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SBDC Best Small Business | Akervall Technologies Inc

Michigan Celebrates Small Business
May 10, 2019 9:00 AM

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In a lead-up to 2019's Michigan Celebrates Small Business Gala Celebration Jeffrey Mosher spoke with several winning companies from this cycle.

Here, he has a conversation with Sassa Akervall, CEO of one of SBDC Best Small Business Honoree 2019, Akervall Technologies Inc, Saline, MI

To Listen to their full interview please click on the embedded SoundCloud PodCast shared below!

Akervall Technologies has been selected the 2019 “Michigan SBDC Best Small Business of the Year” by Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB), a small-business awards program. Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is managing partner of the program.

Akervall will receive the prestigious award at MCSB’s 15th annual awards ceremony, Wednesday, May 8, in Lansing. MCSB will recognize 86 of the 600 companies that were nominated for the 2019 awards based on their growth and contributions to Michigan’s economy.

“This honor by Michigan SBDC is amazing,” said Sassa Akervall, CEO and owner of Akervall Technologies. “I am humbled and incredibly excited for recognition of the Akervall team. Our company success is the result of the cumulative work of our team. We’re not only preserving dental health around the world, but also creating jobs here in Michigan.

“The help we have received along the way has been crucial for our growth, so thank you, Michigan SBDC, for supporting us in this remarkable journey.”

Akervall manufactures ultra-thin, impression-less, custom-fit mouthguards for the sports, dentistry, military and hospital markets. The USA-made mouthguards are sold in approximately 50 countries.

Committed to cutting-edge dental protection technology, Akervall developed a multi-patented, non-compressible, thermoplastic polymer for its mouthguards that is stronger and thinner than conventional mouthguards – most Akervall guards are thinner than a quarter. SISU Mouthguards, SOVA Night Guards and Intuguards allow users to talk, drink and breathe normally.

The small businesses that will be recognized by MCSB were selected by judges from Michigan’s banking, economic development, entrepreneurship development and venture capital communities. Akervall was nominated for the award by Ron Stevens with SBDC Greater Washtenaw Region.

Founders of Michigan Celebrates Small Business are Michigan Small Business Development Center, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Small Business Administration - Michigan, Edward Lowe Foundation, Michigan Business Network and Small Business Association of Michigan. Founding sponsors are Michigan Economic Development Corporation, PNC Bank, AF Group and Dynamic Edge Inc.

For information about Michigan Celebrates Small Business, visit www.MichiganCelebrates.org.

Akervall-SassaSassa Akervall, CEO of Akervall Technologies Inc 

Sassa Akervall has a BA in communication from the University of Lund, Sweden. Before becoming CEO and the majority owner of Akervall technologies Inc. (ATI) she worked as a copywriter, TV host for her own shows, TV producer, writer/reporter and children’s books author. She has taken ATI from the kitchen table with $5k in revenues 2009 to 24 employees in 2017, a consistent 50% annual growth rate, owning her own plant, and with global partners like Reebok/CCM and a Swedish subsidiary. She has won several awards for the company, e.g. 50 Companies to Watch in Michigan 2014, Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition – Advanced Materials in 2014 and 2015, Enterprising Women of the Year nominee 2015 and STEP Ahead Award 2016. In 2017 Sassa, and her husband Jan were both finalists in the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year competition. She is a member of SBAM’s Board of Directors, Saline Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and on the Advisory Board of Enterprising Women Foundation for the second year in a row.

In her spare time, Sassa enjoys spending time with her husband, Jan, the co-founder, president and inventor of ATI’s products, and their two adult children. She also enjoys entertaining guests for dinner, and of course hanging out with her two large dogs, Stella and Artie, both are Black Russian Terriers.  

Akervall-Team-2019ABOUT AKERVALL TECHNOLOGIES INC

Jan Akervall, MD PhD, an ENT surgeon ranked among the top 1% in his field 4 times in a row, invented the SISU Mouthguard in the operation room, to better protect the teeth of his patients. Together with Johannes Schwank, a world renowned Chemical Engineer from the University of Michigan, he founded Akervall Technologies Inc. (ATI) in 2009. The ultra thin, ultra strong and comfortable mouthguard turned out to be perfect for sports. Sassa Akervall, Jan’s wife, has a strong background in media, advertising, and communications, and started marketing the product from the kitchen table. Ann Arbor SPARK was important for ATI throughout the first initial years by providing expert consulting assistance and offered a network that quickly expanded ATI’s operations. In only 2 years, ATI, was profitable with 6 employees. The product line had grown to cater to all age groups and a wide variety of sports, and a night guard was added to accommodate demands from customers.

“…it has been our goal to bring groundbreaking, protective technology out of the operating room and into the home of every athlete and night grinder.”

Sassa Akervall grew the business grew from the kitchen table to the basement of the Akervall’s residence, and later into a 16,000 sq ft plant in 2014. Packaging and fulfillment of the US manufactured products were brought in-house and the marketing and sales departments grew. A large research laboratory was built and ATI received a phase I SBIR grant from DoD in 2012 and has received phase I, phase II and phase IIB grants from NSF for advanced polymer science.

Today, ATI employs 27 people, 4 of which in Sweden, and the mouthguards are distributed all over the world. ATI has strategic partnerships with CCM/Reebok and a number of national sports organizations. The company grows 50-60% annually and has received multiple awards throughout the years. In 2016 & 2017 ATI received the Inc. 5000 awards as one the fastest growing privately held companies in the USA and Jan and Sassa recently received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.
 
More photos are included in the slideshow shared below.
 

Spring 2019 Michigan Future Business Index survey

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