Cera Products founder, Charlene Riikonen was recently featured in the August, 2017 issue of .Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine (CH2 Magazine)
This article was titled: "Women Entrepreneurs: How Women in the Lowcountry are Turning Great Ideas into Great Businesses...and Their Secrets to Success".
Excerpt from article:
"So why do some women entrepreneurs soar while others struggle? Although no two businesses are exactly alike, women today can gain important insight about female entrepreneurship from well-known women entrepreneurs throughout the country as well as from the positive role models of some highly successful women entrepreneurs right here in our own backyard.
Charlene Riikonen is one such example, her story beginning in Bangladesh. Seeing firsthand the devastating effects of dehydration, Riikonen (who was working at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh known as the ICDDRB) learned of the discovery of oral rehydration solutions (ORS)—scientifically formulated combinations of a carbohydrate, certain salts and water—that have saved millions of lives from deadly diseases such as cholera. In 1993, nearly 10 years after learning about these efforts and being involved on the research/educational side, Riikonen formed Cera Products, Inc., established with the goal of developing an advanced solution that would work even better and more efficiently than the standard glucose-based solution that was developed in the 1960s and 1970s. She decided to focus her small business on rice-based oral rehydration solutions for several reasons: rice works better than simple sugars, and most people are not allergic to it. The business was created with the goal of saving lives and reducing the effects of dehydration.
Much of the early success of Cera Products came from Riikonen’s ability to be flexible enough to change her business plan as needed. “I wrote the initial business plan for Cera Products Inc. with the idea of manufacturing the exceptional rice-based ORS, which I named Ceralyte, and getting it to the millions of children and families overseas who are devastated every year by the cycle of poverty, illness and disasters, with dehydration from diarrhea one of the top three causes of death in children,” she said. “However, I changed that focus after learning two important facts: first, the countries and prospective clients in the Third World would not be able to afford our U.S. product. We still help there, but with the partnerships of charities working in the field rather than selling to those areas directly. I also learned early on about the level of dehydration in our own country from a variety of illnesses in both the very young and the elderly and the military. And while there was a ready-to-drink ORS on the market, it was, and still is, made with simple sugars instead of rice, for which two got patents. With the help of a number of key individuals, including physicians and the head of economic development for the state of Maryland, Cera Products got a grant for the first significant funds that enabled the company to have a website, proper packaging and marketing materials. My husband helped the company manage finances and gave a lot of moral support. With all that help and guidance, I was able to successfully launch my company in 1993,” she said, recalling that her first sale of Ceralyte was $7 and noting that she wished she had saved and framed the paperwork from that first sale.
As a role model for other women launching their own businesses, Riikonen offers important advice for women business owners in all stages of the start-up process: “Believe in yourself, but surround yourself with positive and capable people in a variety of fields. And while you listen to them, you make the decision as to direction,” she stressed. “Don’t be afraid to change direction, and keep looking to the future. My husband was such a help in this way, and when our finances were not so good, he helped me look beyond that to focus instead on what could be.”
Link to entire article can be found here:
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As a dietitian for Cera Products, I often get the following questions: