New neighbors: Medical supplies manufacturer relocating to Katy

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 8/11/22

The pandemic brought a growing need for medical supplies. Yet supply chain issues have made it tougher for some of those products to reach the American market.

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New neighbors: Medical supplies manufacturer relocating to Katy

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The pandemic brought a growing need for medical supplies. Yet supply chain issues have made it tougher for some of those products to reach the American market.

A company that is moving to Katy Sept. 1 is working to meet those challenges—and looks to add about 250-300 local jobs in the process.

Isikel—pronounced icicle—is a medical supplies manufacturer headquartered in Tomball, created in 2016. It is consolidating its management and manufacturing operations under one roof at its new Katy location, 28350 West Ten Blvd.

“We strictly stick with medical supplies,” Valerie Vickrey, Isikel cofounder and CEO, said. “We do source and distribute currently short supply medical items, so anything that hospitals are looking for that maybe they can’t get from the big suppliers, or hard-to-find items, we’ll track them down and get them for the customers. When we go to production, we are going to produce the nitrile gloves, normal saline in bags and then also saline flush and syringes. Those are our three production lines we’ll have there in Katy.”

The demand for medical supplies isn’t coming just from doctors and hospitals, however.

“People want to wear gloves, keep your hands clean, make sure they aren’t touching things,” Vickrey said. “PPE and medical supplies have just become relevant to the everyday consumer now.”

Supply chain issues have also played a part in the company’s growth and development.

“I really think the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the holes that we have in the supply chain, and that’s what we are doing, really, is looking to be a solution to help fill in those gaps because demand is on the rise for all of these products, but even more so domestically produced items are really sought after,” Vickrey said. “What we have done is created a strategic marketing plan around domestic manufacturing. And through our research and studies, we found that domestic manufacturing can best compete with foreign suppliers when transit lines are kept to a minimum.”

Vickrey said over 70% of normal saline comes from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory still working to recover from a 2017 hurricane.

“Anytime that there is a major disruption or storm in the gulf, then that creates supply chain issues, and it’s one of the biggest headaches for hospitals,” Vickrey said.

The new facility features 197,000 square feet. Isikel now has 40 employees, and Vickrey said it wants to hire more workers.

“We are looking to ramp up to somewhere between 200-300 employees,” Vickrey said. “What you find with a lot of larger companies is they have their distributor or manufacturer and it’s very hard with their contracts for them to deviate from that. But because we didn’t have these large manufacturing and distribution contracts, we were able to go in and buy a pallet of items here, 20 pallets of items there. And then we’d build relationships as we were going, so we were able to get more and more allocation as we both trusted the vendors and they trusted us. We were able to grow organically that way.”

Vickrey is a University of Alabama graduate with a degree in marketing analysis. She worked with a marketing firm before becoming a stay-at-home mother. Her son is 16 now, and she wanted to get back into the business world.

“I started selling promotional products and women’s boutique items,” Vickrey said. “That’s how Isikel came along. We started as a promotional products company and we were able to shift during the pandemic when actually some of our promotional products people are looking for masks and gloves. We were able to use her contacts define masks and gloves and we were like, hey, this could really be something. We ran both parts of the business simultaneously for almost a year and then we decided to split off and really just focus on the medical supplies.”

Vickrey said the company expects to have its formal ribbon cutting later this year, when temperatures cool down a bit.

Isikel, economic development

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