In December 2019, Jon Picus, who was in medical sales at the time, was asked by his contact in Tokyo if he could help find masks and other personal protective equipment.
“They literally had zero in Tokyo,” he said. “I remember coming back [home from Tokyo] in January 2020 and half my flight had masks.”
Picus reached out to his good buddy Nick Hammond, who had a friend in Istanbul, Turkey, who he thought could help.
By February, Hammond was reaching out to a friend at McKesson Corp., the world’s largest distributor of medical supplies, to see what other type of PPE supplies were in demand.
That summer, they teamed up with Nikmal Abdullah to start a PPE manufacturing plant in Istanbul, officially forming Ecep Han — named after Abdullah’s father who had died. Between the three of them, they invested about $500,000 of their personal money to start the company.
Picus met Hammond nearly seven years ago when Picus was running a youth flag football operation and Hammond was a coach.
“I knew I liked Nick, and he introduced me to Nikmal,” Picus said. “We learned the hard way that the only way to control this is to manufacture ourselves.”
With the U.S. corporate headquarters in about 3,000 square feet of space at the Scottsdale Airpark, the manufacturing plant in Istanbul produces more than 10 million units around the world. Nearly 2 million of those medical-grade, FDA-approved PPE units are shipped to the U.S.
Abdullah runs the operations in Turkey, while Picus and Hammond run Ecep Han North America, which owns all the rights in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The company has distribution centers in Florida and California, in addition to its Scottsdale warehouse, which means local hospitals and health care providers could get a shipment within hours or days, Hammond said.
Supplies include masks, gowns, coveralls, custom shields and shoe covers.
Generating about $15 million in revenue in 2020, the company is on track to produce $45 million in revenue in 2021, Picus said.
The company employs 40 people in Turkey and four in Arizona.
The formation of Ecep Han comes at a time when coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, and especially in Arizona.
“Ecep Han immediately fills gaps in our strained national PPE supply chain,” Picus said. “Because we have secured extensive access to raw materials sourced in Turkey, we can quickly turn around a high volume of top-quality PPE at extremely competitive prices to those who need it most.”