Startup and Repeat

Nano Magic, in Madison Heights, executes a turnaround plan.
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Full Circle - Tom J. Berman, president and CEO of Nano Magic Inc. in Madison Heights, is joined in the business by his father, Ronald J. Berman, co-founder of Rock Financial (now Rocket Cos.) in Detroit. // Photographs by Matthew Lavere
Full Circle – Tom J. Berman, president and CEO of Nano Magic Inc. in Madison Heights, is joined in the business by his father, Ronald J. Berman, co-founder of Rock Financial (now Rocket Cos.) in Detroit. // Photographs by Matthew Lavere

Most companies go through a single startup phase. Nano Magic Inc. in Madison Heights, which got its start in October 2018, spent its early days turning around a struggling, debt-burdened enterprise, PEN Inc.

The new management team focused on rebranding a promising line of cleaning products which utilize nanotechnology to help keep glass, porcelain, and ceramic surfaces clean from dirt, fingerprints, and other debris. The solution lasts over several weeks, and is formulated and bottled in-house.

Recognizing there was value in a nearly bankrupt business that got its start in 1985, Tom J. Berman; his father, Ronald J. Berman, co-founder of Rock Financial (now Rockets Cos. in Detroit); and other investors acquired the company. At the time, it was based in Cleveland, and operated an R&D facility in Austin, Texas.

“The people who were running PEN never figured out how to integrate well, they spent millions of dollars on R&D, outsourced too many things, and were falling apart,” says Tom J. Berman, president and CEO of Nano Magic. “We performed triage on what was $2 million in debt by settling everything, and we dealt with what were a lot of skeletons in the closet.”

Tom J. Berman, CEO of Nano Magic, demonstrates the anti-fog product offering from the company.
Tom J. Berman, CEO of Nano Magic, demonstrates the anti-fog product offering from the company.

In November 2020, the company, renamed Nano Magic, moved to a large facility in Madison Heights from Cleveland. Nearly everything that had been outsourced was moved in-house. During the same period, the new team, which today numbers more than 40 employees — including three people who worked for PEN in Cleveland — launched a marketing and direct-to-consumer campaign in the clean surface space, which is dominated by Windex, Dyson, and others.

“We saw an opportunity to mend some of the bridges; build new bridges; become a global brand with lens cleaning, screen cleaning, and anti-fog solutions; and get into household and automotive categories, which we’re doing now,” Berman says.

Two new offerings — Anti Fog + Lens Cleaner and Force Field Windshield Protection — complement seven product lines in the consumer, health, industrial, and government sectors. Along the road to recovery, Nano Magic saw mask mandates generate significant demand for fog-free glass lens solutions.

Riding the surge, the company reported its first profitable quarter in years. When the investors acquired the business, it was generating $30,000 a month in sales. The following year, in 2019, revenue was $1 million, followed by $4 million last year. For 2021, revenue is on pace to reach $8 million.

“Our two-in-one lens cleaner and anti-fog solution is like your combined shampoo and conditioner,” Berman says. “We’re taking it directly to consumers, we’re on Amazon, and we’re expanding our entire retail portfolio in big box stores like Best Buy, Walgreens, Lowe’s, and Walmart. We like our chances going forward.”

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