|Sandra Turner, an Industrial Design graduate student.
America’s superheroes are millionaires, celebrities and politicians, leaving most to assume that business leaders, with their plastered hair and perfect smiles, are akin to Superman. However, many entrepreneurs are a bit more like Batman whose only super power is his resourcefulness to help them defeat the forces of evil.
Meet Sandra Turner and her sidekick Shen-Chuang Lin. Together, they battle the evils of perspiration. Their fight may not seem as glamorous as saving damsels in distress; but looking more closely, that’s exactly what they’re doing. An alarming number of teenagers - particularly females - suffer from heavy perspiration. This is a problem that can affect one’s self-esteem drastically. With no convenient remedies available, Sandra and Shen-Chuang are left to fight perspiration with a pow, BANG, KA-BOOM!
Why perspiration? I was determined to learn the past that prompted this fight and uncover the mystery of Aspire, Turner’s sweat combating company.
It was a dark and stormy day when I met with Turner, an Industrial Design graduate student, but she held herself as if it had been the sunniest week of summer. With a bright smile and a firm handshake, she proceeded to tell her story.
At a young age, Turner was filled with aspirations of becoming an astronaut. The future seemed to be headed towards space, and that was where Turner saw herself, advancing with them. Although she never became an astronaut, she often found herself looking towards the future, an ideal that has stuck with her. She worked hard to become the woman she is today, and her academic career reflects that. Turner earned a BFA in Art with a concentration in Photography and a BS in Business Marketing at the State University of New York in Brockport. As we spoke, she unveiled the myriad of projects she was involved in: a small camping supply store, a photography business, and, of course, her current project Aspire.
Turner founded and started her camping supply store in 1990. She knew the basics of business, but unfortunately, the finances piled up. It became clear that she could not run an efficient business without knowing how to budget. She needed to learn this in order to take her next step towards success: enrolling in the Saunders College of Business (SCB).
Sitting across from me, Sandra paused, taking a sip of her coffee. Despite her interesting past, her cause remained a mystery. That is, until I learned of Turner’s greatest inspiration: Ashlee, her 19-yearold daughter. Like her mother, Ashlee is a “sweater.” It’s a problem Turner was familiar with, and although she had been plagued by perspiration as a child, she never really faced the problem, choosing simply to avoid it. Unfortunately, when Ashlee gathered with her friends - and Turner learned many of them shared a similar problem - she
began to see a need for a solution.
Turner recalls Ashlee approaching her one day, reporting that a friend had been prescribed a drug for her heavy perspiration; but when Turner looked at the ingredients, the laundry list of chemicals appalled her. There had to be a better solution.
Before heading to RIT, Sandra promised her daughter she would create a product to assess that need, a product that would aid fellow perspirers. Despite her novel idea, Turner’s knowledge only spans the operation side of business.
“I have an appreciation for [science], but I really struggle with it,” she admitted, leaning in. That’s where Lin enters; she is the scientific brain behind the idea. In fact, as Turner has learned, collaboration is one of the greatest weapons in her arsenal. “A lot of entrepreneurs are all over the place,” she said, so sometimes they need the help from fresh minds. RIT offered her a surplus of these resources, which is something she encourages others to take advantage of.
“The best time to start a business is when you’re a student,” said Turner. She relied on her access to the resources that the Center for Student Innovation and SCB provide, including professors and labs. They helped her establish her concepts, flesh out her ideas, and suggested her to the men and women who could help her produce and support it.
Imagine RIT also played an encouraging roll for Aspire when a booth was set up for the idea. Turner was shocked by the overwhelming support and thanks she received during the annual event.
She recalled Imagine RIT with a spark in her eyes. Knowing her services and efforts were well received had been validating for her, and a tangible pride resonated from her figure. What had started as a small focus group with her daughter’s friends grew into a booth at Imagine RIT, and soon after, Aspire entered the testing phase. “We’re doing testing in my kitchen,” she said, a chuckle escaping her lips. The promise had become a reality.
Being a student and applying her knowledge from the SCB not only helped Turner develop Aspire, it also helped her understand that, at its best, industrial design is creating a product that solves human needs. This realization helped her understand what a business needs to be successful. She quickly gained the knowledge she needed to prevent the problems she encountered with her camping store from reoccurring.
Turner is an industrial designer, a mother and a businesswoman. She has a passionate spirit and an inspiring presence. She isn’t Superman and can’t fend off bullets with a raised hand; but she and her partners are waging a war of creativity. They can utilize the available tools to save that damsel in distress and drive off into the night - perspiration free, at least.