Benefit Medical Apparel is one of three veteran-owned businesses that was awarded $25,000 from the Bob Evans Farms Heroes to CEOs Veteran Business grant program, which is in its second year. Along with the grant, winners receive business coaching from Shark Tank investor Daymond John.
James Reynolds, an Air Force veteran, co-founded Benefit Medical Apparel to produce more form-fitting, athletic scrubs for medical professionals. He got the idea for the “athletically engineered medical apparel” when he was in pharmacy school and worked at a pharmacy.
“I used to have to wear scrubs,” he said. “And I was just like, man, these are awful. And I was getting into fitness in this time too.”
Reynolds thought surely somebody made some decent, comfortable, visually-appealing scrubs, but when he found out nobody did, he decided to fill the void for a better option to the traditional, non-breathable, “potato sack-looking” cotton scrubs.
“The product is groundbreaking. It is something that has changed something that has been the same way for the last 50 or 100 years,” said John. “It’s stylish again and fashion, I happen to like that.”
“You’re taking your favorite athletic clothes, like yoga pants or just anything you want to workout in, you want to combine that with scrubs,” said Reynolds. “So you’re looking at higher quality fabrics, better-fitting fabrics, performance fabrics, just something that you want to wear, not have to wear type of thing.”
Business climate and tariffs
Confidence among small business owners are at a record high, as are the markets, and John said now is a great time to start a business despite tariff headwinds. “I think that technology has given us not only the ability to reach everybody but to make goods faster, wherever you’re making them from,” he said. “So I really think this is an excellent time to start a business.”
But the U.S.-China trade tensions weigh on a number of businesses including Benefit Medical Apparel, which manufactures its products overseas.
“It is concerning, however, what’s more concerning is it’s going to hurt the end consumer at the end of the day, it’s not going to hurt the retailers as much,” John said. “If my cost is going to go up 20%, I have to pass that on to the end consumer to pay for it.”
“Being veterans, we have looked at stateside manufacturing,” said Reynolds. “But like you said, when it comes to the textile industry, there’s not really much you can do in that specific industry at least.”
Veterans in the workforce
Reynolds funded Benefit Medical Apparel himself along with two friends from the Air Force and other veteran supporters. He said coming from a structured world of the military, initially it was a confusing process and they didn’t know where to go for help.
“It does give you a good building block on I wouldn’t say how to start a company, but just how to basically connect with other people.” said Reynolds.
John said he wants to help veterans succeed and feels inspired by them. “I started out 30, 35 years ago, they’re doing business a whole different way now so I think that it’s a symbiotic relationship I learn from them just as much as they learn from me,” he said
Veterans aren’t always well received in the workforce, said John. “Some employers, they feel that, oh, these people may come with issues and baggage, right?” he said. “I know some veterans who say, I don’t tell people that I’m a veteran, because I don’t want to have a lesser chance of getting employed.”
John commends veterans’ work ethic and discipline and said he enjoys working with and hiring them. “They know how to finish something and they will do anything they need to do to finish it,” They know how to work within a system, so I find them extremely, extremely proficient when working with them.”
Maylan Studart is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.