We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Rick Caouette. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Rick below.
Alright, Rick thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. We’d love to have you retell us the story behind how you came up with the idea for your business, I think our audience would really enjoy hearing the backstory.
I am an entrepreneur. I have been one since college where opportunity met desperation. In 1995 I was running a sales department of about 22 sales reps. We sold oil analysis kits to monitor the condition of jet engines from the inside. Taking samples and looking for wear metals, one can determine the wear trends on a jet engine and head off expensive repairs. One problem arose in which the owner of this company was adjusting or manipulating the contents of his products to gain greater profits. Problem was, it was not exactly legal. The FAA was looking into unapproved parts being put on aircraft so I felt it a good time to exit and start my own business. I met with another entrepreneur who I went to college with, Bruce Smith. Over a hamburger and a beer we planned the new company whose objective it was to make high quality products, filters and hardware for aircraft that was cost effective and fully certified by the FAA. I consider myself successful and have had at least 10 businesses. Some successful and some not but all challenging. Some of the attributes that contribute to my success are qualities that can’t be taught however, they are developed by taking the bumps and bruises of getting things wrong, and right. In 2017 we developed an Nitrogen Gas Filter for Boeing and Airbus aircraft. We were a Parker Hannifin distributor and were selling a unit that they had developed for an Anti-flammibility system called OBBIGS and was just mandated to be fit on all aircraft carrying a certain number of passengers. Parker Hannifin could not supply consistent levels of stock for our customers needs and they kept raising the price. In the end the price had doubled and we were out as a distributor. We decided to reverse engineer the filters and run them through the FAA for approved under CFR 21.303 for Parts Manufacturer Approvals. It took about a year for approval. We contacted several airlines and set up distribution through a very large company named HEICO who had long reach and contacts at virtually every airline worldwide. We hold 30 FAA PMA approvals now for lots of different applications. From Canadair Regional Jets to Boeing and Airbus applications. Persistence means showing up again and again (and again) until you make it. We could have given up and went another direction when Parker Hannifin took our distributorship away but we did a work around. Persistence.
Rick, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
Global Filtration, Inc. has worked in the filtration sector of aerospace since 1995. 15 years with Western Filter, Donaldson and 10 years driving its own PMA products to the market. We are the only small manufacturer that has mastered the NGS filters for Boeing and Airbus systems as well as replacing the old micro-fiberglass technology with a new Metal fiber and has testing in place at Southwest Airlines and UPS. We have results showing a 10X maintenance cost savings by reducing contamination. By working shoulder to shoulder with HEICO, we can not only offer new technology to put our customers first to market. Oil, Fuel, Hydraulic, Air, NGS and water systems will generate big demand in the next several years. The global aerospace filters market was valued at US$ 1,049.4 Mn in 2018 and is expected to reach US$ 2,034.9 Mn by 2027 with a CAGR growth rate of 7.8% in the forecast period thru 2027. Thirty years of experience in aerospace filtration. We understand the manufacturing that needs to be done, have the contacts to produce products with stringent quality and full approvals. Developing new products and HEPA media treated with BioSafe5700 antimicrobial which will kill airborne bacteria and viruses without restricting airflow should be a major attraction for Commercial Airlines. We have over 30 PMA filter products and several PMA packets finished and ready to turn in. We will work to develop as many products and packets as needed to grow the PMA product offering and offer our expertise in filtration, our contacts, our vendors and our knowledge of the market to realize objectives as outlined.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
In 2019 we had one of the best years ever. But by early 2020 we were hit with the Global Pandemic with Covid-19. Air travel plummeted and orders were non existent. Our revenues dropped 40% and we had to figure out a creative pivot to keep the doors open. I ran across a company that was selling an antimicrobial product to kill microbes and viruses on contact. The difference between an product like bleach or clorox that kills on contact, is that it does not keep on killing. We developed our own product called Bio5700. The next generation of Anti-Microbial had arrived. We were approved by the EPA later that year and started marketing 3-(trihydroxysilyl) propyldimethyloctadecyl ammonium chloride- CAS # 27668-52-6 EPA APPROVAL # 98159-1 or Bio5700. Bio5700™ was born for mission critical applications over the next two decades. Being in aerospace applications for 25 years we understand the need for high level efficient products that work. When Covid-19 hit we explored several products and offerings that would help get people back to work with the confidence and trust needed to open things back up. We found that this product has been used for forty years in hospitals, on surgical equipment and in buildings to combat not only bacterial and viral problems but mold, mildew and odors caused by bacteria. We have looked at studies on this product from Ohio State University Hospitals, Dow Corning, The Cancer and Research Institute in Columbus Ohio, The Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Barnes Hospital and Department of Pathology, The Washington School of Medicine, and reviewed lengthy studies from PhD’s from the Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the Wayne State University Medical School in Detroit. All of these studies have one goal. To deep dive into the use of Antimicrobials and test the effectiveness on surfaces, in the air, and in everyday products to help us determine if they can get the world to realize customized clean surface applications to instill trust and confidence that our everyday space can be virus-free. We have applied this product to churches, schools, day cares, restaurants. Banks like the Houston Federal Credit Union, large resorts like La Cantera in San Antonio. Sales and Marketing company headquarters, commercial buildings and many more.
How did you put together the initial capital you needed to start your business?
We started with very little capital. I went to my friend and fraternity brother, Bruce Smith. Bruce has been an entrepreneur and several years earlier stated a company called Safety Vision, Inc. They sold back up cameras to companies like BFI and Waste Management so they could see behind them while backing up. He understood the ins and outs of business and was interested in helping another entrepreneur get started. So we borrowed some old Macintosh Apple computers, bought $300 worth of desks and chairs, an old phone system and printed up business cards and letter head. We leased a small executive style office that had a lady who would answer our phones and type up our letters for a fee. She had red hair put up in a beehive style and always had a skinny Virginia Slim cigarette hanging from her mouth. Bruce put up the funds and was officing above us. We bootstrapped his accounting girl to save even more money. We had a small office, 3 employees and a low overhead. Our first year we did $500,000 in sales. The next year we punched through over $1,000,000 followed by $1,500,000 the next year.
- Website: www.globalfiltration.com