As bioengineering undergraduates at Clemson University, Chelsea Ex-Lubeskie and Riley Csernica, co-founders of Tarian Orthotics, were assigned to the orthotics and prosthetics division of the Greenville Hospital System in Greenville, S.C., and were tasked to design a product that would fulfill an unmet clinical need.
“We ended up talking to a physical therapist who is also an athletic trainer and he expressed frustrations with the current shoulder braces on the market,” Ex-Lubeskie told O&P Business News.
Through customer interviews and market research, Ex-Lubeskie and Csernica, along with a few of their classmates, designed a shoulder orthosis for patients with shoulder instability. Designed to mimic the Jobe Relocation test, the shoulder orthosis provides compressive support for the shoulder rather than limiting abduction of the arm.
After college graduation, both returned to school to obtain master’s degrees as they continued to develop the orthosis before moving back to Charleston, S.C., in August 2013 to start up Tarian Orthotics.
“We are pushing hard to get our shoulder brace out into national distribution and from there we have a couple different versions of that shoulder brace that we can also get out into our distribution channels, but we also see ourselves moving toward more advanced orthotic and prosthetic devices,” Csernica said.
Startup Accelerator Program
One of the biggest problems Csernica and Ex-Lubeskie came across while trying to start up Tarian Orthotics was finding the space to keep all of their materials and prototypes.
“We were working out of Panera, Starbucks, we would go to one another’s houses to do prototyping, so our big need was office space to have a place we could get together and keep all of our supplies in one central location,” Ex-Lubeskie said.
However, this changed when Ex-Lubeskie met John Osborne, co-founder and director of The Harbor Entrepreneur Center in South Carolina.
“The Harbor Entrepreneur Center is a center dedicated exclusively to growing entrepreneurship,” Osborne told O&P Business News. “We have a mission and a vision that if we just create a bunch of collision among entrepreneurs that good things are going to happen. We don’t have to dictate what they work on or how they do it, we just know if we collectively bang the entrepreneur community around, by their inherent nature, they are going to go solve problems and build businesses that are going to be impactful in the community.”
Images: Tarian Orthotics
Twice a year, eight companies are selected to participate in the Harbor’s business accelerator program where they are given free space in South Carolina. and work with a team of mentors for 14 weeks.
“The number one goal is to simply create collision among entrepreneurs,” Osborne said. “The second is to increase the number of people who are interested in being entrepreneurs and growing companies and the third would be taking those small business owners and helping them shape a vision for how to grow and scale a business beyond what they previously thought possible.”
Once they were accepted into the first cohort of 2014, Csernica and Ex-Lubeskie were able to develop their fully functioning prototype of the Tarian Pro, which they sold to a semi-professional hockey player in the area.
“[The business accelerator program] is a great experience and it is a collaborative environment,” Ex-Lubeskie said. “If you are at the stage where you just need a little push and you need a little guidance and accountability, it is a great thing for businesses to have access to. We definitely got a lot of great value out of it and felt encouraged. It was great for our company.”
Through their experience with The Harbor Accelerator, one of the biggest lessons Ex-Lubeskie and Csernica learned was to put together a prototype and start marketing right away.
“Chelsea and I are engineers by trade, so naturally we want to work on a device until we think it is absolutely perfect and market ready,” Csernica said. “Being in The Harbor we realized we don’t have to have the picture perfect cut to begin field testing, bringing in sales and validating that our product works… There is no reason to wait and keep pushing things off.”
The founders of Tarian Orthotics hope to move forward with their production of the Tarian Pro and eventually move on to 3-D printing other orthoses and prostheses.
“Chelsea and I have had to be extremely focused and extremely patient to get [the Tarian Pro] to the point where it is now and we are still early in the game, but we have received such excitement and enthusiasm from people,” Csernica said. “Although it has taken a long time and some days it can be frustrating, I don’t think we would have traded this experience for anything. We have learned more doing this than we could have learned taking any other jobs with any other hospital systems or engineering companies. We are grateful for the opportunity we have in front of us and are excited to see how things evolve in the future.” — by Casey Tingle
Business Accelerator Program. Available at: http://harborec.com/business-accelerator-program/. Accessed July 15, 2014.
Tarian Pro Design. Available at: www.tarianorthotics.com. Accessed July 15, 2014.
Disclosures: Ex-Lubeskie and Csernica are co-founders of Tarian Orthotics. Osborne is co-founder of the Harbor Entrepreneur Center.