Tom Pendleton, founder
Native country: Scotland
Headquarters: Waukesha, Wis.
Tom Pendleton spent many years working in the sign and display business after coming to the United States, making such things as the neon signs for beer companies seen in bars and restaurants. But a few years ago, he had an idea, researched whether it was a viable business and came up with a product line, leading to the creation of an international company now doing business on three continents.
"I noticed that there wasn't too many safety products, especially for adults or the police or the emergency services, that had reflective vests that would actually light up," Pendleton says. With his background experience with LEDs and accessories, "I thought these folks should all be wearing LED vests."
"We came up with a whole bunch of safety products that we thought were very practical and unique and should serve the consumer or emergency care or for commercial companies preaching safety," he says.
In 2006, Pendleton and his wife started SafetyBright.com with their savings, offering safety products designed to increase visibility for consumers as well as law enforcement and emergency responders.
Through his contacts and friends abroad, the company has been able to expand from the U.S. to Europe and Asia. A friend in the U.K. with a print design business has taken over running European operations. Pendleton, through an old connection in Hong Kong, is able to import some products made in China.
Pendleton says starting a business in the U.S. was definitely easier than the U.K., due to the extensive paperwork and bureaucracy there. But perseverance still was key when starting the business, he says.
"I knew it was going to take three to five years for the business to take off and become fully profitable," Pendleton says. "I knew that I would have to invest and it took lots of time and energy with little reward for the first several years. My wife and I were willing to do that."