Thomas Dempsey has founded and led several North Carolina-based companies in the outdoor industry, including SylvanSport, a Brevard-based company that manufactures popular compact RVs. As a creative industrial designer, his past work includes products in the medical and outdoor-recreation fields that have been featured by hundreds of media outlets. He lives in Transylvania County. We talked to him about how his company is dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Tell us about your business.
For the past 16 years, SylvanSport has been known for making the GO camping trailer, an expanding line of innovative outdoor products, and most recently, its VAST travel trailer — all from its factory in Brevard.
How has your business adapted to the current environment?
In early March, we saw our existing product sales screech to a near halt almost overnight. We have such a talented team of designers, engineers, and manufacturing experts that we knew we could take on almost anything. So we identified several products that are in critical need and began to address. Three weeks later, we are producing 3,000 face shields per day [and]working with our employees internationally to bring in tens of thousands of masks, protective suits and gowns. We also produce counter guards and foot-operated door openers in Brevard to provide to facilities of all types.
As a manufacturer, what are you doing to help the state?
Manufacturing and providing PPE [and] working directly with many local, regional, and state agencies who are on the front lines of providing health care services, first responders, and organizations who are working to match the producers (us) with the statewide organizations most in need.
What can other manufacturers do to help out?
I have seen so many manufacturers pitch in with their unique capabilities. Everyone can help!
What advice would you offer small businesses during these times?
Don’t give up! Self-evaluate to identify your core strengths, and you will then find ways to best deploy those strengths. Your core competency may end up being different than [what] first meets the eye!