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August 17, 2017
After Merger, Local Company Plans New $10M HQ in West Philadelphia

Two years after merging, EMSCO Scientific Enterprises and SUPRA Office Solutions are plotting their next move - literally.

The combined company, which operates as separate divisions, is planning to build a $10 million headquarters for the business within the West Parkside Industrial Center that it now calls home. The move, expected to be completed over the next 18 months to two years, will allow the Philadelphia company to grow its staff of 20 to 100 employees.

The SUPRA/EMSCO team, from left, Lin Thomas, Charles "Ken" Carter, Partick M. Oates, Ismail A. Shahid and Derrick Suswell.

Lin Thomas, chairman and CEO of SUPRA and EMSCO, said its proposed 70,000-square-foot headquarters on eight acres will provide space for the company to consolidate its warehouse, loading docks and offices at one location - an improvement over the 20,000 square feet it occupies in separate parts of its current building in the industrial park.

"We really are in disjointed space here," Thomas said.

"Building a new headquarters is a necessity because of the business we are currently doing and deals we are close to closing," Carter said. "If we close just a few of those deals we'll be out of space. We need a state-of-the-art facility to serve our customers."

The minority-owned company - which consists of SUPRA selling office products and furniture and EMSCO selling scientific products - expects to generate revenues of between $25 million and $30 million over the next 12 months.

SUPRA's four partners - Thomas; Carter; Derrick Suswell, the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer; and Ismail A. Shahid, the executive vice president for sales and government affairs - all share accounting backgrounds.

Thomas and Carter first worked together at an accounting firm started by Thomas, who later joined a corporate client in the office products business. Suswell, who had initially worked in the accounting firm as a student intern, was recruited by Thomas, to work in the accounting department of the office products company.

Shahid's dad had been a client of Lin's accounting firm. Shahid worked at the office supply company as an intern and later, after attending college, was hired full time. One year following the passing of the founding and major shareholder of the office supply company, Thomas, Carter, Suswell and Shahid together founded SUPRA Office Solutions Inc. in June 2011.

SUPRA's customers include Universal Companies, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pennsylvania, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Jewish Family and Children Services, and Dow Chemical.

EMSCO, founded 1980 by former ARCO Chemical Co. executive Evalind Minor, sell laboratory and research supplies and equipment, chemicals used by pharmaceutical manufacturers, and industrial chemicals. The company has well-established strategic partnerships - but also sometimes competes - with larger wholesalers and distributors such as Avantor Materials Inc., Corning and VWR Inc. (Avantor of Center Valley, Pa., is in the process of acquiring Radnor-based VWR.)

Carter said when SUPRA was first founded, the partners envisioned growing by acquiring businesses. About three years ago Shahid, through his contacts, learned Minor and her business partner Rod Clifford Sr. were looking to sell EMSCO so they could retire. "We talked with them, but initially we said no," Carter said. "We wanted to wait and focus on our industry and see if the opportunity would come back later. Eight months later it did. A deal [EMSCO] had fallen through."

Suswell noted over the past decade the office supply industry has shrunk.

"Some of it has to do with technology," Suswell said. "We are selling less toner and paper as companies put more and more information on thumb drives."

The acquisition of EMSCO provided a way for SUPRA to enter a new business line using its already established infrastructure. The acquisition also allowed it to generate additional revenues from many hospital and university clients that were already SUPRA customers.

"The synergies were there," Carter said.

Among the new clients EMSCO has brought in? Temple University, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Bristol Myers Squibb.

Shahid said the new headquarters will allow EMSCO to offer much-needed warehousing services to its university clients, particularly those nearby in and around the city.

The new site, like the old site, is on Parkside Avenue in an area classified as a HUBZone, a Small Business Administration program that provides enhanced federal contracting opportunities for small companies that operate and employ people in historically underutilized business zones.

SUPRA, shortly after the merger, hired Patrick Oates to lead the business development efforts for EMSCO.

Oates had spent more than a decade in product development and marketing at several pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Aventis and Wyeth.

"I was looking for an entrepreneurial activity," Oates said. "I'd been through all the M&A action and was looking for an opportunity to grow something."

