Startup Profile: Tarian Orthotics

Tarian means “shield” in Welsh, and was selected by founders Chelsea Ex-Lubeskie and Riley Csernica to represent their orthotics company. The name fits their company as well as their innovative shoulder stabilization braces fit their patients. Tarian Orthotics has launched the Tarian Pro Stabilizer which, according to their website, is a “custom-fitted functional shoulder brace designed for individuals with shoulder instability looking to return to athletic activity.”

A little history about the entrepreneurs and their invention: Chelsea and Riley are both graduates from Clemson’s Bioengineering program. During their senior year they participated in the Senior Design program as part of the Bioengineering department’s curriculum. The Senior Design program is a course where teams of senior students and clinicians from the community seek solutions to real-life problems faced in healthcare. From this program Chelsea and Riley–along with their teammates, Meredith Donaldson and Kaitlin Grove, and collaborating clinician Dr. Chuck Thigpen–discovered an unmet need for medical bracing designed using clinical feedback. They then designed and iteratively prototyped a customizable shoulder brace, specifically designed to stabilize and prevent shoulder dislocations. Based on the compelling need, the innovation solution and the support from the clinician, the team convinced CURF to file a patent protecting the young technology.  Beyond just earning the students credit towards graduation, the invention placed third at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Collegiate Inventors Competition.  (Aspiring Clemson student inventors may be encouraged to submit their designs here: http://collegiateinventors.org/ )

After completing their undergraduate degrees, Chelsea and Riley both went on to complete Masters degrees in bioengineering; Riley also earned an MBA in entrepreneurship from Clemson.  Riley’s work in the program focused directly at their shared goal of commercializing the shoulder brace technology.  In fact, in parallel, Riley led Clemson to receive a $50,000 NSF I-CORPS grant from the National Science Foundation to study and validate the business opportunity for this technology.

With these successes already under their belts, Riley and Chelsea were able to officially launch Tarian Orthotics in 2013. One major challenge faced by the new startup has been raising funds for development and production of the award-winning shoulder brace. They have been dealing with this problem by entering into business competitions and seeking investment funding.  Additionally, as a CURF licensee and with the sponsorship of CURF, Tarian Orthotics qualified for a USAP grant of $25,000 from SC Launch.

Another struggle the new businesswomen faced was finding companies in the cut and sew and apparel industries that not only had the materials they needed to make their brace, but could also manufacturer on a small scale. By networking with prior contacts and gaining new contacts at the Harbor Accelerator they were able to find the right components for their innovative brace.

Currently, Tarian Orthotics is off and running and the company has already received orders for their product.

“Being able to be our own bosses and have freedom and flexibility in our lives has been one of our favorite aspects to starting our own business,” said Riley. Ultimately, Chelsea and Riley hope Tarian Orthotics may be acquired by a larger company in the industry, once the product’s success becomes apparent. For now, however, they plan to lead and grow their company while demonstrating the value of their design and gaining business experience. They want to focus on one product right now and get it right, so that any future products benefit from their experience.

So what advice do these young inventors and entrepreneurs have for others?

“Make a tangible prototype with a practical use, then go out there and sell it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Expect to fall on your face… a lot, but get back up and keep going. There will high points and low points. It’s when you have those low points that you look back and see how far you have come.”

Written by: Paige Urig, August 2014