From the former driver of the Canada 1 bobsled team to corporate CEO and now as a thriving entrepreneur, Kirby Best has never backed down from a challenge. And his latest foray in to the estimated $750M medical apparel industry is no different.
His recently launched, Nashville-based Performance Healthcare Products, Inc. has partnered with chemical and textile manufacturing titan Milliken & Company to develop and release a line of scientifically-designed medical scrubs that offers the a major step forward in the industry. Throughout his professional career Best has successfully “built a better mousetrap” by analyzing the landscape and implementing a new, more effective approach to reach his goals. So what does a former CEO bring to the table as an upstart entrepreneur? I caught up with Kirby recently by phone to get some thoughts.
Kirby Best: You’re right! My path to the medical scrubs industry was actually the result of my wife’s successful battle with breast cancer. She had suffered terribly with night sweats during her medical treatments and I’d offered her one of my sweat-wicking athletic shirts in the hopes it would keep her dry. It wasn’t the most comfortable but it did help.
After she beat cancer we were looking for a way to give back to the cancer community and remembered how helpful the sweat-wicking t-shirt was. From there we partnered with a company to develop a line of soft and functional sleepwear intended for women dealing with night sweats. And with that, we launched DryDreams Sleepwear which we recently folded in to our new company under the name Performance Sleepwear. 100% of our profits from the sleepwear line are donated to a host of cancer charities which brings us a lot of satisfaction. Funny thing is our biggest market is young women who just love the look!
And from sleepwear you moved on to medical scrubs?
It opened my eyes to the many applications of this type of “smart” material. As I started looking around at potential markets it didn’t take me long to see who could benefit the most. Nurses, vet assistants and dental assistants have been wearing the same type of cotton or poly-blend uniforms for decades. Considering the high-tech environment these professionals worked in it just made sense that they’re uniforms should be high-tech too. So we set out to create a material that truly speaks to the needs of healthcare workers. It’s not easy being first to market with anything but we couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve developed.
I understand that you do all your manufacturing in the United States. With so many companies outsourcing overseas what was the reasoning behind this decision?
My decision to open our manufacturing facility in the United States made sense on a few different levels. First, we’re currently the only scrubs company manufacturing in the U.S. so that’s a good point of differentiation. Second, it allows us to offer customization. Our customers can hand pick their design and color and because of the proximity of our facility we can turn around an order quickly and with better oversight.
And finally, it eliminates the upfront costs of maintaining a large inventory. And while our profit is only minimally effected we feel that it is more than made up for by the control we have over our product and the better customer service we can provide.
So as the “new kid on the block,” what strategies are you employing to get your name out there?
Our biggest success so far is to let our product do the talking. Word-of-mouth carries a lot of weight in the medical community and if one person wears it and likes it, not only will we have a repeat customer but they’ll recommend us to their colleagues. The apparel industry is partly driven by influencers and partly driven by personal choice. We’ve tried to accommodate both these elements. My belief is that it’s not about the ‘hard sell.” It’s about the “smart sell.”
For more information on Performance Scrubs go to www.performancescrubs.com.
To reach Kirby Best directly please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.