Seated around a conference table with SUPRA's four partners, Oates said: "These guys are all accountants. When they sit around and talk numbers it blows my mind, but I'm the guy who can talk about things like immunotherapy. We complement each other."


February 24, 2017
EMSCO Scientific Enterprises, Inc. Donates Two Truckloads of Equipment to Cheyney University

EMSCO Scientific Enterprises, Inc., a West Philadelphia based provider of research equipment and supplies, recently donated two truckloads of lab equipment to Cheyney University. Dr. Patrick M. Oates, Senior Vice President of Strategy & Business Development for EMSCO, spearheaded the efforts.

"I love to support my HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges & Universities),” he said, to Science faculty members and administrators gathered in the University's New Science Center following delivery of the second shipment this month. The donations include protective clothing and apparel, gloves, dust masks and respirators, first aid kits, reusable and disposable bottles and jars, pipettes and pipettors, flasks, hot plates, general labware, cell culture, tissue culture products, Bio-production filtration, and much more. All will be used to help train Cheyney students in the STEM field.

“The donations that they’ve made will really help the department and the students that we serve,” shared Dr. Adedoyin Adeyiga, a Cheyney University Chemistry professor. “The glassware will allow us to expand the number of experiments that we do with students and also help train students in techniques that are important to companies such as EMSCO.”

 “Your gifts will not go unnoticed,” assured Dr. Pogue, as he thanked Dr. Oates and EMSCO for their generosity. He promised that all donations would be put to very good use in Cheyney's Chemistry and Biology laboratories.

February 20, 2017
Lincoln College of Science and Technology Receives $100,000 In Donated Biomedical Supplies And Equipment

Lincoln College of Science and Technology received about $100,000 in donated biomedical supplies and equipment from EMSCO Scientific Enterprises, Inc., a Philadelphia-based, minority-owned and operated laboratory supply and equipment company, on February 17.

The 37-year-old company, which was founded by an African American woman and sold to four African American men, Lin Thomas, Ken Carter, Derrick Suswell and Ismail Shahid, two years ago, offers a portfolio of organic and inorganic chemicals and products to the scientific community.

Alfayo Michira, a Chemical Hygiene Officer and Lab Manager for the Chemistry and Physics Department, Surveys the Donations
Patrick M. Oates, senior vice president of strategic planning & business development for the company, who said he has a connection to Lincoln because of family members who attend and have attended, and HBCUs in general, thought the equipment and supplies might be useful to the college for student and training purposes so he contacted the university.

“I kinda grew up on this campus coming to homecomings and such so I have an affinity to Lincoln,” said Oates, whose grandfather, Urias Oates, and father, Milton U. Oates, respectively are 1932 and 1952 Lincoln graduates and his niece and nephew currently attend. “We (the company) were literally going to throw it (the supplies and equipment) in the trash. All this is brand new equipment and products. It can’t be used in biomedical research anymore because it is more than three years old. It may skew data because the flasks, petri dishes and other supplies are treated.”

Oates, who attended Tuskegee University for undergraduate studies, received his doctorate degree from Howard University. Among the donated items were glassware and plastic consumables, including flasks, petri dishes, graduated cylinders and more that are used for biomedical research.

Chemistry and Physics department Interim Chair Robert Langley, who was on hand to receive the donation with Interim Dean Larry Shannon, was elated.

“I think it’s an absolutely great donation,” said Langley, who explained that the expired equipment was still suitable for the university’s uses and for training purposes. “It saves the university a lot of money and gives the students the opportunity to do more productive research.”

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses-Greater Philadelphia

Ken Carter said he enrolled in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses-Greater Philadelphia program at Community College of Philadelphia because, “Our company philosophy is based on self-improvement. You have to get outside of your business to learn things about your business. What attracted me to the program was that Goldman Sachs really targets your growth plan, and that was especially important to our management team.” He is a 2014 graduate of the program.

Carter is president and chief operating officer of Supra Office Solutions, Inc., located in West Philadelphia. As a successful African-American business owner, his skills in the financial management, growth and development of his office products company helped propel Supra atop the prestigious Philadelphia 100 in 2016 as the fastest-growing emerging business in the city.

