In 2012, graduate students Stephen and Kathryn Clark took a risk in leaving their jobs to pursue opening their own business, Recon Supply. A veteran himself, Stephen wanted to help current and former military individuals by distributing medical devices like joint and spinal implants.

Inspired by the help he received from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Stephen went back to college after leaving the Marine Corps and began his search for a way to make the world a better place. He met his future wife, Kathryn, who worked for a company that distributed specialty medical devices. Stephen was intrigued, and spent countless hours researching and studying the processes of making and selling specialty medical devices.

However, the company Kathryn worked for was about to go under, and Stephen’s family needed another plan. In his research, Stephen discovered the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO, which offers government contracting assistance to small businesses.

“My PTAC specialist imparted a lot of information to us about how we could get started and look for opportunities within the government,” Stephen said. “I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communications, so I understood marketing. But at the same time, marketing to the federal government is a lot different from marketing to the general public. I had to work that out on my own with PTAC’s help in order to understand that.”

Before they could start the process of marketing to the government, the Clarks had to take some matters into their own hands. Using the knowledge they learned from their previous job, they started reaching out to various manufacturers. A small total joint implant manufacturer decided to take a chance on their startup, and they were officially in business. Through this process, PTAC suggested conferences and networking opportunities that allowed Recon Supply to expand their reach. This helped them grow to add multiple distributers to their portfolio. In doing this, Stephen is able to give back to the VA in a way that helps veterans and the organization that gave him so much.

Recon Supply connects manufacturers of medical devices to the VA. They distribute orthopedic products such as knee replacements, non-opioid pain management devices, and cardiovascular implants. They are able to supply new technologies and information in order to best help physicians treat veterans.

“We’re not here to sell [the VA] or influence them on any certain product- we want to present them with the best options we can find and let the clinicians determine that for themselves,” Stephen explained. “Being able to [help patients] through the VA is a wonderful thing for me.”

Moving forward, the Clarks knew their biggest goal needed to be getting on the Federal Supply Schedule. This, however, is no easy task. There are a lot of federal requirements that can be difficult for a small business owner to understand without help. The Clarks are now working with PTAC specialist Don Robertson, who has connected them with professionals who understand the process for his specific type of products. With the help of PTAC’s strong communication and knowledge, Recon Supply was awarded its Federal Supply Schedule contract in November 2019. This gives them easier access to serving the VA, which has been Stephen’s biggest goal all along.

“It went flawlessly throughout the whole process,” Stephen said. “They helped smooth the way for us to get on [the Federal Supply Schedule] and get greater access to getting products at a reasonable price.”

As they make strides into growing their business, the Clarks are searching for more products and manufacturers to work with. Their next goal is to find innovative ways to help people suffering from chronic wounds, and they will continue to work with PTAC through it all.