Partnership means work for those with special needs
Boost Oxygen teams with Kennedy Center program for assembly project
MILFORD — Business is up 50 percent this year at Boost Oxygen as demand for its product has soared during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
So, to help with resulting expansion, the company is partnering with an agency that employs adults with special needs.
CEO and founder Rob Neuner said the company will partner with the Kennedy Center’s Kennedy Employment Services, and the first project will be assembling display holders that will go into 200 Walmart stores as the company expands.
Neuner, who has a special place in his heart for those with autism and other special needs, said employment goes a long way in building self-esteem and a sense of purpose. The company will pay for the work, so it’s not about getting something for free, Neuner said.
“It’s a win-win,” said Neuner, whose late brother-in-law with special needs became his close friend. The two did a lot of Special Olympics activities together.
Neuner said he recently visited Kennedy Center and was warmed by the site of clients working on the assembly project.
“It’s heartwarming to see what they’re doing — it’s very special,” Neuner said.
Joan Nassef, marketing and employer relations manager at Kennedy Employment Services, said they were “delighted” to partner with Boost Oxygen.
The center supports the special needs of people of all ages with “intellectual, developmental, mental health, physical, and other disabilities,” it says online.
“It is exciting to be part of the growth of Boost’s business and it is a wonderful opportunity for our warehouse staff,” Nassef said.
“Each individual takes great pride in working to construct the displays and feels a sense of satisfaction when seeing the finished products in the stores they go to,” she said.
Boost makes a 95 percent pure oxygen that comes in a recyclable aluminum bottle. The product generally is marketed to athletes, those at high altitudes, older adults, those in locations with poor air quality and even as a hangover remedy.
Although the product isn’t medical-grade — the company makes that clear — sales have soared during the pandemic because pure supplemental oxygen was used to treat symptoms of the virus, Neuner said.
Neuner said people around the globe found the product while searching for supplemental oxygen and some even use it for “long haul” COVID-19 symptoms.
“When COVID hit hard here in the U.S., we went through a year’s supply of our canisters in three weeks,” Bill Banks, content marketing director for Boost Oxygen, said earlier this year. “We were completely sold out.”
The company has added 200 Walmart stores to the places where the product is sold and expanded to more than 2,000 Walgreens and numerous CVS stores, Neuner said.
“We’re doing great,” he said, noting they moved to a larger warehouse in Milford and sales are up 50 percent.
The company in 2019 received a $1 million boost on ABC’s “Shark Tank” from Kevin O’Leary, also known as “Mr. Wonderful.”
Neuner and Boost Chief Operating Officer Michael Grice appeared on the show to talk up their product — non-prescription, aviator-grade oxygen.
After a little back and forth, O’Leary and Neuner agreed on air that O’Leary would give the company a $1 million loan in exchange for a stake in the business.
A year after their appearance on the show, Neuner and Grice turned the tables, interviewing O’Leary via video chat, and asked him why he chose them when they pitched their product.
“It reminded me of trying to sell ice in the Arctic. That’s what I originally thought,” O’Leary answered.
“As the pitch went on, it started to make more and more sense as I heard him speak of high-altitude cities, performance for athletes, and it started to have meat on the bone,” he said.