FLEMINGTON, NJ – When a Flemington manufacturer of enrichment devices and nutritional supplements, for use with laboratory animal models, was in danger of closing its doors four years ago, Tim Fisher and Dr. Karen Froberg-Fejko went from long-time co-workers of the company to being co-owners of the small business.
Today, the co-owners of The Foster Corporation, which is the parent company to Bio-Serv and Radon Supplies were named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s New Jersey 2019 Small Business Persons of the Year. The award is part of this year’s celebration of National Small Business Week (May 5 – May 11) where the SBA honors and recognizes the achievements of small business owners across the country.
According to SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone, who made the announcement at the company’s headquarters in Flemington, Fisher and Dr. Froberg-Fejko were nominated for the award by TD Bank and were selected for the award based on criteria that include: Staying Power (a substantial history of an established business); Growth in Number of Employees; Increase in Sales; Financial Strength of the Company; Innovativeness of Product or Service Offered; Contributions to Aid Community Oriented Projects; and being Aided by the Programs and Services of the SBA.
Prior to becoming co-owners of the company, Fisher and Froberg-Fejko had over 45 years of combined experience with the two companies. Bio-Serv, which was started in 1970 out of the kitchen of the founder’s home, began by supplying custom made insect food for government research. Today, the company is dedicated to developing and providing products that meet the unique challenges of working with research animals.
Twenty-six years later, the second company, Radon Supplies was formed. This business has found a niche market in supplying radon reduction system components to professional radon mitigation companies.
Fisher began his career in 1985 and has worked in every department of both companies. Froberg-Fejko, a veterinarian joined the company in 2004. In 2014, when the company was in financial distress, Fisher and Froberg-Fejko approached the owner about purchasing the company. Once a purchasing agreement was made final, Fisher became the CEO and Froberg-Fejko became the President of the company, together owning all of the corporation’s stock.
The biggest hurdle they had to overcome was getting control of their Flemington facility. After three years of litigation, a 2018 SBA-backed $5 million loan from TD Bank helped the new owners to refinance an SBA loan that was under the previous ownership. The new loan enabled the pair to transfer ownership of the company’s 60,000 square foot facility built in 2014 to them.
Under their direction, the company has grown to 38 employees with sales in excess of $8 million. After nearly 50 years in business, Bio-Serv has added many new product lines and has 12 distributors worldwide. Fifteen percent of the company’s total business comes from international sales. There are nine distributors of the company’s products located in Australia, France, England, Germany, The Netherlands, China and Japan.
Bio-Serv is exclusively a B2B provider serving the Biotechnology industry and focuses on four categories that include providing a full line of laboratory animal diets, environmental enrichment products, and medicated and special needs products.
“We have been growing steadily, with 2018 being our best year ever, while reducing and restructuring debt,” said Fisher. “We have faced some unique challenges along the way, which we have overcome with the assistance of TD bank and the SBA.”
“It is a great turnaround story,” said Titone. “You have to give credit to Tim Fisher and Dr. Karen Froberg-Fejko, who had the passion, tenacity and vision to keep this small business going. They will tell you it wasn’t easy, but when you love what you do and spend a good part of your life working for something you believe in, you fight and work hard to keep that American dream alive.”
SBA Region II Regional Administrator Steve Bulger, who oversees SBA’s programs and services for New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and joined Titone at the Small Business Week award presentation said, “Today is about celebrating small business and shinning that spotlight on small companies like Bio-Serv and Radon Supplies that contribute so much to our local and national economies.”
“Hunterdon County is one of four counties in New Jersey that is designated as a rural community,” added Bulger. “That $5 million SBA-backed loan from TD Bank proved critical to helping Tim Fisher and Dr. Froberg-Fejko to keep their company going."
Earlier this week Fisher and Froberg-Fejko were honored in Washington, DC by SBA Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton along with the other state small business persons of the year. This year Pilkerton introduced Jennifer Herbert (CEO) and Jeff Herbert (CSO), the owners of Superstition Meadery, a producer of meads and cider from Prescott, Arizona, as SBA’s 2019 National Small Business Person of the Year.