Exporter Spotlight Series

Global Science Education Company Digs Into Roots
Shift to Online Learning and Supply Chain Issues Prove Challenging But Not Insurmountable

PASCO’s mission is to provide educators worldwide with innovative technology and solutions for teaching science and to support those solutions in schools—and even an unprecedented global pandemic and supply chain issues couldn’t stop this company from delivering.

It’s called for innovation, resourcefulness and relationships that this company no doubt has after 35-plus years of exporting products around the world, working with extensive international supply chains and a large network of global selling partners. In fact, the company was built on these values.

Founder Paul Stokstad started PASCO in his college dorm room after introducing his first product, the Millikan Oil Drop Apparatus, at his school’s science fair. He soon moved the business to his family’s garage and ultimately to its headquarters in Roseville where it’s grown to serve educators and students in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Vice President of Operations Dave Mangelsdorf doesn’t remember PASCO any other way. He joined the company five-and-a-half years ago after working in supply chain and manufacturing for 28 years. His wife is a teacher, so Dave was thrilled to find a new opportunity where he could use his expertise to build products for the education market.

“It’s a small, privately held company too and I had spent most of my career in publicly held companies where it’s all about keeping the shareholders happy as opposed to the customers,” Dave says. “PASCO’s passion for the end customer, the teacher, is just a joy to see.”

PASCO entered international markets decades ago with the help of global selling partners, who have the relationships and know and manage their markets. Some sell directly to schools and universities, and others to the Ministry of Education, a federal body over the education system in some countries.

When Dave started with PASCO, business was consistently at around 50% domestic and 50% international, which is how it remains today. There are competitors both in the U.S. and globally, but PASCO’s edge has always been that they do it better—very good products built on an equally good reputation.

The great thing about such a balanced portfolio is that markets ebb and flow, and while one might be struggling, another is thriving. Trouble with the Euro might cause an issue for several years, for instance, but at the same time, the Mideast might be experiencing a strong period due to the cost of oil, which translates into increased spending. 

All that changed when COVID hit in early 2020 and every market was impacted at one time or another, some multiple times. For a company that provides products that are used by students in classrooms, the immediate shift to online learning was something Dave and his fellow leaders had never before faced.

At the same time, PASCO has production in Roseville as well as with partners in the U.S. and Asia, and every facility was challenged with getting the materials and labor needed to build the products. On top of that, there have been extreme cost increases in shipping and materials and many suppliers have re-evaluated their business and discontinued certain products or even abruptly shut their doors.

“PASCO had to make some hard decisions to adjust our workforce accordingly,” explains Dave. “We rightsized the organization to the way the revenue was flowing in 2020 and we continue to climb back out as the market and school spending have continued to recover.”

As part of this, they dug into their innovative, resourceful and relationship-focused roots. With all of PASCO’s engineering in-house, the company re-prioritized its efforts to where they needed the most help with unplanned component shortages. They also reacted to the shift to virtual learning by offering a combination of hardware and learning resources.

“We were able to pivot to really enhance and build up our offering on the resource side that could be used in this virtual learning environment,” explains Dave. Now that educators and students have come to the overwhelming conclusion that there’s no replacement for in-person learning, this is slowly shifting back. “That aligns well with us because our entire business is built around doing hands-on science.”

For PASCO, Success Starts With Relationships

Relationships are everything—with suppliers, selling partners and most importantly, the end customers. “In times of turmoil like the COVID crisis, relationships and communications on what we both need to do to work together to make sure we’re both successful is absolutely key,” he emphasizes. “We’re not going to be successful if our suppliers or our selling partners fail. Those relationships are solid.” Dave says this starts with the mindset that you are a relationship business. “There are transactional businesses that are certainly successful,” he adds, “but how you measure success is different for everyone and for us, it’s how we grow our relationships to grow this business and get more students learning science using PASCO solutions.”