Chris Ramsey and LaQuentin Jenkins, founders of Simple Choice PPE Solutions, represent underserved communities in the Chattanooga area who were hit hardest by the pandemic. As chair of the Health Disparity Task Force, Ramsey knows the importance of education when it comes to health. That's why he works to eliminate barriers that prevent minorities from receiving easy access to COVID-19 testing.
Here, Ramsey talks about the inspiration behind his business, why he's passionate about community service and how he sees Simple Choice PPE Solutions evolving.
TREND: What's the mission behind Simple Choice PPE?
Ramsey: Simple Choice PPE was established as a result of an insurance agency that my business partners and I own, Simple Choice Insurance Brokerage, and also the Chris Ramsey Agency, located here in Chattanooga. At the time, my business partner, LaQuentin Jenkins, and I were trying to secure personal protective equipment (PPE), for our Medicare-aged clients.
To solve the problem, LaQuentin leveraged his relationships and experience to establish an exclusive relationship with a Georgia-based importer that was able to supply us with PPE items. Simple Choice PPE was created once we realized we could help other people solve their PPE problems, too. Since launching in April, we've secured clients from Chattanooga, Atlanta and Houston.
TREND: Does Simple Choice PPE have plans to expand?
Ramsey: Simple Choice PPE has relationships with health care providers, restaurants and hotels in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Texas. We started with these states because of existing relationships, and that jump started our business, but anyone can find our products at simplechoiceppe.com.
TREND: Talk about your work to provide free community COVID-19 testing.
Ramsey: LaQuentin and I met over 30 years ago, while he was an undergraduate student at UTC, and I was a graduate student getting my MBA. Our passion for community service began when we were both members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
In light of the pandemic, we believe it's important for underserved communities to have easy access to COVID-19 testing. So, we participate with a number of agencies in the Chattanooga area, including Cempa Community Care, Alleo Health and LifeSpring Pediatrics, to bring testing locations to thousands of individuals across the community.
Because of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, the Hamilton County Health Department also had resources to provide free COVID-19 testing at African American churches every weekend in August. We also partnered with the foundation that sponsors the Minority Health Fair to give out 10,000 KN95 masks to people in need at these testing sites.
We try to eliminate all barriers. For example, if you don't have transportation, a vendor will give you free transportation.
TREND: What's a moment you felt you were making a real impact?
Ramsey: I serve on the Regional Health Council, which is an advisory committee for the Chattanooga Hamilton County Health Department. Even before COVID-19, I was appointed to serve as the chairperson of the first ever Health Disparity Task Force, created as a result of a community health assessment report called the 2019 Picture of Health.
This report outlined health disparities in minority communities related to chronic diseases diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and other debilitating illnesses. Minorities are dying at a much higher rate than our white counterparts.
Before the pandemic, we convened as many as 40 decision-makers across our community, in the nonprofit and health care sectors. In our meetings, we discussed what we could do to move the needle on improving health disparities in our community.
At the time, we didn't know how important the task force would be in preparing us for the pandemic. It allowed me to develop relationships with people passionate about educating others on the significance of wearing a mask and getting tested. In the African American community, there's a lot of distrust. I don't mind serving as the voice of reason when it comes to making sure people trust the health care system and the results they receive.
TREND: How do you think your business model might shift after the pandemic?
Ramsey: As far as our businesses are concerned, I'm a believer in having multiple revenue streams. Again, the basis of our business is our insurance brokerage firm: Simple Choice PPE was created out of the desire to serve our current clientele. These businesses complement one another because as people become aware of our PPE, they also learn what we can do in terms of helping them with their health care needs.
As far as the pandemic, it doesn't look like things are going to slow down anytime soon. Mask mandates are ramping up the need for PPE. So right now, we don't have a timeline for the foreseeable future of when the demand is going to decrease.