Cayce, SC (Paul Kirby) – Lou and Bill Kennedy, owners of Nephron Pharmaceuticals in Lexington County’s Saxe Gotha Industrial Park, are passionate people. They have a passion for Lexington County, the Midlands, good causes, and lots of other things. Because they’ve been blessed in their successful business, they’ve been able to give back in many ways. Last year, when Nephron benefited from the president’s tax cuts, they shared this with their employees by raising their pay 5%. They’ve sponsored many philanthropic causes and even starred in a commercial promoting Staycations, packages of great thing to do here around Lake Murray instead of travelling to have fun this summer. They did this for Lou’s friend Miriam Atria of Capital City Lake Murray Country, a Midlands lover herself, who promotes this great region worldwide. Lou and Bill really are caring, thoughtful, givers who do things from their hearts.
Last year, like many businesses, they saw both the up and the down sides of the great economy. There were those tax breaks they shared, business was booming, but on the flip side, they were having trouble finding reliable employees. Not one to be tripped up by a problem or think about just conventional solutions, Lou Kennedy began to ponder the issue and got “outside the box,” as is her nature. Who she wondered, who were reliable, mature, proven people she could use to fill her employee gaps? She was looking for people that weren’t afraid of hard work. She even thought, maybe she could find people who’d work part-time that could use some extra money to spend however they chose. After giving that some thought, Lou remembered someone who’d fit that description perfectly. That example she wanted to use as a job description was her mom, a retired 5th grade schoolteacher. Why not hire teachers after hours and on weekends to do some of the jobs at Nephron that didn’t require a pharmaceutical degree. Teachers were proven professionals with a history of punctuality, were reliable, and many teachers needed the extra money. Nephron would hire schoolteachers after hours and on weekends to fill the jobs they had trouble finding other workers for.
When Lou laid out her plan, the staff at Nephron swung into action quickly. In most cases, social media was all they needed to spread the word. Once the first few people were hired and the teachers realized the jobs paid $21.00 an hour to start, word of mouth did the rest. Now, especially on the weekends, several times a day, an army of teachers walk in smiling from ear-to-ear to work their shift at Nephron.
The teachers arrive chatting among themselves, something they don’t usually get to do much at school. They come from both Richland and Lexington counties and teach everything from kindergarten to 12th grade. Some are just out of college, while others are close to retiring. They pack crates and boxes, do visual quality inspection, label containers and vials, and perform other tasks. When they go home, they say they’ve enjoyed the opportunity Nephron provides. They’ve made extra money and spent time interacting with other adults instead of just children all the time. They’re able to pay off student loans, save for retirement, take that dream vacation, and much more. To them and the full-time staff at Nephron, it’s win-win all the way around!
According to Erin Waters, a first-year teacher who has a 3rd grade class at Lexington Elementary, she felt blessed to have found the part-time job she’s just started working at Nephron. Her mom works there full-time and she had heard other teachers talking about the jobs and saw the posting on social media. She does lots of things from putting together shipping boxes to labeling containers, and even some packaging.
Waters said that teaching is her passion but, “extra money never hurts.” She uses her Nephron pay for some everyday expenses, to help pay off student loans, and to put a little away for a rainy day. “It’s interesting to work alongside some adults,” Waters said recently. “It’s also encouraging for me, a first-year teacher, to stand beside someone who’s taught for 25 years and see that they still have love and passion for their job.” Some might not also understand that Waters says that the Nephron job is less pressure and helps her rest her mind. “It’s nice to have a boss,” she said. “At school we have bosses but when I am in that classroom, I have more than 20 little faces looking up at me just waiting for me to tell them exactly what we are doing next. If I don’t lead, it can be chaos fast. At Nephron, the supervisor tells me what to do and I do it. It’s less pressure than the classroom. We work with our hands and doesn’t require much thought once you get a job down and that’s nice,” Waters ended.
Lou’s idea has really developed since it started. Now teachers are beginning to wear red scrubs so you can easily pick then out from other employees. They’ve gotten their bearings in Nephron’s massive facility and know how to do their jobs. When they leave, they’re happy knowing they have a nice check they can use for whatever’s right for them and they’ve learned something new. One more seasoned teacher coming back from a break area stopped to be interviewed for just a moment before returning to his workstation on a Saturday. “We are teachers,” he said. “We promote learning but it’s nice to come here and learn something totally unrelated ourselves. I find I still enjoy learning about new things, and at Nephron there’s always some new question to ask, something new to learn. I really enjoy this and recognize it as an opportunity, not necessarily just work,” he said. “It’s certainly nice to have the extra money too,” he said before moving back to join the others.