Small Business Success Story: Legacy U.S.

This Boise, Idaho, innovator pivoted its business model to overcome business disruptions.

Malcolm Hong Oct 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a disruptive event for small businesses, but many companies have turned this hardship into opportunity. For proof of this, look no further than Legacy U.S.

Legacy U.S. develops core technologies around pressure, temperature and flow. They sell products worldwide in the beverage, farming and medical industries and recognized an opportunity to use their technology to develop the Venspirator — a new class of breathing device that may help prevent the need for a ventilator.

Legacy U.S. CEO Kim Reeves and President Jeff Dalton share lessons learned from their entrepreneurial journey and offer tips for other business owners.

Man holding a gadget
Legacy U.S. President Jeff Dalton holds the Venspirator device that his company developed.
Photos by Emma Thompson/Greenbelt Magazine

What do you want people to know about your business?

As an innovation company, we love the challenge of solving complex problems with simple solutions, especially when our clients were told previously it couldn’t be done.

We relocated our company from Silicon Valley to Boise, Idaho, because we recognized the opportunities to support Idaho’s core industries — particularly farming — with our unique products. We’re impressed with the work ethic in Idaho and we’re excited to grow here.

How have you adjusted your business or business model in light of COVID-19?

The pandemic encouraged us to evaluate how our strengths, passions and products could be repurposed for other applications we would never have considered pre-lockdown.

For example, we realized our proprietary pressure regulator for draught beer systems had a new application: Being implemented into a new class of breathing device that could help patients with COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Anyone can be an innovator. Just start asking, “What else could this be used for?” And don’t do this alone — brainstorm with others to uncover your blind spots and discover new opportunities.

What were the lessons you learned from developing the Venspirator?

When launching a new product, it’s critical to focus on your unique selling proposition. When we developed our marketing kit, we emphasized how our product filled a unique need that wasn’t addressed by similar devices. For example, because our device is non-invasive, we highlighted how the Venspirator can help protect patients from the lung damage ventilators can cause.  
We also emphasized how the significant cost savings of our product could facilitate mass production and deployment, especially in third-world countries where ventilators are limited. We estimate that we can get the cost of a Venspirator under $100 at volume — significantly less expensive than ventilators, which can cost up to $50,000.  

Clearly articulating these features helped us gain media coverage and interest from other community partners.

How did the Zions Bank Idaho Business Resource Center support your business?

Attending the Zions Bank Business Resource Center workshops was a great way to strengthen our business acumen and network with other business owners. We first learned about the federal SBIR/STTR grant programs by attending a BRC workshop and we recently submitted a grant application for the Venspirator.

Additionally, the Idaho BRC staff played a critical role in connecting us with community leaders and resources to help develop the Venspirator.

How can people help support your small businesses?

Because our most impactful product is our Venspirator, we appreciate the community’s help in creating awareness of our device as we raise funding to test prototypes. We self-funded this project up to this point and now we’re looking for help to get it finished. We’re feeling the pressure that every day that goes by; lives are at stake.

What tips do you have for other small businesses facing hardship/challenges?

If COVID-19 is creating challenges and causing hardship for your “business as usual,” this is the perfect time for a change.

Figure out your strengths and passions and then focus on how you can deliver that to your customers a better way. 

Don't do this on your own — ask your employees, business colleagues, bankers and friends — they will see things you can't. When you create a new “business as usual" that works great during COVID-19, it will work even better afterward.  

Also, consider breaking your team free from traditional job descriptions.  What other contributions can they make to help your business not just survive — but thrive — during this time? To get the ball rolling, just be straight with everyone about what's going on, the business' challenges, and get people talking collectively about what they can do to help. 

You might be amazed at the unused skill sets you have at your disposal! This will rally your team and might make a world of difference for your business. 

As the top 7(a) SBA lender[cite::8031::cite] for 26 years in Utah and for 18 years in Idaho, Zions Bank’s team of relationship managers can help you find the right SBA loan[cite::8030::cite] for your business. Apply for a business loan online anytime or visit a local Zions Bank branch to learn more.

Malcolm Hong is Public Relations officer for Zions Bank in Idaho.

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