A Conshohocken company plans to retain its business-saving 2020 pivot beyond the pandemic.
Aardvark Mobile Tours founder and CEO Larry Borden was recently named one of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 Greater Philadelphia awardees due in part to his event marketing company’s shift in helping communities access COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. The work behind that award is a case study in how supporting the public good can have positive results.
Aardvark touts itself as a “one-stop-shop mobile tour vendor” that builds custom, vehicle-based promotional exhibits for brands that could be used for demonstrations at trades shows and the like. When the pandemic began in late winter 2020, Borden was uncertain about the future of his 16-year-old company and privately held concerns that Aardvark could be over.
Then, he began studying how public health organizations in Israel were using mobile testing sites to reach more people. The inspiration “gave us a whole new focus [of] building smaller units [to go] into neighborhoods,” he told Technical.ly.
Aardvark designed its own mobile testing vehicles to act as vessels for healthcare workers to conduct COVID-19 testing, and later, vaccinations. Aardvark focuses on the maintenance and cleaning of its vehicles, and providing logistics solutions, so the nurses can come in to work without having to think about doing anything outside of helping people, Borden said.
Since beginning its mobile unit health services, Aardvark has partnered with several organizations to provide mobile units and health infrastructure including the City of Philadelphia and FEMA. For Borden, working with Native American communities across the country that lacked access due to their location or need of resources most underscored the need for his company’s mobile units.
“Those of us living in greater cities don’t realize there are people in our backyards that tend to be forgotten,” he said.
After the pandemic eventually ends, Borden wants Aardvark mobile units to continue meeting community needs and become fixtures as common in cities and towns as fire and police departments.
“I want to get an Aardvark Mobile Health vehicle in every municipal garage,” the founder said. “Every city has firetrucks, police, to deploy into a city at any given time.” Aardvark wants to do something similar, but by deploying health services into communities — “flu shots, HIV screenings, opioid addiction treatments, medics for large events.”
Borden said that fundamental entrepreneurship strategies like saving money and having contingency plans set up his company and its employees for stable future during a time of need. With Aardvark mobile units now on backorder for 18 months, Borden is optimistic about the work his team has done to adapt to the dismal circumstances of the pandemic and help support public health.
“We can survive anything,” he said. “I have the best team in the entire world. Between our employees, vendors and customers, everybody showed up this past year and wanted to move the needle. Nobody gave up [on showing] we can be resilient if we want to be.”
Here are the other winners of the 2021 EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards in Philadelphia:
- Archibald Filshill — CEO, AeroAggregates of North America
- David Baiada — CEO, BAYADA Home Health Care
- Dr. Lalo Flores — CEO, Century Therapeutics, Inc.
- Yossi Levi — Founder and CEO, gettacar
- John Jacobs — President and CEO, Harmony Biosciences
- Andrew Samuel — CEO, LINKBANK
- Abhi Ramesh — Founder and CEO, Misfits Market
- Mahe Bayireddi — CEO and cofounder, Phenom People
- Jared Isaacman — CEO, Shift4 Payments
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.-30-