Will Renke has been in business long enough to know that the best thing an entrepreneur can have is a good posse.
So when he decided it was time to develop and market his new hand-drying solution, he began talking with the Conway Innovation Center, which will have its ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Innovation Center is the fourth of five Technology Centers Clemson University will establish in South Carolina. The plan is to take someone with an idea, vet it to make sure it has a chance to succeed and then set the idea person up with resources to nurture the idea to reality.
Renke is one of seven entrepreneurs the CIC already works with. The products they are trying to develop and market range from Renke’s drying solution to products for the consumer global tire market to refining laser cutters to work on fabric to furthering work on a company that reviews and rates apps for educators.
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The center will be hosting the area’s second Startup Weekend April 10 to 12, which should feed more ideas through its doors.
The weekend will be devoted to ideas for education products and services, the first of its kind in the state.
By the time of the weekend, though, two of CIC’s entrepreneurs hope to be open for business.
“We’re hoping to go live on April 1st,” said Todd Cherner, an English and literacy education professor at Coastal Carolina University.
Cherner said the idea for a business to rate education apps came to him during a class discussion. A student asked him how a person is to know a good app from a bad app.
That started Cherner thinking, and he eventually teamed up with instructional technology professor Corey Lee to develop the rating system and website.
The two plan to make their money by selling subscriptions to its website and app-evaluations. In addition, Cherner said, he and Lee will send subscribers five suggested education-based uses for apps they are considering.
The CIC formed an advisory committee for their effort, and the two expect the team’s expertise will fill in for their lack of knowledge on setting up and running a business and on marketing their products.
Renke’s team was responsible for him finding a critical material supplier in Europe. Further, he and Clemson are working to perfect the formula for his solution.
His idea, he said, “actually came from aggravation. Gym owners all say the same thing: Chalk destroys gyms.”
The owner of Sky Fitness, Renke has had his own bouts with chalk, which could become a thing of the past if his idea takes hold.
He might be able to do it without help from the CIC, but that would be taking an unnecessary chance.
“Assurity of having (a team) is priceless,” he said. “Everything you want around (you) is right there.”
“It’s an engaged, back and forth process,” CIC board chairman Mike Roberts said of the interaction between entrepreneurs and their advisers.
The Technology Center from Clemson is a three-year program during which each innovation center is evaluated on the number of entrepreneurs it fosters, and CIC director Kevin Shea said he’s hoping that 10 per year will settle in for some help in Conway.
He and Roberts said the center has talked with 65 potential entrepreneurs, of which 25 could go on to develop businesses.
Clemson and the other CIC partners ultimately want the successful entrepreneurs to open their businesses in the locations where they got help.
“If we could generate 100 jobs here (in three to five years),” Shea said, “I’d say we’d be doing OK.”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765 or on Twitter @TSN_SteveJones.