Bob Deerin is the president and CEO of Prime Life Fibers. He started his career at Fisher Scientific in various marketing positions after graduating from Fairfield University. Other positions included running sales and marketing in the United States for Gretag AG, a Swiss company. Kodak was the next challenge, where Bob served as director of the one-hour photo program for the U.S. He left large corporate America to start Prime Life Fibers.
What do you sell and to whom?
Prime Life Fibers manufactures and sells reusable incontinence briefs, panties, and bed pads through its Wearever and Hush Hush lines as well as cotton diabetic socks by Buster Brown. We offer stylish designs at competitive prices nationwide to help anyone with urinary leakage or circulation issues. More than 13 million people have urinary incontinence, ranging from new mothers to prostate cancer patients to seniors. Our products help them to feel confident and comfortable again.
What is the dramatic difference you offer your customers?
Ultimately, Prime Life Fibers offers people comfort and peace of mind. In addition to being affordably priced and long-lasting products, the Wearever and Hush Hush lines of underwear are reusable because of their washable fabric technology, which can be washed up to 200 times. This saves our customers significant amounts of money over the lifetime of the product, and also reduces the environmental impact of disposable diapers and pads.
What compelled you to start your business, and how long have you been in business?
I started the business in 2002 after seeing the thriving market in Europe for reusable incontinence undergarments but finding no equivalent in the United States. I saw an opportunity to provide quality incontinence undergarments and help thousands of people. Over time, we forged relationships with local manufacturers in North Carolina. We also acquired the Buster Brown line of socks to reach an additional audience in health and wellness apparel. Fifteen years later, we are still providing our customers with quality undergarments. We recently expanded our operations with a larger office space and fulfillment center.
What aspect of your business life causes you the most fear and trepidation, and how do you keep your fear from overwhelming you?
Moving through the next brick wall is any company’s challenge. Moving from $5 million to $10 million to $50 million in revenue requires great people and great teamwork. This is not a fear, but a responsibility to the company. It takes time and effort.
What about your business is the greatest source of personal pride? Why?
For the last 15 years, we have provided our customers with products that let them live their lives with comfort and dignity. I feel great personal pride that Prime Life Fibers has allowed people to enjoy the little moments in life worry free. Our customers can play with their grandchildren, travel or go for a run without feeling uneasy about their incontinence or circulation problems.
What are the smartest and dumbest things you’ve done in business?
I look for new senior demonstration products that are solution-based all of the time. Some work and a lot of them fail. That persistent experimentation has been a smart move. I have partnered with factories and associates worldwide, which has been smart. Failing to recognize changing buying habits years earlier has been dumb.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Gain more education and take more risks.
If you could ask your true business peers one question, what would it be?
What does life-work balance mean to you?
What does success mean to you?
Success to me is all about my family, my friends, and my employees having a fulfilling life.
What is the one tool you can’t live without, and how do you use it in your business?
Computing, allowing efficient communication, data transfer, and transparency.
Where do you go and what do you do to really unwind?
When I need to clear my head or just relax for the afternoon, I grab my golf clubs and head to the links. A round of golf is great exercise, providing both a physical and mental challenge.
What skill, interest, passion, or hobby do you have that surprises people, and why are they surprised?
I’m a pilot. I earned my pilot’s license 6 years ago. Flying takes preparation, focus, and a certain amount of skill, which is a lot like running a business.