AllergEase expects to hire as its retail sales rise
Entrepreneur Zeeshan Kaba found the idea for his current business venture in his pocket.
When allergies started giving him trouble, he reached for a cough drop in his pocket. “When I put the cough drop in my mouth, a light bulb went off,” says Kaba. He wondered why there wasn’t an all-natural allergy remedy and decided to create one with the help of his cousin, Dr. Omar Javery, a radiologist.
Kaba was so committed to the project he put his Fairfax-based real estate company I-Agent.com on the back burner to get his idea ready for a trade show in Las Vegas with major pharmacies.
That commitment paid off for 30-year-old Kaba. Lozenges produced by Danville-based AllergEase now are sold online, in drugstores such as CVS and Walgreens and SuperValu grocery stores. In 2013, AllergEase reached approximately 13,000 retail outlets nationwide and this year it expects to reach 23,600 stores. In 2013, AllergEase garnered more than $1 million in sales, Kaba says.
AllergEase’s all-natural lozenges include organic honey, nettle leaf, elder flower and a dose of Vitamin C. On its website, the product sells for around $18 for three packs containing 21 lozenges each.
As its retail distribution grows, Allerg-Ease also expects to expand in Danville, where it relocated in 2013 after its start in Arlington two years ago. The company expects to invest $7.5 million in Danville during the next three years, creating 150 jobs.
AllergEase will receive $1.1 million over three years from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, Kaba says, based on the company meeting certain goals. Using money from a 1998 national settlement with major tobacco companies, the commission promotes economic development in former tobacco-growing regions of Southern and Southwest Virginia.
Though Kaba would have loved to stay in Arlington, it didn’t make sense “overhead-wise,” he says, because everything is more expensive there. (Kaba is still a silent partner at I-Agent.com.)
AllergEase has room to grow at its 4,000-square-foot distribution and warehouse center in Danville’s River District. The facility can expand up to an additional 3,000 square feet. Besides the distribution and warehouse center, Allerg-Ease also has a 1,500-square-foot headquarters building in the River District.
“Once we start growing out of these spaces, there’s so many opportunities here,” Kaba says of the River District, which includes the city’s central business district plus warehouse and manufacturing areas.
AllergEase products now are made in Pennsylvania, but the company plans to ramp up hiring next year when it starts producing the lozenges at the warehouse and distribution facility.
Kaba says that pay will be competitive for new workers, “and I would like to say it’s going to be better than what Danville is used to,” he says.
AllergEase’s goal is to hire 20 to 30 workers during 2014, based on how its product is selling. The company also plans to start packaging AllergEase at its Danville facility this year.