Thursday, July 10, 2014
Riley Csernica studied bio-engineering at Clemson University and finished her undergraduate degree in August 2013. At the time, she was a 23-year-old trying to sell a shoulder brace that she helped invent as an undergrad.
She and her partner were meeting and working out of cafes around the area like Panera Bread Company and Starbucks, trying to build up their business.
“At the time I had a prototype that no one would buy – at least I thought,” she said.
In January Csernica joined the Harbor Accelerator program, which offers a 14-week business program with resources and mentorships for entrepreneurs to help start their businesses.
Csernica ended up selling her shoulder brace to Charleston Stingrays hockey player Anthony Collins for $20 and Csernica’s company Tarian Orthotics is now working to sell a nicer version of the brace for $125 – which is expected to go up to $200 once it reaches mass distribution.
Csernica said her team is currently talking with major distributors in their field – and it is thanks to the Harbor Accelerator program for giving her that motivation.
“It just takes out the ‘what if’ and makes it a reality,” she said.
Csernica spoke at the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber’s Power Hour on July 9, when Harbor co-founder and director John Osbourne presented the Harbor Entrepreneur Center to attendees.
The Harbor is expanding from its location in Mt. Pleasant to Summerville, where it will occupy the SC BB&T space attached to the Visitors Center on N. Main Street. The new Harbor location will open in September, Osbourne said. The Summerville site is the first expansion from the existing site in Mt. Pleasant.
“The whole region has been so blessed in economic development in the past five years,” Osbourne said. “We knew for a lot of good economic development to continue we needed founders of companies to connect with one another.”
The Harbor provides space, mentors and networking opportunities for “innovative, scalable” businesses. The goal is to create “collision” throughout the entrepreneur community.
“We call it the Harbor for a reason,” he said. “We call it the Harbor because we knew entrepreneurship is happening all over the region and needed to be connected in some way.”
The state Department of Commerce provided a grant for $250,000 to help the organization move forward. Aside from the Harbor Accelerator program, which will run twice a year, the organization is launching two other programs: Forum and Propel.
Propel is similar to the Accelerator program, except it goes for a year: it is for companies who will meet in provided office space with a mentor once a month for a year.
Forum is for the existing “founder-level people” who already have a running business with three or more employees and more than $250,000 in revenue. The Harbor provides these people with networking opportunities; they meet once a month for a year and also have a mentor.
Businesses join these programs by applying online at harborec.com.
“If someone wants to simply work out of the space we’ll offer working space out of there also,” he said. “If you don’t want the mentorship but you’re working out of your home and you want to be connected in this environment, then you can ask for that. If you are involved in any of the programs in the Summerville site, you have access to all of the other sites that will be opening.”
Osbourne said he excited about the organization’s expansion.
“I can’t thank the Summerville community enough for embracing what’s happening,” he said. “We’re having a lot of fun.”