Education

Hera Brand - Mobile Health Pack

Written by witf.org, | Oct 16, 2018 11:27 AM
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Tessa Balencic, CEO & Co-founder, Hera Brand, Inc.

Tessa Balencic didn't set out to be an entrepreneur. She wanted to be a nurse-midwife. When she learned about midwives in low income areas around the world lacking proper medical equipment and support, she wanted to help. 

A shoulder injury ended her hopes of a nursing career, but it didn't end her dream. Tessa enrolled at Elizabethtown College and began taking international business classes. She still wanted to help people, particularly women, and believed she could make a difference by making healthcare products more affordable, accessible, and adaptable. 

"I just I knew I wanted to be in the women's health space. I knew I wanted to create a solution that would alleviate maternal mortality in low resource settings. I had in mind like a backpack or something of that nature."

The result is the Hera Brand Mobile Health Pack, an "emphatically designed, hyper-organized, portable healthcare delivery system."

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Knowing she would need help getting the product off the ground, Tessa shared her Mobile Health Pack concept with Elizabethtown College's Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) hoping to find guidance and advice. The SEI was established to bring together faculty members, industry fellows and students, to collaborate on initiatives that can make a significant social impact.

Soon, Tessa was a client and a research assistant at the SEI, where she was part of a team working to flesh out a business plan for her innovative idea. 

The SEI brought Philadelphia University onboard which had an advanced industrial design and midwifery department where Tessa could consult with project managers and expert designers. That partnership helped Tessa learn how to conduct market research, determine if and where her product was needed and in what form it would be used in the field.  The Mobile Health Pack idea grew, transformed, and evolved.

"There are a lot of little things that you think would be obvious upfront, but they just aren't."

It was a challenge taking an idea and making it into an actual product. Designs were modified, materials where altered, but Tessa's original assumptions were validated.  There was a market for the Hera Brand Mobile Health Pack. Unfortunately, manufacturing costs were more than Tessa's startup could cover.

"I would always caution people not to be intimidated by that aspect of the business. There are always ways to find funding or to turn your idea into a tech rather than something you need to manufacturer yourself. Don't let that be a hurdle."

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The SEI "Idea to Enterprise" Board

She's now looking to partner with an institution that has the resources to move the Health Pack further down the road to market. Tessa credits her friends at the Elizabethtown SEI for helping her to expand on her initial idea and to grow as a businessperson. She appreciates that the SEI affirmed her idea was worthy of respect and success. 

Today, Tessa openly calls herself a social entrepreneur. She remains dedicated to the development of the Hera Brand Mobile Health Pack and to driving social change through other innovative ideas.  She now works at the SEI, where she's helping other entrepreneurs realize their dreams.


Transcript

Tessa Balencic never intended to be an entrepreneur. Her interest was in healthcare, until one day she had an idea.

If midwives in low resource settings had all the supplies they needed in one portable kit, it could lower infant and maternal mortality rates worldwide!

Tessa Balencic:  I had in mind like a backpack or something of that nature. 

Tessa shared her "Mobile Health Pack" idea with the Social Enterprise Institute at Elizabethtown College.

Tessa Balencic:  So, the Social Enterprise Institute focuses specifically on persistent social problems.

The SEI helped Tessa form her own company, Hera Brand, and develop her backpack idea.

Tessa Balencic:  Let's look at the idea you have and see if it's actually something the user would adopt.

Originally designed for midwives, the pack has evolved to also serve community health aides, nurses, therapists, home care providers, and other healthcare workers who operate outside of traditional medical settings.

Tessa is hoping to find partners who will help her take her "Mobile Health Pack" into full production.   

Tessa Balencic:  We've been talking to some larger institutions and I think that we'll find a good home. 

Tessa credits Elizabethtown College with helping her grow as a businessperson.  She still works with the Social Enterprise Institute, helping other entrepreneurs find success for their ideas. 


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Find more information about Hera Brand, Inc. at https://herabrand.com/

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The Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) at Elizabethtown College brings together faculty members, industry fellows of the Institute and students, to collaborate on social enterprise development initiatives that create sustainable social and economic value both domestically and internationally. The vision of the SEI at E-town presents an opportunity for the College to make a significant social impact. We do this by building upon a deep respect for the talent, passion and dedication of those who have devoted their lives to working for the common good.

Learn more about The Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) at Elizabethtown College at https://www.etown.edu/offices/research/sei/

Support for Innovation U comes from PNC.

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Innovation U is a project from WITF, where we share stories of 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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