Sep. 4—For five years, Thomas Moulton worked to develop a reusable N95 mask designed for those working in the trades.
The Envo mask, made by Sleepnet Corp. in Hampton, launched in August 2019. Then, eight months later the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and sales skyrocketed. The company reached its annual goal for sales in a single day, Moulton said. As a private company, he declined to reveal the sale figures.
"We just happened to hit it right," Moulton said.
The mask, which uses the company's patented "Air gel" technology, is now marketed for the medical, industrial and public safety uses. The mask took about a $1 million investment to create, he said.
"I boastfully say this is the best N95 mask in the world," Moulton said. He bought every mask in the mark during his research to see what they offered.
"There was really no innovation, no new technology being introduced in this space pre-pandemic," he said.
As a result of the growth, Sleepnet landed on Inc. Magazine's list of the nation's top 5,000 most successful private companies for the first time. The company landed at No. 2,384 on the list after seeing 244% growth over three years — the top company in the state.
Sleepnet, founded in 1990, manufactures gel sleep apnea masks for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. The products are made in Hampton and ship to 53 countries. The company sells 60% of its products overseas.
The products do not leave marks on a user's face.
In all, 10 Granite State companies landed on the list representing 151% median growth and $528.5 total revenue and 798 jobs added, according to the magazine. Seven companies have been on the list before.
Merchants Fleet in Hooksett ranked No. 2,483 or second in New Hampshire. The company also made it on the list in 2020.
In 2021, the Merchants' portfolio of vehicles grew by nearly $500 million. The company also put 20,000 vehicles on the road in the last mile delivery space alone, with 4 million packages per day delivered in a vehicle managed by Merchants during the holiday season, according to a news release.
Merchants Automotive Group, which includes a nationwide fleet-management business and the Hooksett-based auto dealer, is being acquired by Bain Capital and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Merchants announced in July.
Stephen Singer, whose father, Irving, founded the company in 1962 as a small used car lot at the corner of Valley and Willow streets in Manchester, reflected on the sale and the company's legacy during an interview in advance of the recent 39th Annual Gail Singer Memorial Blood Drive.
"I think he would be shocked. His biggest concern was that there would be family unity and that the six Singer siblings would work together," Singer said. "I think he would be very proud of the fact that not only did we work together and were successful, but more importantly we never forgot our roots. And for the last 60 years I think we have been a pretty integral part of the Manchester community service teams."
Targeting baby boomers
As for Sleepnet Corp., Moulton said he and several business partners were looking to start a health care company to address the aging baby boomer populations that included wound care, drug infusion pump therapy and respiratory care.
The "highest and best use" of their capital was to focus on the "Air gel" technology. The gel filters can be replaced in the Envo mask, which has become popular with health care workers, Moulton said. The masks are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health.
The company experienced supply chain challenges as demand was heavy, Moulton said. The number of workers went from about 25 to 75.
"We were working days, nights and weekends," he said. "We had a crisis on our hands."
The product was sold to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health and medical centers all over the country.
Moulton said he recently ran into a nurse who works at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester.
"She said, 'I love that mask. That's all I wear,'" he said. "'It's all I wear. I feel safe. It works well.'"
The individual mask kits cost $79, but the company offers bundles. The kits include a case, headgear and five additional filters.
He said nurses have posted about the mask on social media, saying it doesn't fog glasses and doesn't leave marks on the face even after wearing it for hour on end. One nurse had worn it for 10 hours straight.
Now that the pandemic has leveled off, the company is working to continue to market the product in a variety of settings. New products are also on the horizon. The company has about 60 employees right now.
The product requires additional accreditation to be sold overseas.
"That will be an instant shot in the arm for sales once we get that," Moulton said.
The full list of New Hampshire businesses includes:
—2,384: Sleepnet Corp., Hampton
—2,483: Merchants Fleet, Hooksett
—2,603: Alumni Ventures, Manchester
—3,267: Market Square Architects, Portsmouth
—3,328: J. Carnes & Son Roofing, Hampton Falls
—3,348: Marshall Scientific, Hampton
—4,480: GourmetGiftBaskets.com, Exeter
—4,514: Well Told, Exeter
—4,709: GTT, Portsmouth
—4,890: InSync Training, Portsmouth
Senior Editor Mike Cote contributed to this report.