Editor’s Note: As the nation responds to COVID-19, NYLS alumni and students are sharing their time, talents, and resources to benefit their local communities and the School. In this series, we share their stories.
In early March, John Pezzillo ’00 was a few weeks into his new role as CEO of SantoLubes®, a South Carolina-based chemical company.
A chemist and M.B.A. graduate who attended NYLS in his 30s, Pezzillo had previously served as SantoLubes’ Vice President of Global Business Development and was to be appointed Chief Legal Officer before the CEO job opened. His new role—already demanding—was about to pose unprecedented challenges with the spread of COVID-19. Undaunted, Pezzillo looked for opportunities to keep his plant running and his employees working.
“Law school taught me to be unafraid of taking on challenges that I might otherwise have been reluctant to take on,” he said. “There are turns in life, and you have to embrace them.”
How He’s Giving Back
Pezzillo’s lightbulb moment came shortly after 10:30 a.m. on March 8 when he saw a news report that the manufacturer of Purell hand sanitizer was out of inventory for the next four months.
He quickly researched the formula for hand sanitizer and realized that SantoLubes, whose primary products are chemical-based fluids, was capable of shifting its operations to meet the critical need.
“Knowing what I know about chemistry, it wasn’t hard to figure out how to make hand sanitizer,” Pezzillo said. “The hardest thing was figuring out how to get through the red tape in D.C.”
His team worked swiftly to secure FDA approval to enter the hand sanitizing market.
“And then off to the races,” Pezzillo said.
SantoLubes delivered its inaugural shipment, a donation, to local first responders in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where its plant is based. Within days, the company was working around the clock to produce up to two-million gallons of sanitizer per week. Its efforts earned local press attention.
Pezzillo and his team have prioritized ensuring that the product is sourced with American materials, affordable (it sells for $20 to $30 per gallon depending on quantity), and safe (it meets World Health Organization standards).
A colleague brainstormed the product name SantOTizer™, which the company has since trademarked.
“That’s a class I did not take at NYLS—branding and copyright,” Pezzillo joked. “But in all seriousness, I continue to see that what makes a business function every day are the skills I learned in my NYLS classes.”
He anticipates strong demand during the next five years. The company’s next challenge is manufacturing the chemical compounds that are used with disinfecting products—also in short supply.
“Those of us who have the privilege of being essential workers owe it to our fellow citizens to do all we can to help during this time,” he said.
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