CHATSWORTH, Calif. – Eric Lundgren measures masks by the million – 1.3 million to be exact.
That is how many Chinese-made KN-95 particle filtering he has inside his Chatsworth warehouse, waiting to be shipped to governments, healthcare facilities, and businesses across the country.
Lundgren’s business, Big Battery, made a big pivot in March. The recycling shop for old Tesla and Nissan batteries almost shut down during the safer-at-home order. In fact, Lundgren was in the middle of laying off an employee when he just couldn’t go through with it, and decided to find a better way forward.
“Well, not that many people are buying batteries so, as a social entrepreneur, we try to give the world what they need,” Lundgren said.
Big Battery’s pivot began with what they do best – providing power. Lundgren sent 34 mobile generators to local hospitals to power their parking lot triage centers. The generators typically sell for $40,000, but for the hospitals, they are on loan for free.
“We wouldn’t be able to stay open if we weren’t helping first responders so it’s a win-win,” Lundgren said.
Like any successful business man, Lundgren has pluck and luck. Seventy percent of his business was already in China, he speaks fluent Mandarin, and even lived in the part of the country now manufacturing medical supplies.
His connections here and abroad have helped him get masks, sanitizer, wipes, goggles, face shields, and more. To get the Chinese equipment to California, he has leased 747 passenger airplanes and packed in masks by the millions. A stop in Singapore helps him avoid delays caused by the U.S.-China trade war.
Once the masks clear customs, they are re-boxed and distributed throughout the county. He is selling to the city of Los Angeles and to Fortune 500 companies clamoring to get their assembly lines back up and moving.
“No, we’re not making a profit,” Lundgren said, “More importantly we are employing everybody and staying in business.”
In the next two months, Lundgren expects to bring more than 50 million masks into the United States. More than enough to keep his business – and plenty of Americans – alive.