2014 Regional Report: The Midwest

In the late ’70s, William C. Kennedy Sr. was working as a registered pharmacist in Salem, Ohio, selling such products as compounded lotions to individuals and farmers. Among his bigger sellers was a moisturizer that reduced cow udder inflammation; sales peaked during the cold Midwestern winters. When he observed that the compound also moisturized human dry patches, he got an SBA loan and began commercializing the mixture for humans under the name—amber pun alert—Udderly Smooth.

Using packaging that comically featured bovine hide patterns, Kennedy pitched the moisturizer to regional retailers. Sales went national when a fledgling account—the big Phar-Mor drugstore chain, headquartered nearby—began stocking the mixture chain-wide. A guest on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show touted the lotion on air; sales skyrocketed.

Kennedy envisioned a global market. Learning export basics from seminars at the International Trade Assistance Center at Youngstown State University, Kennedy and his team attended trade missions and reached out to distributors on three continents. Today, Kennedy’s company sells Udderly Smooth in twelve countries, while continuing to bolster domestic growth.

Neighborly help from area businesses, government agencies and nonprofit institutes helps many Midwestern companies land their first overseas customers. Experienced globalists from locally headquartered multinationals often mentor younger executives on their own time, reflecting the neighborly spirit that characterizes the Midwestern business style.

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