Vinny Lobdell is a businessman and former President of HealthWay, a company specializing in indoor air purification systems. He is also known for promoting the importance of clean indoor air quality, especially for those suffering from respiratory issues.
Vinny is local to Pulaski, New York, and strongly supports Central New York businesses. He went on to study at SUNY Oswego, where he studied Marketing and Economics. After graduation, Vinny and his father started the company Healthway in 2003. Under his leadership, the company grew significantly and expanded its operations globally.
When asked about the creation of Healthway, Lobdell said, “At the time, Healthway was more of an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). We would build products. My father’s past life had always been in manufacturing, and he was a welder. We looked at diving into the air cleaning space to air quality space, so we started there. Much of our time and focus was spent building air-cleaning equipment for other companies. So, they would come in, give us their wish list, we design a product with a certain airflow velocity, a certain efficiency, and we would manufacture it for them.”
He described their experience building a business in the air filtration industry. They started with a small facility in Pulaski, New York. Then, they focused on selling to dealers and distributors, and the business multiplied. Vinny diversified into commercial products and worked closely with his father, who focused on developing infrastructure and technology. Vinny emphasized the importance of selling clean air, which has become essential since the COVID-19 pandemic. Vinny and their father worked together to build a successful global business, even working with Cornell University!
In 2020, Vinny sold a majority of the business but is still a shareholder saying, “I kind of stepped back and knew that it was time for me to focus on other endeavors and my family.”
I asked Vinny about keeping much of his business in Upstate and Central New York. He said, “For us, it was always about doing the right thing… Everything in life is opportunity meets preparation. We had really stayed focused on delivering true air quality solutions. The World Health Organization (WHO) always stated that air quality and air pollution are the number one health epidemic of our time. But the problem is people still couldn’t see it.”
“We had an amazing team at Healthway back then, fully committed to doing whatever it took to deliver the front lines. And we were providing New York City public schools, LA Unified, and other the major school districts across America who were relying on Pulaski-based Healthway to get them open, including the largest hospitals in the world and the governments. And so that was really what I was most proud of, is that we really focused on staying the course and making sure that we delivered a real solution to a problem. And I think that’s everything in life; if there’s a problem out there and you develop a real solution to it, success is inevitable.”
I then asked Vinny, when he assesses other ventures, what are some of the metrics that he looks for when making investments?
His response was, “Everything in life is about people. Every investment I look at, I don’t first look at the investment. I funnel the investments through people I really trust. First, that I like the people; second, I like the idea; and third, that I can add value to. And those are my three premises. I always tell people if you don’t know the people, it doesn’t matter how good a balance sheet looks or how rosy it looks on the outside; ultimately, you’re investing in those people. When times get tough, it always comes down to the person that’s operating the business.”
Finally, I asked for advice for a young entrepreneur.
Vinny said, “Finding better people early on would have been something I should have done. I would have even given up a piece of the equity early on to bring brighter minds… it’s really hard to do anything great without a great team, and I can’t overemphasize that. People really are the key to everything. And if you don’t have the right people on the team, success is really difficult, and I wish I would have learned that earlier in life.”
Vinny is also recognized for his philanthropic work, particularly in supporting local communities in Central New York. He has been involved in several initiatives to improve the health and well-being of residents, including $1 million to Oswego Health for its Lakeview Center for Mental Health and Wellness. In addition, he remains committed to promoting clean air and improving public health through his various endeavors.
Interview conducted by Big Red Ventures Fund Manager James Carnes.