October 08, 2014

Center helped turn idea into digital marketing firm

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Tom Harness combined hard work with the right resources and personalized assistance to create a successful business in a field that was initially a bit outside of his comfort zone and background.  

Harness is the founder of Harness TechEd, a digital marketing company in Herrin that helps businesses create a brand and voice through social media and email marketing as well as through WordPress and search engine optimization.  He credits the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with helping him take an idea and create a thriving business. 

His initial concept focused on helping teachers utilize iPad and app technology in the classroom.  Harness had some background in education but no idea how to operate a business.  The SBDC, Harness said, gave him the tools to start his company. 

“The SBDC developed that entrepreneurialism in me and gave me the strength to kind of jump off of the ledge and try something outside of my comfort zone,” Harness said. 

Through developing his initial idea and working with the SBDC, his business model evolved as he realized businesses in the region had need of marketing services. 

“We want to give them the competitive edge to market their businesses at a reasonable price,” Harness said.  

Harness TechEd now employs three people and has 30 clients, something Harness never thought possible.  He is proud of his business and its success but cognizant of what is involved. 

“It puts a smile on my face.  It makes me really excited,” Harness said.  “But I never really want to enjoy it too much because it is about hard work and the hard work never ends.” 

“One piece of advice that I would give aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners would be to understand and know their weaknesses, then own them,” Harness added.  Realizing his weaknesses, he sought the help available through the SBDC and realized the benefits of doing so. 

“The SBDC staff give you a different perspective and I think that is important,” he said. “Our relationship with the SBDC is never-ending.  They are here to help at any stage of business development or change.  As I look forward to the future, I look forward to being able to have the resources available through the SBDC.” 

The SBDC will host “Celebrating 30 years of Small business Success” from 3 to 6 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 1740 Innovation Drive, Carbondale.  The event will feature guest speakers, client success stories, awards, a trade show highlighting some of the center’s client success stories and “A Taste of SBDC,” showcasing a large number of area food producers who are clients.  For more information, contact Robyn Laur Russell at rrussell@biz.siu.edu or 618/536-2424. 

The Illinois Small Business Development Center/International Trade Center, is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale.