Health Care, Manufacturing, and Small Business & Startups

Freedom Creators sells made in Michigan in Dubai

February 19, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Freedom Creators sells made in Michigan at Dubai trade show
Deb Tacoma, right, founder of Zeeland-based Freedom Creators, talks with an attendee at a health care trade show in Dubai. Tacoma was part of the Pure Michigan booth at the show. Courtesy Deb Tacoma

Deb Tacoma learned something encouraging about manufacturing in the U.S. at the International Medical and Health Care trade show in Dubai.

“They are all extremely open to USA-made products. They want USA. People there do not want to buy products from China, Japan. . . They will look at the package to see if it’s USA-made,” Tacoma said.

The Zeeland entrepreneur was part of the Pure Michigan booth at the Dubai trade show last month. The show is the largest international medical/health care products sales convention in the world, with 3,500 vendors represented, Tacoma said.

Tacoma is the founder of Freedom Creators, a small business that has a sales office in downtown Zeeland. From the office, she and her staff take orders for the FreedomWand, which she invented at her home in 2007.

FreedomWand is a multi length plastic tool for people with limited reach to use in keeping themselves clean. Like an extension of the human hand, the tool can grip ointment pads, a washcloth, disposable shaver or tissue paper.

Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women contacted her last year while seeking entrepreneurs with Michigan-made health care products who were interested in having a sales booth at the Pure Michigan display at the trade show in Dubai. Dubai is a prosperous city-state in the oil-producing United Arab Emirates, located on the Persian Gulf.

Tacoma qualified for a State Trade and Export Promotion grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The grants are to facilitate marketing for small businesses trying to get into exporting, and it helped cover Tacoma’s cost of attending the trade show.

Tacoma said she made contact with about 45 individuals at the show who are interested in buying the FreedomWand.

“They were very receptive to using the FreedomWand in a hospital setting itself,” she said.

Tacoma described her invention as a win-win-win proposition in a hospital setting: good for the patients who want to be as independent as possible, good for the nurses who would otherwise have to help that patient and good for helping keep down hospital staff costs.

Freedom Creators now has a staff of eight, marketing and filling orders for about 200 of the FreedomWand devices each month.

Tacoma said they aim to make that 500 a month by the end of the year.

The FreedomWand is made for Freedom Creators by ESS TEC Inc., an injection molding company in Holland.

While primarily a Tier 2 automotive industry supplier, ESS TEC also has customers in the appliance, medical, hardware, houseware, and janitorial industries.

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