Playing It Safe

Davis Safety Supply Inc. turns ordinary products into extraordinary profits

Free delivery and a well-stocked inventory of safety and first-aid products helped James Davis build Davis Safety Supply Inc. from a home-based operation into a $1.5 million enterprise.
Davis launched his Kansas City, Missouri, business in 1993 with $500 to purchase business cards and stationery. He was able to secure a $2,000 line of credit from a local supplier, which allowed him to take orders from his clients and then purchase the goods to fulfill the orders, plus slowly build inventory over time.

Today, Davis purchases products directly from the manufacturers and ships the items to his customers. He has six full-time employees and four delivery vehicles that service over 300 clients throughout the state. Major corporate accounts include TWA, Procter & Gamble and General Mills. Another client is the Kansas City school district, where Davis supplies paper and plastic eating utensils for nearly all of the city’s 79 public schools.

For faster turnaround, he keeps in stock the more frequently ordered items, such as eye goggles, hard hats, fire extinguishers, safety boots and gloves, as well as everyday household items, such as soap and plastic wrap.

One of the company’s key selling points is free local delivery and shipping anywhere in the world. “My competitors require customers to pay extra for shipping. We’ll do it for free,” Davis explains. The discount he gets on air freight services helps, air as does the fact that most of Davis’ accounts are local.

Prior to starting this company, Davis had no experience in the industry. After dropping out of high school in the 10th grade and serving in the Army for two years, he got the entrepreneurial spirit. Over the years, the now-40-year-old entrepreneur has started several different businesses, including a grocery store and a lifestyle magazine.

Being unfamiliar with the safety supply industry was not a problem for Davis, who secured his first clients through cold calling–one of the most daunting ways to make sales. “I’ve always felt that I can buy a can of oil and make a net profit of $13,000 from that one can,” he says, adding that all you need to know is how a customer can benefit from your product. “We demonstrate to our clients how buying a $100 product from us can save them $500 in fines from OSHA. It’s challenging having to always stay on top of OSHA’s rules, because they’re constantly changing,” Davis says. “But it works to our advantage to be able to keep our customers well informed and to show them how they can save money in the long run.”

Davis Safety Supply Inc., 945 Winchester St., Kansas City, MO 64122; 800-622-7133

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