(Formerly Solar Care Technologies Corp.)
Company headquarters: Bethlehem, Pa.
Incubator: Ben Franklin Business Incubator Center
Entered incubator: 1988
Revenue: $54 million (FY 2004)
When Mike Gausling, Bill Hinchey and Sam Niedbala, three former Procter & Gamble employees, teamed up to create Solar Care Technologies Corp. in 1988, the entrepreneurs moved from Cincinnati to Bethlehem, Pa. Niedbala had received his doctorate from Bethlehem’s Lehigh University, home of the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Center, so he was familiar with the incubator facility. The trio initially viewed the incubator as a low-cost place to start their business, but they soon discovered the incubation experience involved much more.
"We received seed capital, a place to develop our product, and phenomenal advisory services and networking opportunities," Gausling says. " This experience gave us the credibility we needed to reach out to other investors."
A 1993 NBIA Graduate of the Year award winner, STC initially developed a sunscreen towelette that it licensed worldwide to Schering-Plough, makers of Coppertone, shortly after it received a $95,000 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. And STC was on its way: Between 1989 and 2004, the company’s revenues soared from $77,000 to $54 million. The company now employs more than 200 workers in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
How did the company achieve this growth? Bob Thomson, director of enterprise development at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania and former incubator manager, attributes much of the company’s success to its experienced management team and its ability to adapt and respond quickly to changing market needs. Each entrepreneur brought a unique skill set from the get-go: Gausling is a corporate finance specialist; Hinchey is an experienced marketing and sales executive; and Niedbala is a noted research scientist.
This balanced experience proved useful as the entrepreneurs reassessed their primary market. Although the company experienced initial success with its sunscreen towelette, the entrepreneurs quickly realized the product would not lead to huge corporate profits. So, STC sold off the product and refined its offerings. The company acquired Enzymatics, another Ben Franklin client, and its patented saliva alcohol tests, and with an additional $140,000 investment from Ben Franklin, the firm expanded into diagnostic tests for the insurance risk industry.
In 2000, STC merged with Epitope Inc., a Beaverton, Ore., firm and became OraSure Technologies Inc. Now the company is a leader in the oral fluid diagnostics market, developing tests that use saliva to simplify and speed testing for HIV and other infectious diseases and for drug and alcohol abuse. And Gausling, Hinchey and Niedbala are enjoying early retirement.
"That ability to make key decisions and adjust on the fly has been key to the company’s success," Thomson says.
Phone: (740) 593-4331
Fax: (740) 593-1996
340 West State Street, Unit 25
Athens, OH 45701-1565