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EmployABILITY Champion: Phenix Technology, Inc.

Phenix Technology, Inc, located in Riverside, was founded in 1972 by fire captains Ronny Coleman and Ray Russell. We sat down with Phenix’s Chief Executive Officer Angel Sanchez to celebrate the company’s new status as an EmployABILITY Champion and find out what that means to Phenix.

What do you tell people about what your business is and what it does?

Ronny Coleman and Ray Russell wanted to make a fire helmet that truly met the needs of first responders. And they thought, ‘who better to design that helmet than people who have worn one themselves?’ We’re the world’s only firefighter helmet company that is firefighter started, firefighter owned, firefighter led, and firefighter backed.

You could say that from the start, our mission has been to use our business savvy to be a positive force in the world – we believe better people make better products – and making fire helmets is how we support that mission. One more thing to know about us is that just like the legend of the phoenix, we always can find a way to rise from difficult circumstances – we learned that in a big way during COVID when we pivoted to making face shields, which allowed us to keep the business open, all while keeping our workforce on the payroll and safe. We know how to rise.

How do you plan to use EmployABILITY Business Grant funds to grow your business?

Several years ago, we started an adult work experience program for individuals with disabilities. We want to continue that program, but also expand it. We’re using the grant funds to hire a program administrator to create a 10-week work experience program that will teach marketable skills in every area of the company – from marketing to manufacturing to building maintenance – and also teach soft skills, like interviewing skills, resume building, and appropriate work attire. We also plan to build a special training room and purchase some adaptive equipment. The people in the program will go on to work in our company or other companies in our community.

Growing your business means finding great employees, and other business owners are always telling me there is a worker shortage. I tell them that qualified workers are out there! The answer is to widen your search to all potential employees, and that will mean you have to make your business accessible to everyone and set up policies for potential employees to be able to learn the job and overcome barriers to employment in ways that work for them. The EmployABILITY Business grant is helping us do that!

What does being an EmployABILITY Champion mean to you?

Oh, we’re so excited! It’s that ability to realize a vision and a dream. We’ve been working on this program for several years, because it’s a passion for us, but this grant gave us the resources to realize the dream more quickly. We tell people that our progress on the program was traveling at the speed of a covered wagon, and now with the EmployABILITY Business Grant, we’re speeding along in an unlimited electric car. Now we can fast-track our program and help other businesses grow too, all with the help of our new program administrator!

What does the future look like for your business?

We plan to continue this program, to grow our business, and spread the word to other businesses about the benefits of employing people with disabilities. And we also want to share with other businesses that the state, federal, and local governments have programs to help you make your workplace accessible and to not be afraid to take advantage of those programs! We are excited about our future!

For more information on Phenix, visit


Image by Nick Karvounis

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