October 30, 2014

SBDC helps histology firm go beyond concept

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Maureen Doran was not quite ready to give up her career interests when she retired as director of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Histology Center. So Doran, who has more than three decades histology experience, collaborated with Deborah Jung, a former business manager of the SIU School of Medicine’s physiology department, to create their own business. 

Saffron Scientific Histology Services launched in August and the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU has been instrumental in enabling them to turn a concept into a viable business. Doran and Jung, along with Elizabeth Dawn Grisley, a graduate student in molecular, cellular and systemic physiology, found a location and wet lab for the business in the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center. They are optimistic for their company’s future. 

Researchers and medical professionals investigate disease processes and evaluate drugs and products using histology, which is the study of tissues. Saffron makes microscope slides used for research and diagnostic services, according to Doran. The company’s clientele includes researchers, veterinarians, physicians and others involved in research or medical fields. 

Doran was not ready to shelve her lifelong interest for retirement. Jung, who credits her father, a successful business owner, for her own entrepreneurial spirit, approached Doran with the idea. 

“I always wanted to have my own business,” Jung said. “I was job hopping and not secure in my position anymore. When Maureen retired, I thought, ‘This is the time, this is what I need to be doing.’ I hit Maureen up the day after she retired.” 

Doran said although she had never considered starting a business, with Jung’s help as business manager, the idea was appealing. 

“I wasn’t really ready to give up the science yet,” Doran said. 

They found the startup assistance they needed at the SBDC, getting help with their business plan, financial projections, incorporation, other relevant applications and website. Most importantly, they say the SBDC helped them secure lab space that is cost efficient and well-suited to their business needs. 

“The space is amazing,” Doran said. “The fact that they had a lab that met our needs was pretty much the reason why we could do this.” 

She said finding a place with similar amenities elsewhere would have been difficult and cost-prohibitive for a new business. Another benefit of the location is that it places them near the SBDC for center events that draw other small business owners, giving them the opportunity to interact and share ideas. 

“It’s scary, especially when you hear statistics that about 80 percent of small businesses fail and you think, ‘What did I just do?’ But when you get into this community, it makes you think, ‘I can do this’,” Doran said. 

“We have a great facility and we love it. We love it here at Dunn-Richmond. It’s an amazing group of people and an amazing facility,” Jung said. “Our SBDC counselors have been really helpful in getting our business together.” 

Initial challenges for Saffron include limiting costs and growing the business, and marketing to the right clients and industries. Doran and Jung are enthusiastic though, and hopeful the business will grow and allow them to hire more people, giving those who are new to the field the opportunity to work in the industry. For now, they are enjoying the ability to choose jobs from all over the world and enjoying the diversity. 

The SBDC is hosting “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 center 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.