Lillards named state exporters of the year
The U. S. Small Business Administration recently selected Washington Homeopathic Products of Berkeley Springs as West Virginia Exporter of the Year. Owners Joe and Linda Lillard are scheduled to be honored at a banquet in Charleston in mid-May.
Contributing to the selection are 41 governor's commendations that the company received over the past two years.
"We finally figured out that every time we sold to a new country in a specific year, they gave us a commendation," Joe Lillard said.
Currently, Washington Homeopathic exports homeopathic remedies made in Berkeley Springs to customers in more than 20 countries.
"There's a missionary in Mongolia who travels the country with a homeopathic kit of common remedies," said Lillard. "I met him at a general health conference. He knew nothing about homeopathy, but I told him that in Mongolia he would be a king with a few kits."
Private labeling is another entry into the international market for the company. The firm makes its products according to standards regulated by the Food & Drug Administration and produced in accordance with the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the U. S., then puts the label of the customer company on the finished product.
"We have a client in Hong Kong. They send the labels already printed in Chinese," said Lillard. "Except for the name of the specific remedy,
we have no idea what they
Washington Homeopathic is the production partner of Pfluger America, manufacturing 55 products for the German health care company. The formulas are developed by Pfluger in Germany, birthplace of homeopathy in the late 18th century.
Lillard bought the Washington Homeopathic Products in 1991, expanding it from the Bethesda, Md. location to a storefront in Berkeley Springs in 1993. The business had been producing homeopathic remedies since 1873, making it the oldest and second largest manufacturer in the U. S., but had never done private labeling before Lillard.
"It all started with Pat Paris of Haymarket, Virginia," he said. "She wanted a remedy for horses and put her label on it."
The next customer was an Irish company, HomeoPet, now one of the largest accounts. "We have an order to fill for them in June of 100,000 bottles," said Linda Lillard. "We average 50 to 75,000 bottles a month for them."
HomeoPet's remedies for animals are shipped to locations across the nation and worldwide including Australia, England and Canada.
Lillard calculates that a new private labeling customer is added every month. "We do all our production by the book. Our reputation gets out," Lillard said.
Another factor in winning the Small Business award is the growth of the company which now serves more than 50,000 individual and corporate customers. including 1100 retail stores, 600 veterinarians and 400 physicians.
In just over a decade, Lillard has transformed the business from a company with five employees and an annual gross income of $150,000 into a multi-million dollar operation with 38 employees.
A year ago, Washington Homeopathic opened a new 12,500-sq.-ft. plant in the U. S. 522 Business Park. A second, even larger structure is planned for later this year.
The most significant obstacle Lillard faces in being a major exporter to countries like Romania and China is that homeopathic remedies are generally not on their import lists so education of the bureaucrats and customs officials is required. Other countries like Canada have restrictive laws covering importing health remedies.
Lillard also exports his knowledge by traveling as a volunteer with Homeopaths Without Borders to provide training in homeopathic pharmacy to doctors and pharmacists in Cuba and El Salvador.
In spite of the growth of his exporting sector, Lillard sees the future in terms of the domestic market.
"Homeopathy has about one percent of the U.S. market," he said. "That market in Europe is 30%."
Lillard feels those numbers guarantee that Washington Homeopathic Products will continue to be a growing industry for Berkeley Springs.