LIMA — For a Lima-based producer of water and sports bottles and bicycle accessories, a “Made in America” label alone is not enough to separate it from the competition. Producing high-quality products with unique, customizable design features and an affordable price tag are also key.
50 Strong, located at 3765 St. Johns Road, Lima, has found its niche in a crowded global market by checking each of those boxes. Under the watchful eye of Waynesfield natives Brendan and Ashley Thompson, the company has teamed with corporate giants Walmart and Amazon to put its products on shelves and in homes across the globe.
The company grew out of Precision Thermoplastic Components, started in 1982 by Randy Carter, Ashley Thompson’s father. Approximately five years ago, 50 Strong landed a contract with Walmart and today manufactures many products under the Athletic Works logo, a Walmart house brand.
To keep prices competitive, Ashley Thompson said, it is crucial “to design from the front end of our products; to minimize the number of components and to pay attention to the selection of materials we use. It’s looking at the design process in a totally different way.”
“We know who we are designing for, and Walmart needs low prices,” Brendan Thompson said. “The whole concept has to be as efficient as possible.”
50 Strong also has products for sale through Amazon.com. One of the most popular is a “hydration tracker,” a water bottle with markings to let health-conscious consumers know how much water they’ve consumed in a day.
“We’ve risen to the top of that market pretty quickly,” Ashley Thompson said. “It’s a simple way to solve a common problem.”
The company also sets itself apart by customizing its products. A “World’s Best Teacher” or “World’s Best Nurse” hydration tracker, Ashley said, “is a healthy and unique stocking-stuffer that we can customize with a person’s name for less than $20.”
Ashley Thompson practiced corporate law for five years before she and Brendan started a family. About a year after the birth of the couple’s first child, she agreed to come back, temporarily, to her father’s company as a human resources specialist. Her husband already was working at PTC.
“We started talking about the future of the business and how it needed to evolve going forward,” Ashley Thompson said. “We knew we needed to determine how to best use the existing factory, the workforce and the technology we had.”
That evolution continues today, necessitated by an ever-changing retail landscape.
“E-commerce just keeps growing and growing,” Ashley Thompson said. “We are currently expanding into Amazon U.K., Amazon Japan and Amazon Canada. But you have to make sure what you’re doing makes sense. You have to look at what it costs to ship goods to Canada or the United Kingdom and ask yourself, ‘Can we do this at a value price?’”
“As we grow globally, we are doing so very strategically,” Brendan Thompson said. “We are very data-driven people.”
Ashley Thompson said the company strives to stay on the cutting edge of a rapidly changing business environment.
“We succeed because we are constantly changing. That’s how we blow away our competitors,” Ashley said. “We live in a ‘Prime’ generation. Consumers want it in two days, and they want it shipped free. Time is valuable, and our challenge is, ‘How do we make it all easier for people?’”