Started in 1988 by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum of Greater Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Business Journal and the Wharton SBDC, the Philadelphia 100 has recognized companies like Urban Outfitters, Kremer Laser Eye Center and Forman Mills as they were emerging.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses-Greater Philadelphia at the College helps small businesses expand and create jobs by providing them with a practical business education, access to capital and business support services. More than 300 business owners have benefited from the program in the region, which began at the College in 2013. In April, 21 entrepreneurs graduated from the program in a ceremony at the Main Campus.

The program’s alumni have made significant impacts locally and nationally. The Maryland-based company net. America, owned by Clare Razaq-Hines, a graduate of the program, was awarded a $25 billion, 10-year contract with the federal government in February. In 2015, graduate Erin Reilly’s firm, Pop! Promos, was ranked in the top spot on the Philadelphia 100 list.

Supra Office Solutions was founded in June 2011, and is the result of more than 100 years of the diverse business experience of its founders and key associates, said Carter, 52, a New York City native who lives in Philadelphia. Along with Carter, Lin Thomas, Ismail Shahid and Derrick Suswell have cultivated a combined 60-year working relationship with major companies, suppliers and trade associations in the vast office products industry.

“In 2011, we began by pounding the pavement,” Carter said. “We started with four people and decided to grow the company organically. We put a lot on the line. We had the knowledge and we had the contacts, but it was a lot of work. Supra is really the outgrowth of a lot of business ventures we have been involved in.”

Soon after Carter graduated from the program at the College, Supra acquired EMSCO Scientific Enterprises, Inc., a 35-year-old medical equipment company. Today, the companies have combined annual sales of $20 million, Carter said, and they operate from the same facility in West Philadelphia. They are good corporate citizens as well, as EMSCO recently donated $100,000 worth of laboratory equipment to Lincoln University.

Supra employs a staff of 16 full-time workers, Carter said. “There is no way we could have done this without them, plain and simple,” he said.

A graduate of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and the Minority Business Executive program, Carter’s business is an outlier in Philadelphia. Pew Charitable Trusts reported recently that four out of five businesses in the city are owned by whites. Less than one in 40 businesses are owned by African-Americans. Asian-Americans own about 10 percent.

“This program was a great experience for me and worth the investment of my time,” Carter said. “I learned a great deal about sustaining my business and planning for growth.”

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses-Greater Philadelphia at Community College of Philadelphia is open to business owners across the Greater Philadelphia region. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Learn more at www.ccp.edu/10KSB.



Philadelphia 100

2017 Philadelphia 100, Ranked at #4: The Philadelphia 100 has been the hallmark of entrepreneurial achievement in the region since 1988. The project, which is run by the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Entrepreneurs' Forum of Greater Philadelphia (EFGP), identifies and honors the 100 fastest growing, privately held entrepreneurial companies in the Greater Philadelphia Region.
See the list at Philadelphia100.com

Inner City 100

2017 Inner City 100, Debuted at #2: Founded in 1994 by Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Porter, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) is a national nonprofit research and advisory organization and the leading authority on US inner city economies and the businesses that thrive there. Each year, we recognize, celebrate, and support fast-growing companies whose success illuminates the competitive advantages of being in the inner city.
See the List at Fortune.com

Philadelphia 100 2016

2016 Philadelphia 100, Debuted at #1: The Philadelphia 100 has been the hallmark of entrepreneurial achievement in the region since 1988. The project, which is run by the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Entrepreneurs' Forum of Greater Philadelphia (EFGP), identifies and honors the 100 fastest growing, privately held entrepreneurial companies in the Greater Philadelphia Region.
See the List at Philadelphia100.com

2016 Philadelphia Circle of Excellence Award, Finalist

2016 Philadelphia Circle of Excellence Award, Finalist: The program recognizes the region's most accomplished CEOs for business excellence in distinct categories. The companies are nominated from all size and industry categories, public or private. Each year, an independent committee of local business leaders selects the winners based on their industry impact and market leadership. The finalists are profiled in the November/December issue of Smart CEO magazine.
See the Philadelphia Circle of Excellence