President of TheOfficerStore.com Awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2009
On the evening of Thursday, June 18, 2009 James A. Witmer, President and CEO of OfficerStore.com, a division of Witmer Public Safety Group, Inc. was recognized as the winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2009 Award for the Greater Philadelphia Region - Consumer Products category. During his acceptance speech, Mr. Witmer credited his success to the support of his family and the talented and dedicated employees that make Witmer Public Safety Group the industry leader it is today.
As a Regional award winner, Mr. Witmer is now eligible for consideration for the Ernst & Young LLP Entrepreneur Of The Year national awards. The overall national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award winner will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 14, 2009.
The Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year Award is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. It recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate extraordinary success in the areas of innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. It also makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 135 cities in 50 countries.
Below is Mr. Witmer's profile as it appeared in the Advertising supplement to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
James A. Witmer, Witmer Public Safety Group, Inc. When most people encounter a problem, their first instinct is to complain about it. After that’s done, they attempt to finda solution, usually by having someone else fix the problem. An entrepreneur’s first instinct is to be the solution to that problem. Jim Witmer is such a person. While already running a solid business, Witmer and Associates, selling a variety of equipment to fast food chains and restaurants, Jim found a way to be the solution to a costly problem that was near and dear to his heart.
Jim is a volunteer firefighter in his community, and while walking the floor at a trade show he noticed a storage locker meant to organize a firefighter’s gear. He also realized at that moment that he could build a better locker with the very same shelving he was selling to restaurants. He called his product Gearmasters, and it was an instant success; and it forever changed the direction of the company.
Jim then began to seize the opportunity to provide solutions for all the problems and inconveniences he
experienced at the firehouse. One major problem he decided to take head on was the issue of fire helmets. Fire helmets are expensive, and have several parts. Replacement parts for helmets are so scarce, fire companies often had to resort to buying a brand new helmet ($150 - $450) because of a broken part that may cost as little as $1.50. Obtaining the rights to sell the parts separate from the helmets was an uphill battle, but Jim would not be denied.
The company, under the technical guidance of Jim’s brother Greg, embraced the Internet as a vital sales tool early on, launching ‘thefirestore.com’ Web site in 1999 to market and sell their products nationwide. In 2000, business doubled. In 2001, it doubled again. To grow the business even further, in 2004 Jim decided to target another audience, and created “officerstore.com” marketing creative solutions for the problems encountered on the job by police officers. Since then, the company (WPSG) has grown both organically and through acquisition, ensuring that as long as there are problems facing the men and women who put themselves in the line of fire to protect us, Jim Witmer and WPSG will step up to be their solution.