Supplier Entrepreneur of the Year – Admints & Zagabor

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Amints & ZagaborBrett Hersh and Steve Weissman were partners of a company in the health-care field before selling it off in 1999. In their search for another venture, they hatched a small-but-powerful idea: a branded box of mints. Outsourcing the production and packaging carried too many risks, so the duo decided to bring it all in-house. “We went to a packaging show and saw a bright shiny big silver packaging machine that looked so easy to run,” recalls Hersh. “The guy pushes one button and everything works fine. We’re like ‘We can do this!’”

Unlike the demonstration, building up Admints & Zagabor (asi/31516) into an eight-figure supplier hasn’t been push-button easy. But the success of the company – five straight years of 20%-plus growth, a diverse product line far beyond that single box of mints – is owed to the single-mindedness of its two leaders.

Even if they come at it from two different angles. “We’re pretty much the opposite,” Hersh acknowledges. “We’re like yin and yang.”

Hersh, 45, is the glass half-full optimist. Weissman, 49, is the analytical pessimist. While both think big, Hersh thinks up ways to make it happen while Weissman chips away at the negatives holding them back. “Most of the time when we start a conversation,” says Hersh, “we have the opposite opinion of how we should do things. But we always come to the center.”

The approach has worked over two companies and nearly two decades. Certainly the two can’t be accused of taking the easy route when they started Admints. The supplier’s in-house packaging and design capabilities, admittedly an expensive way to do business at first, gave the Bellmawr, NJ-based company an immediate advantage.

“It’s a complicated product to make without a large investment. So we were smart enough, or dumb enough, to make that large investment,” says Hersh. The company was able to minimize its mistakes by controlling the process, and offering four-color process packaging long before it became a standard feature in the industry. The fact that Admints, a 2014 Counselor Distributor Choice Award winner, was offering what Hersh calls “free design services” was a boon to many distributors who bought into the idea.

Hersh says one of the keys to Admints’ early success was its big-picture focus, never rigidly prioritizing one order over long-term gain. “We always look at the intrinsic value, the value of the life of the customer and its potential,” he says, highlighting the supplier’s willingness to accommodate special requests or fix a mistake regardless of blame.

The supplier certainly has the big picture in mind now. In the last six months, the company has made its biggest investment ever in equipment, personnel, inventory, facilities and product safety. Hersh says the company is planning significant product expansion into other categories, and is also looking for strategic acquisitions. The expectations, he says, are “to double or triple the size of our company in the next three-five years.” – CM