Originally from Moline, IL, Troy Olson, CEO and Owner of FitUSA Manufacturing launched his first business – 1st Place Volleyball – with his ex-wife Danielle, following a successful sales career with Caterpillar and 10 years with the United States Navy. Troy and Danielle grew 1st Place Volleyball and became one of the largest volleyball team dealers in the country. From that business came Olson’s second business – Rox Volleyball – in the fall of 2008. When an opportunity presented itself in 2015 to acquire Fabra USA, the original name of FitUSA Manufacturing, Olson didn’t hesitate to act.
“Before acquiring Fabra, we spent the previous 15 years as a whole seller & manufacturing volleyball apparel,” Olson said. “We found a lot of success and even became the official apparel of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. However, we saw an opportunity with the acquisition of Fabra to become more vertical and to put ourselves in a better position to control our own destiny.”
Olson added, “When your outsource things, you’re often handcuffed with what you can do and control. We wanted a quick turnaround on American made products.”
Rox Volleyball was originally headquartered in St. Augustine. When Olson purchased Fabra USA – based in Ormond Beach – he merged the two operations, made Volusia County the permanent home for each and changed the name to Fabrox before ultimately deciding on the name FitUSA.
“We took on the ‘monster’ of becoming an American made manufacturer,” Olson said. “We expanded the factory and went into all sports. Our motto for RoxVB is, ‘Where fashion meets performance’. Our motto for FitUSA is, ‘If you can think it, we can make it’. Using our knowledge, experience and new capabilities with the factory, we combined our expertise and created a full package with the ability to create designs, develop the product, manufacture the product and then also handle the logistics of packaging and shipping.”
FitUSA Manufacturing was quick to establish relationships with major players in the industry. Everything was on track and then COVID hit. Fortunately, Olson and his team were quick to pivot and turned what could have been an extremely challenging situation into a profitable and rewarding one.
“We saw early what was going on in Europe,” Olson said. “We started working on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before COVID hit the states. We took medical masks, cut them apart and reverse engineered them to create them out of fabric. On March 12th, I was asked to join a phone call with the Florida Department of Health, the governor, several senators and the presidents and CEOs of the major hospitals in the state of Florida. I was given a chance at the end to share how FitUSA was in a position to help. Within two minutes of that call ending, the CEO of Halifax gave me a call and we discussed working together.”
Olson continued, “We created a test lab for our masks and began working with Advent, Orlando Health, Baptist Health and HCA. From masks, we started producing gowns, booties, shoe covers and even curtain dividers for ERs. We also worked with Orlando Hospital’s Research and Development department on new projects related to PPE. We went from 38 employees to 125 in three weeks. We employed three other factories across the country and at one point; I believed we employed over 650 people making masks and gowns. What we did is a true testament to the American heart and soul. No matter what was happening in the world, we all came together and worked on a common goal.”
FitUSA has reinvested the majority of its profits from PPE sales into growing the company. With the purchase of 11 automated disposable mask machines and a dozen more on the way – each capable of making one million masks per month – FitUSA is in line to be one of the largest disposable mask makers in the United States. A point of pride for Olson is that everything in the mask is made in America.
“After appearing on CNN, we had a lot of people reaching out to us,” Olson said. “They were buying overseas, but wanted to support American manufacturers. Many of them were shocked to find out that everything we manufacture is done right here.”
Despite the success, Olson continues to work through a handful of challenges. As an American manufacturer, FitUSA is faced with finding skilled labor and controlling costs – a task much easier for overseas manufacturers. Nevertheless, Olson is determined to change mindsets and to do what he can to support other American manufacturers.
When it comes to what he enjoys most about owning and operating FitUSA, a recent recipient of the Volusia Manufacturer’s Association annual ‘Pivot Award’, Olson shared the following. “It takes me back to when I was in the Navy. It was truly an honor to serve our country. In our new capacity of producing PPE, I have that same feeling again. We’re doing something good for the good of our country. I also think that’s who we are as Americans. You jump in and help.”
Looking ahead, Olson’s goal for FitUSA is to become one of the major PPE manufacturers. He also wants to continue to grow the company’s reputation as a key name in the uniform and apparel industry. They’re pushing hard to be at the forefront of that business.
What advice does Olson have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Embrace the fear,” he said. “Buying or starting a business is a big step. Use that fear to your advantage. Also, be careful with your heart. Don’t always lead with it. Lastly, it’s important to have the energy and the vision to follow through with your goals, even when things look bleak. Keep driving.”
Olson also recommends the books Good to Great by Jim Collins and The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt.