From Coffee To Clean Chemicals; Houston Young Entrepreneurs Pivot To Become Preferred Supplier Of FDA Registered USP Hand Sanitizer Products For National B2B Accounts

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Modern Chemical Company, founded by 20-somethings Constantine Zotos and Mitchell Webber in the midst of the pandemic, grows to sixty employees in six months.

"Our goal has always been to showcase a premium, American-made product and to achieve that goal over a few months with no vendors, financing, customers, processes, procedures, or systems is a testament to the great team we’ve built.”

From its inception in 2018 until earlier this year, childhood friends and recent college graduates Constantine Zotos and Mitchell Webber had grown their Houston-based, nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee subscription business to a staff of six with over 100 thriving retail and office accounts around Texas. In early March as Covid began collapsing demand for their coffee, the duo brainstormed ideas on next steps. With some quick thinking, they realized they could shift gears to fulfill society’s critical need for hand sanitizer. And it was then that Modern Chemical was born.

Using the same tenacity, creativity and charisma they harnessed to build their coffee business, they formed in just one week the new Modern Chemical, and by mid-March, their new company was fulfilling its first major orders with 40 employees. Today, the new company boasts a full-time staff of 60 and services an array of B2B clients ranging from local restaurants to broadline industrial equipment, janitorial and paper service, food service, and pharmaceutical distributors across the nation – all drawn to the company’s reliability, rapid lead times, private labeling capability, and the quality of their gel-based, FDA registered product with a 70% USP ethanol base.

According to Zotos, “Over the course of two weeks we went from looking at the end of our Nitro Cold Brew business to starting a new company and working overtime with 10 times the staff and fulfilling hand sanitizer orders in every major US region. Our core team didn’t leave the office for 3 weeks – we were bottling 24/7 and had to take turns sleeping - at least two of us had to be on the manufacturing floor all night to supervise - and during the day time we still had to work the phones to generate more sales. Our goal has always been to showcase a premium, American-made product and to achieve that goal over a few months with no vendors, financing, customers, processes, procedures, or systems is a testament to the great team we’ve built.”

Modern Chemical’s success has changed Zotos’ and Webber’s long-term outlook on this project.

“We approached this with the same ‘failure is not an option’ mantra that we’ve applied to every challenge that has come our way. We no longer see ourselves as borrowing time in this space,” said Webber. “We have no idea how long Covid will affect the marketplace, but today we are competitive in this industry and don’t intend to change anytime soon.”

Modern Chemical operates from a brand new location better suited to its needs, which includes a blender and bottling line installation. It is currently generating 15,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per day in pump top in a variety of sizes (8, 12, 16, 32, 64 oz. and 1 gallon) helping to meet the demand for this potentially life-saving product. While Modern Chemical is doing all it can to meet the needs of its customers, at the same time, Zotos and Webber are positioning Modern Chemical for continued evolution. Modern Chemical’s new facility is being hazard rated which stands to open opportunities to bottle a variety of other products.

And Modern Chemical’s ability to customize its products to its customer’s needs is helping to further drive the brand. With Jake McDermott serving as Modern Chemical’s new brand manager, client options are expanding well beyond private and custom labeling for the hand sanitizers. In addition to choosing from a wide selection of stock bottles in varying sizes and shapes, Modern Chemical’s customers can now design the vessel to their preferences. Also in the works are custom scenting and color dyes, plus specialty dispensing stands.

Although the serial entrepreneurs have been all sanitizer all the time, they haven’t forgotten what brought them together. While the coffee company continues to supply existing nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee accounts, no new clients are being taken. With the future of traditional office work now in question, the group is taking this time to rebrand from scratch with a variety of different offerings and new look. This new era for the duo’s premium coffee recipe is slated to launch in Q1 2021.

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