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Our PPE Story: Building a Life-Saving Supply Chain

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” —Lee Iacocca, Ford Motor Company

It’s undeniable that our nation and our world are experiencing a time of “great stress and adversity,” one that hasn’t been experienced on such a global scale in decades.

In professional communities all over, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted both the foundation and the structure of many businesses, including our own. This pandemic has made a major impact on the economy at large and on our customers — which has also impacted us as a self-funded startup in Boise, Idaho.

Despite uncertainty, however, the desire to serve is in our DNA. As a veteran-owned company made up of entrepreneurs and go-getters, we were compelled to put our “energy into something positive.”

Making a Difference in the Age of COVID-19

Specifically, as the projected nationwide shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) came to light, we recognized we were in a unique position to help overcome this challenge — and to make a difference — both in our state and throughout the country. How?

Starting in 2018, SMHeuristics expanded our company with brokerage and import/export services to bridge US companies and customers with opportunities in Asia. (The brokerage bridges our go-to-market services and product import and export services for Idaho companies that want to work in Asia and vice versa.)

Over the past two years, we’ve established trusted partnerships with world-renowned organizations and respected leaders within the biomedical industry, both in the U.S. and in Asia — several of which manufacture and distribute the very medical supplies of which our country finds itself in dire need. Developing these relationships has meant multiple trips to Asia, during which we visited our partners in the healthcare, manufacturing, and high tech industries. One such visit, during Governor Little’s official trade mission to Taiwan last October, demonstrated to both local and international officials (as well as Idaho delegates) the value and importance of creating and fostering these connections.

So, with these connections in place, our team came together and took immediate action. Within three weeks, SMHeuristics expanded our business to become a certified importer of PPE and other needed medical supplies (you can find us listed on the United Nations’ PPE Import Directory). In this short time, we have established a complete, international supply chain path for distribution — directly to the doorsteps of hospitals in Idaho and other U.S. states.

To do this, we developed partnerships with Idaho freight companies, hired new members to join our team, and quickly learned to navigate the complex challenges of getting medical products from Asia to the U.S. Additionally, we continue to work closely with the FDA to ensure we meet all requirements and levels of compliance (we also have the necessary ISO and CE certifications). We have taken stringent measures to vet the manufacturers we are working with, and have even on-boarded a doctor to our global team who is helping us qualify all products we are importing into the United States.

With these measures in place, our small team has been able to achieve a Herculean task — quickly and without price gouging — all from our remote offices in Boise, Idaho. And, on Friday, April 10th, SMHeuristics delivered a shipment of over 500,000 masks to a healthcare provider in the state of Hawaii, a provider whose ecstatic medical team reaffirms why we do what we do: it’s all about people.

What This Means for Idaho (and Beyond)

Our team has been working around the clock over the past several weeks — talking to government leaders, community leaders, and hospitals to learn where their shortages are and help source their most needed supplies. We are working with a major Idaho hospital to coordinate shipments of PPE in the near future, with others on the way. We plan to continue sourcing necessary PPE products and building Idaho's stockpile as the need continues.

We have been contacted by governors’ offices and healthcare purchasers throughout the U.S. with the request to bring materials to other states.

These groups recognize that we have 1) successfully established a source of PPE through our partners and 2) created the necessary structure to get these supplies to local hospitals. During this crisis, we're maintaining our high standards — by sourcing ethically and maintaining quality assurance with the help of our team and partners. (In other words, we are not importing any products that are not FDA listed with the proper testing results and approvals.)

The Road Ahead

While SMHeuristics initially began operations as a bootstrapped, small Idaho business helping local companies with business development, channel development, and sales and marketing growth strategies, we are growing. And we are thankful to have spent time developing our brand and services in Asia over the previous few years, because this has laid the groundwork for us to serve a crucial need during a crisis of this scale.

We now find ourselves just behind the front lines of an ever-growing medical crisis, one that is likely to present significant challenges to our nation in the months ahead. And there’s nowhere we’d rather be.

At SMHeuristics, we appreciate the sacrifices being made by healthcare professionals around the globe who are working long hours to treat COVID-19 patients (while also tending to their own families). And we are proud to say we’re doing our part to provide these essential workers with the supplies they need as they care for the most vulnerable members of our respective communities.

Editor’s Note: We realize our own customers, fellow small business owners, and friends may be struggling at this time. If you are in need, we’re happy to help or to point you in the direction of resources that may help you get back on your feet. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

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