Monica Bhasin needs to hire more chemists to test popular dietary supplements, and maybe in the future medical marijuana. But there's no additional space in the Hauppauge building where she now rents.
Bhasin's solution: to buy her first building instead of signing another lease.
The founder of the testing company Health Level One Inc. hopes to complete her $2.3 million purchase of 180 Adams Ave., also in Hauppauge, this month. The move will more than triple the 5,000 square feet her business now uses.
"How can I hire another guy and not have a place for him to sit?" Bhasin, 43, said during a tour of her cramped laboratories at 18 Commerce Dr. "Bench chemists need space to conduct tests, to keep their notes . . . I cannot grow here."
Acquiring a building represents the first time that Bhasin has borrowed a substantial amount since starting Health Level One in 2008. Citibank is providing the financing.
Suffolk County also is backing Bhasin. Earlier this summer she won $170,600 in tax breaks over 10 years, including a 28 percent savings, or $146,900, on property taxes, from the county's Industrial Development Agency.
"I've put everything back into my business . . . I've handled my finances very conservatively," she said.
Bhasin is ideally suited to buy a building, some experts said, because her company is bursting at the seams, expects substantial sales growth and has plenty of cash flow.
Erica Chase-Gregory, acting director of the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State College, said the benefits to a company of owning versus renting are similar to those of home ownership.
The building's value will hopefully appreciate over time, and as an asset, the structure can serve as collateral for a loan to purchase new equipment, expand a product line or pursue a sales opportunity, she said.
When deciding whether to buy, Chase-Gregory said, small business owners should assess their space needs, projected sales and cash flow, and the tax ramifications.
Health Level One has grown rapidly as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, retailers and consumers have demanded information about what goes into supplements and vitamins.
Bhasin projected the company's sales would top $1.5 million this year; six years ago they totaled $180,000.
Health Level One is hired by contract manufacturers to verify the purity and potency of the supplements and vitamins they produce for sale by chain stores. In some instances the products bear the retailer's private label.
Health Level One also tests for contaminants and verifies the information that goes into the bottle's ingredients label. In addition, the company tests cosmetics and food, though 90 percent of its work is on supplements and vitamins.
About 40 samples arrive daily from around the country to be tested by six chemists. Bhasin signs off on the final reports sent to manufacturers.
She started the business after emigrating from India and working as a chemist for supplement makers. She rented a small space at Stony Brook University's Calverton Business Incubator and bought refurbished equipment at online auctions.
Bhasin said she hopes to add two chemists and an office worker this fall. They'll likely be Stony Brook graduates, as are most of her workers.
Bhasin's commitment to Stony Brook impressed Suffolk officials.
"This company started here, and we want them to stay here. . . . We like what she is doing," said Joanne Minieri, the county's economic development commissioner.
Besides the new building, Bhasin has been researching New York State's new medical marijuana program in hopes of offer testing services to the five manufacturers selected on July 31.
She plans to establish the required secure laboratory in the new building. "I already have the experience to do this type of testing," she said. "This could triple our sales."