Ohio University

Local entrepreneur and TechGROWTH Ohio client produces protective equipment to serve community during pandemic

John Saunders Proven Cut

John Saunders knew he had to find a way to help out the community during the pandemic, and reorienting his company, Saunders Machine Works, enabled him to jump in and support those battling COVID-19.  

Saunders Machine Works, located in Zanesville, Ohio, is a manufacturer of CNC machine fixture plates and workholding accessories. ProvenCut, which became a TechGROWTH Ohio client company in 2018, is an innovative outgrowth of Saunders’ original company, focusing on providing a digital resource and subscription-based service for users of CNC machines. 

After a conversation with a local doctor, who was struggling to obtain personal protective equipment and a medical mask shortage, Saunders decided to help provide these essential products.

Saunders manufactured face shields based on an open-source instructions released by product design company Delve. Once the design was approved, Saunders purchased around 800 sheets of 2×4 material from a company in Minnesota. 

“The expensive material was worth it because I get to use it to help my community and help protect those at the frontlines who are doing all they can to fight this disease,” Saunders said.  

Saunders produced 5,000 face shields in the first week. He also sent 1,000 masks to grocery stores in the tri-state area of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. 

“As long as we can make a few bucks that covers our labor and our overhead material cost, we don’t need anything else,” Saunders said. “It’s not just about the money here. It’s about making sure folks can have protection and can be safe.”  

One of the Ohio Third Frontier’s entrepreneurial service providers and a program of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, TechGROWTH Ohio provides technology start-up companies in the 19-county Southeast Ohio area access to business assistance and sources of capital. More than 2,200 area start-ups and entrepreneurs, have generated over $590 million in additional local economic activity with TechGROWTH Ohio’s support. 

“TechGROWTH’s clients are not only innovative but they are also resourceful and we have been extremely impressed with the way so many of our region’s entrepreneurs and startup founders have stepped up to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, in support of the region, the state and the nation overall,” said Jane New, manager of investments and new business development at TechGROWTH Ohio.

Saunders and ProvenCut have reinforced this philosophy of pitching in to provide resources and assistance to the community in which he lives and works. 

“We want to get past this. We want to get back to normal where we can make whatever we want to make,” Saunders said. “But in order for us to get there, we have to first make sure our healthcare workers have all the tools they need to fight this disease.”