Kent State Stark Graduate, RedHawk Entrepreneur Blake Gibbs Manufactures PPE During Pandemic
Just a Kid from Hartville
The hot sun beat on the pavement as customers, wheelers and dealers scurried around the crowded Hartville Flea Market. A small group of curious shoppers gathered around the “ZingAnything” booth, manned by several Lake High School students.
Blake Gibbs knew then he was on to something. While outsiders may have seen “just a kid from Hartville” with a newfangled gadget, this 15-year-old budding entrepreneur had an eye for new products.
And, in 2012, fruit-infused water was just beginning to trend. The ZingAnything water bottle, designed by Gibbs and his cousin Josh Lefkovitz, provided users the option of taking any fruit or vegetable to add a little flavor and extra health benefits to plain ole H2O.
In the months and years that followed, ZingAnything became an enterprise, offering customers 30 different, innovative fruit-infusion products. The water bottles were eventually sold nationally at Brookstone, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, QVC and more. Gibbs and his partner were approached twice by ABC Network to be on “Shark Tank”, first for the ZingAnything products and second for the iTens electrical therapy device they later developed. Since then, ZingAnything has been sold to a larger corporation, and the duo’s iTens device is being sold by pharmaceutical companies.
These days, Gibbs, a recent 2020 Kent State University at Stark graduate, has used the business knowledge learned early on as a springboard for an opportunity spurred by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Gibbs currently works for Brighteye Innovations, a large corporation in Akron that owns many subsidiary companies including the one he works for, Pain Management Technologies (PMT) Medical. In the last two years, Gibbs started RedHawk Supply, the business arm that contracts with the government. As it did for nearly all businesses, the global pandemic changed everything, and RedHawk’s main goals became manufacturing and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) all over the United States.
“We were able to, in a short span, pivot the entire company,” said Gibbs. “What was interesting was we were all able to adapt. We are a team of 15 people here in Akron. Everybody was able to step up to the plate, and I think that goes to show the type of people that we have at our company who were willing to go above and beyond. A lot of us work seven days a week, 16-hour days – for two months I did that.”
Still a Kent State Stark student at the time, Gibbs recalled the expanse of it all, “I was sitting in (Applied Communication professor) Patrick Dillon’s class never thinking that…I’d be chartering a plane to fly to Asia to pick up millions of masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer and thermometers.”
PPE has been distributed from RedHawk Supply to businesses large and small, locally and nationally, and they are prepared if and when cases rise again. Although he could not give an exact number, Gibbs noted that the number of supplies distributed by the company is in the millions and continues to increase.
“I think my favorite experience from this was being able to, not necessarily travel during a pandemic, but load up planes and deliver the product to strategic places throughout the U.S.,” he said. “Being able to give that product…to somebody who has to be on the front lines and continue to keep the country moving, that’s a huge thing that, as a Hartville kid, I never would have thought I’d be in a situation where I’m able to help other people and help them in a way that no one else could.”
As people and companies continue to need PPE, Gibbs and his company will be there, and we have a feeling they would agree — he’s more than just a kid from Hartville.