The Fifth Annual Maryland Bioscience Awards Sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee March 25, 2010

by Todd Holway September 14, 2014

The Fifth Annual Maryland Bioscience Awards Sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee March 25, 2010


Nominee's Name: Charlene Riikonen

Company Name: Cera Products, I nc.

Category: Outstanding Entrepreneur

In the space below, please address the criteria for the award category. Please use the same format as i n the criteria description, using an a, b, c, d, sequence. Additional documents may be attached.  Please do not send resumes.

  1. Goal Is reached through perseverance

During the 1980's, Charlene Riikonen, met Johns Hopkins physicians Dr. David Sack and Dr. W.

  1. Greenough in Bangladesh during the 1980's. They saw how dehydration causes severe illness and death, and became determined to develop an oral rehydration therapy that was better, faster, and

Riikonen founded Cera Products in 1993. After years of research, product development and clinical studies, Ceralyte was developed. This product is used by health organizations throughout the United States and in Canada, Central America, Europe, and parts of Africa.

Continued research with Cera's rice-based powder systems resulted in three other products: CeraSport® for sweat replacement and performance; CeraVet®, an advanced hydration product for animals; and CeraVacx®, a buffer delivery system for oral enteric vaccines.

It took great perseverance for Charlene to progress from the idea in Bangladesh to the successful company Cera Products is today.

  1. Company orientation toward greater risk-taking behavior

Ceralyte was the first rice-based hydration solution.  It was a brand-new approach to hydration. Ceralyte would be important domestically, but even more important in developing countries.

Ceralyte is competing with Pedialyte, a brand of Abbott Laboratories.  Cera's sport drink, CeraSport, had to compete against a well-known brand, Gatorade, which is backed by Pepsi Cola, another huge company.

  1. Evidence of entrepreneurial leadership

Not only did the company produce a novel and more effective product, but it has shown superb leadership in marketing and branding.  The fight for market share against well-known mass-market brands has been accomplished very effectively.  By sponsoring athletes, and offering highly effective product to "sample" to medical opinion leaders, hospitals and other health organizations, Charlene has managed to carve out a good name for her company, and hi re approximately 10 employees in the process.

She has also managed to secure production operations, warehousing, quality-control coverage at top notch manufacturing companies, saving costs associated with purchasing expensive equipment which saves overhead costs and obsolescence associated with aging manufacturing equipment. This option also enables Cera Products to be at the forefront of new systems and packaging.

  1. Commitment to the central Maryland business community
Charlene has been successful in mentoring interns from Maryland universities to give aspiring you ng people a chance to succeed in business.  But she is com mitted to more than just the business community.  Charlene is committed to health, and has been extremely generous with helping developing countries where dehydration is so prevalent and the second leading cause of death of children. In October 2009 it was reported that Cera Products had donated over $140,000 in oral rehydration products to Child Health Foundation and Direct Relief international (DRI) which were distributed to locally managed health facilities and organizations i n 19 countries. The Company also contributed thousands of liters of Ceralyte to help victims of the Tsunami and hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Company's policy to give a charity discount helped Catholic Relief in Baltimore provide 50,000 ORS liters to victims in Zimbabwe. And more recently, Cera Products donated ten pallets with 9,000 liters of its signature product, Ceralyte, to the Child Health Foundation for Direct Relief international to send to Haiti for medical help following the January 12 earthquake.

Todd Holway
Todd Holway


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