6. Weatherhead Centurions
Tradex International Inc.
Year founded: 1986
Sales growth: 61.2%
President: Saji Daniel
Tradex International is a leading supplier of disposable gloves and apparel.
Tradex International Inc. CEO Saji Daniel started his company out of his car. In 1988, the Cleveland State University student learned of a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandate requiring health care professionals to use disposable gloves to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B. Daniel started buying gloves and selling and delivering them between classes door-t- door.
Now, 24 years later, Tradex is the largest U.S. supplier of disposal gloves, serving the medical, food, janitorial and industrial markets. The company provides Ambitex brand vinyl, nitrile, latex and polyethylene gloves in addition to protective wear such as hairnets and aprons and supplies such as seat covers and wipes.
“I had no background in the industry and didn’t know anything about gloves,” Daniel says. “But I saw an opportunity in the market and started the company as a part-time venture.”
Since then, the company has shown consistent growth at about 18 to 20 percent for the last five years, Daniel says. He foresees it growing at the same pace for the next five to 10 years.
Daniel attributes this success, even through the recession, to his company’s unique niche market, which he says is almost recession-proof. The company serves major food service companies and medical providers, and despite the economy, people still dine out or get sick, he says.
“Restaurants might slow a little bit, but if you go to a restaurant, it’s almost always packed and there’s almost always a wait. People are still going out to eat,” he says. “On the other hand, people are still going to hospitals because they get sick, and as the baby boomers get older, the nursing home market is growing. We just have that product that even through the recession, we continued to grow.”
Tradex’s success can also be attributed to its tremendous customer service, Daniel says. The $100 million company’s headquarters in Cleveland employs about 60 people. It also has distribution centers across the country in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles and offices in China and Malaysia that oversee production and quality control (all disposable glove manufacturing is done in the Far East; there are no U.S. manufacturers).
However, despite its big-company reach, Tradex has a small-company feel, Daniel says.
“Because of the amount of gloves we buy and sell, we are able to get them at a competitive price, and we pass that savings along to our customers,” Daniel says. “We also have excellent staff that provide quality service. Our customer retention rate is 99.2 percent. We never lose an account once we get it. And I’m actively involved in all aspects of the business; I go out and make sales calls and talk to customers.”
The company is also flexible and never says no, he says.
“We don’t just sell gloves; we offer solutions,” Daniel says. “We talk to people about why they should use a particular glove and how they can save money.”
In the future, Tradex plans to add several new products to its food service and medical markets. It is also looking into new markets, such as retail, so it can sell gloves in stores. In addition, it will be adding two more distribution centers and is currently looking at potential locations across the country.
Tradex is a nine-time Weatherhead 100 honoree, an honor it doesn’t take lightly.
“Being recognized by the Weatherhead School of Management, one of the leading schools for business, means a lot to us,” Daniel says. “It means we’re doing something right.
“And we’re proud of our local ties to the community. I went to high school and college here; it’s where my roots are. My employees are from here. And being located in the Midwest is amazing because Cleveland is a great center for distribution that allows us to ship all over the country.”
How to reach: Tradex International Inc., (216) 651-4788 or www.tradexgloves.com