By Erica Faye Watson.
Chicago Based Medical Supply Business Owner Pledges to Donate 100K Masks to Organizations in Need
Lucas Payne is President of Force Medical Supply, a division of Force Energy Group based in South Holland, IL. For years, Force Energy Group sourced LED lighting and other green energy products all over the world. In late March, Force Energy Group joined the Illinois Essential Equipment Task Force created by Governor Pritzker. They formed Force Medical Supply,
Registered with the FDA and began sourcing, importing, and manufacturing personal protective equipment. Lucas, who is a PPE expert did not start Force Medical Supply to get rich, but to get as much PPE in communities that would be hit the hardest by the virus. As a southsider Lucas knew that black and brown Chicagoans would be disproportionately affected by this virus. He decided to pledge to donate 100K Masks to organizations in need in Chicago, especially in communities hit hardest by the virus.
Most people probably do not envision a young black man from Chicago when they think of experts in the realm of Green Energy. But not only are you an authority on the subject, you are co-founder and President of Force Energy Group, LLC. How did you get your start in this industry and what inspired you to start the company?
In 2011 I was the Director of Operations for a Hydrogen Fuel Cell start-up company in Chicago owned by a group that also owned pizza restaurants of all things. While there I started exploring energy efficiency and LED lighting was an emerging technology. I immersed myself in all things energy efficiency and focused on how we could deliver new technology at a low cost to clients. I dug in, learned all I could, started a new business, and did over 1 million in revenue and never looked back. It’s great not only to have an environmental impact but help businesses, schools, and NFP’s save money on energy so they can appropriate those funds for more important line items.
If running a Green Energy company for over 15 years was not enough, in March 2020 you joined the Illinois Essential Equipment Task Force created by Governor Pritzker and formed Force Medical Supply. Now you are supplying gowns, gloves, hand sanitizers, and face masks to municipalities, state and federal government entities as well as businesses all across the United States. What was that transition like, and who are some of the people that you service?
As a business owner, you worry about your employees. I started out simply wanting to help first responders and most of all, keep my employees working. I didn’t have time to wait for PPP or EIDL loans from the SBA, so acting wasn’t an option. We were blessed to have a strong customer base, and years of experience importing goods from China and other places around the world. We circumvented traditional supply chains and went directly to the factory to deliver directly to hospitals and state governments. There has still been a lot of changes and a constant fluctuation in the market. We have had to stay aware of ever changing price points, new regulations from the CDC< product availability, and import/export rules that change daily.
Tell us about your 100k Mask Donation that you are making to the city of Chicago. Why is it so important for you to give back and help especially during COVID19?
Giving back is a fundamental part of what we do in our normal business at Force Energy. I am extremely blessed and being in a position to help, we had to act. I’m most concerned about our community, where resources are scarce and the death toll is disproportionate. We have to wear masks and get them to those who need them and can’t afford them.
What are some of the misconceptions that people have about PPE?
The worst misconception is that younger people feel like they don’t need to wear masks or social distance. They don’t understand that just because they are less likely to get sick, they can easily transmit to older relatives who are certain to have more complications. Young people are dying too. We also don’t know the long term problems survivors will have both young and old.
You have had so much success as an entrepreneur. Are there any words of advice that you would give to other young African-Americans who want to take the leap and start a business?
You can’t be a serial entrepreneur until you have had success focusing on one thing. I used to have a cell phone store, was a concert promoter, had a credit repair business. I gave all that up and focused on green energy for the last 10 years. When the opportunity to shift happened, I had the skill set, customers, and track record to be able to do something new. The main thing many new entrepreneurs lack is relentless focus on one goal. Every successful mogul you can think of first mastered one craft.
What are the most rewarding and the most challenging parts of being an entrepreneur?
The most rewarding is being able to break the cycles of poverty in my own family and glorify God by doing the best I can with what he has given me. The most challenging thing about entrepreneurship is the many hours I spend working and traveling away from my family. I can’t always be “there” even when I am present. I am working towards an increasingly more balanced lifestyle.
What’s next for Lucas Payne?
My wife and I have started our first project together. She is a beautiful, intelligent woman who has done well in corporate America but was never comfortable taking the entrepreneurial leap. We just completed our first new home construction and hope to have some real success in residential and commercial real estate.
Any organization in need of masks in Chicago and or Dallas can make a request here: https://forcemedicalsupply.com/request-a-donation