ring with an order. Tepel had another idea and took a different route. “I hired 12 sales representatives, from San Diego to Anchorage. They went out and started calling on schools, which are big buyers of this merchandise. That’s where things started to change for us. We continue to have a small retail store where our offices are located, but we do mostly wholesale today. Dropshipping is a big business for us,” Tepel continues. “We have no minimum orders, and we work with a lot of web based companies, people who work out of their homes. As orders come in on their websites, they fax them to us. They do not have to buy or stock anything. That is the model that we came up with that got us going. We have a free catalog for those who are interested, at www.emergencysupplycatalog.com, that is a mirror of our website.”
How is the rescue effort going in Haiti? Tepel is critical of governments around the world for not being more prepared for disaster relief. “It never fails. During the Haiti relief effort, we would get these calls from the federal government and the caller might say, ‘We want one million personal hygiene kits, and we want them shipped tomorrow.’ There is no company in the United States or around the world that keeps one million personal hygiene kits in stock, ready to ship. You cannot keep an airport hanger filled with emergency supplies, hoping for a disaster, so you can sell them to the federal government. What the government needs to do is have warehouses, where it is stocking one million personal hygiene kits. The federal government needs a system where they can deploy this stuff immediately to any place, domestically or around the world, in the event of a disaster. That way, they wouldn’t have to panic and call around for one million hygiene kits or one million food bars. They are the ones who need to prepare for it, not private businesses.”
While John Tepel and Mayday can’t deliver on one million personal hygiene kits in 24 hours, he is fully prepared to help in the next disaster, and the people of Haiti and the world are better off having Mayday at the ready.
John Tepel, president
Mayday Industries Inc.
15031 Goldenwest Circle
Westminster CA 92683