Education

RunLites - Wearable Technology

Written by witf.org, | Apr 2, 2018 4:25 PM
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Mary Tiffin talking to friends at the RunLite trade show booth

With Mary Tiffin's crazy schedule of raising two boys, it was nearly impossible to find time to run for exercise.  When she could find time to run, it was often after dark. 

Concerned about safety, Mary taped her son's flashlights to her hands.  They worked well, so she began taping the lights to her hands before each night's run.

It wasn't a perfect solution. The duct tape irritated her skin, and the flashlights were heavy.  With a background in fashion design, Mary knew there had to be something better.  One night she had an idea that would change her life.

She drew pictures of gloves with lights and created a sample to show friends and family.  They told her she was on to something.

Living in Lewisburg, Mary was familiar with Bucknell University's Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  She had presented the SBDC with a different product idea a few years earlier, but that didn't pan out.  She felt her glove idea would be different.

Bucknell's SBDC listened to her pitch and gave her some guidelines on how to start a business around her new glove concept. Mary had little experience with securing patents or creating technical drawings, so Bucknell advisors and student teams provided expertise.  Mary credits professors and students in the College of Engineering with taking her glove ideas to the next level.

The SBDC helped her identify a customer base and find help with financing, and her company took off.

Tiffin's gloves are now sold online and at running events, and she continues to improve and expand the product line.

Initially intended for runners, the gloves are gaining popularity with dog walkers, hunters, campers, and even trade professionals like plumbers and electricians.

Mary credits Bucknell's involvement as being the single greatest addition to her business, believing the partnership helped her company to grow and expand at a rate faster than she could have achieved on her own.

Mary Tiffin stills run at night, and now she runs her own company during the day.  She'll be the first to tell you, it was her friends at Bucknell that helped her get started on the right path.


Transcript:

As a mother of three, Mary Tiffin didn't have time to go for a run, not until well after dark. She'd tape flashlights to her hands so she could see. It was not a perfect solution

Mary Tiffin: It's heavy, it's annoying. ... You know I thought that I could do better.

Mary sketched some ideas and presented them to Bucknell University's Small Business Development Center.

Mary Tiffin: I can't do the circuit drawings but here's what I think can work. Can you guys make it happen?

While advisors help Mary to develop a business plan, engineering classes gained real world experience by turning Mary's ideas into technical drawings and testing her product concepts

Mary Tiffin: It's exactly like having additional staff you have all these experts at your disposal.

Mary's company, Run Lites, is an innovation success story. She credits the Center with helping her find the resources she needed to get her company off the ground.

Mary Tiffin: They're resources that a small business could never afford. It's surprising that anyone would start a business and not consider a small business development center.


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Find more information about RunLites at https://www.gorunlites.com/ 

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The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been helping businesses start, grow, and prosper for over 35 years in Union, Northumberland, Juniata, Montour, Perry and Snyder counties. The center provides education, information and consulting to entrepreneurs just investigating a market opportunity and developing a business plan, as well as to existing businesses seeking to innovate, grow, and sustain. The Bucknell University SBDC is part of the Pennsylvania SBDC network, the only statewide, nationally accredited program providing high quality one-on-one consulting, training and information resources to empower new and existing businesses. The SBDC program is a public/private partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and 18 universities and colleges across the Commonwealth.

Learn more about Bucknell University's Small Business Development Center at https://www.bucknell.edu/SBDC 

Support for Innovation U comes from PNC.

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Innovation U is a project from WITF, where we share stories of local entrepreneurs and Pennsylvania universities who are working together to make new ideas come to life.  Learn more at witf.org/innovation

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