started out slow and steady, but a recent growth spurt has landed it a spot on Inc. Magazine's
latest Inc. 5000
ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America.
The Saline-based mouthguard manufacturer came in at No. 1,130 on the 2016 list, released last week, with a three-year growth rate of 342 percent and $2.5 million in revenue for 2015.
Sassa Akervall, CEO of Akervall Technologies, says the ranking helps tell the story of the business and its products.
"Getting recognition this way is beyond fantastic and a great way of getting the word out that we are a company in it for the long run," she says.
Akervall's husband, Jan Akervall, got the idea for the company's flagship product, the SISU mouthguard, while working his day job as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Unimpressed with the guards used to protect patients' teeth in the operating room, he wanted to find something better and ended up designing his own.
After launching in 2008, the Akervalls kept overhead low early on by operating out of their basement and requiring payment up front from retailers and distributors. Sassa Akervall attributes the company's tremendous growth to a number of factors: recent award wins (including 50 Companies to Watch in Michigan
in 2014 and Accelerate Michigan
's advanced materials track in 2014 and 2015), creative marketing and sales efforts, and product research and innovations.
"I always say that we grew very slowly and very mindfully," Sassa Akervall says.
The Akervalls permanently relocated their family to Ann Arbor from Sweden in 2004. They fell in love with the area a few years before that, when they had moved here temporarily for Jan's post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan. A job offer in the area helped bring them back, but launching a startup wasn't part of the original plan.
Today Akervall Technologies is run from its own facility in Saline with a staff of 20 and openings for an electrical engineer, accounting assistant, and more production workers. There are also new products on the way, with the first of them launching this fall. Sassa Akervall says the company is planning to expand its facility in the near future to accommodate continuing demand for its product.
Photo by Doug Coombe.