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Surgeon Gets Mixed Up In Entrepreneurship

Dr. Turner Osler, CEO and founder of QOR360, displays his porotype chair. By Danny Monahan
Small Business Administration Vermont District Office

Active sitting sounds like a contradictory term.  An oxymoron along the lines of open secret or bittersweet. Besides how can one be sitting down and still moving? 
 
Yet it is the entire concept of QOR360, a small business in Burlington that designs ergonomic chairs. 
 
“Active sitting keeps your core strengthened and body aligned. We are designed to move, and when you stay in motion, your back appreciates it,” said Dr. Turner Osler, CEO and founder of QOR360. 
 
Before he was an inventor, Osler was a surgeon for 30 years with the University of Vermont Medical Center. When he retired from operating on patients, Osler moved on to become a research epidemiologist with the University of Vermont. That is when the pain started. 
 
“As an epidemiologist, I had to do a lot of sitting. For the first time my back stating hurting. I bought an ergonomic chair, and it did nothing. Then I bought another one. And another one. I bought so many ergonomic chairs and each one was just awful. Then I thought to myself ‘I’m a doctor. I’ll figure this out myself,’” said Osler.  
 
Osler started working on some sketches for his own ergonomic chair in 2016. He had a bunch of ideas in his head, and he was tinkering in his basement working on simple protypes but wasn’t really sure if he was on the right track on how to build it. So he ended going to a makerspace to get advice. 
 
“There were some guys at the makerspace who knew about design, and I had the idea. They put their arms around me, and we started to get to work. In less than a year we created the best chair in the world. I know this because I have bought and used all the competitors’ chairs and I feel ours is the best,” said Osler. 
 
The chair they came up with involves active sitting. Instead of a chair one sits on, it’s a chair that allows one to constantly move. It looks like a work stool, yet between the base and seat is a ball that allows one to rock in pretty much any direction.  
 
As he was building more and more chairs in his basement, Osler soon realized he would not be able to keep up with demand. After partnering with a manufacturer to increase production, QOR360 had sold one of its chairs to a Google employee who then sent an internal email to many of his colleagues stating “hey guys you should buy one.” QOR360 then sold more than 100 over the next few weeks in 56 surrounding cities in and around Google. Since then, the company has sold 6,000 chairs. 
 
Similar to when he was in his basement tinkering with his designs, Turner’s company was expanding and knew he needed assistance managing the growth. 
 
“I was a career surgeon and I got mixed up in entrepreneurship. I didn’t know how to read a spreadsheet or profit and loss statement.  Now I have a thriving little business and I better learn how to run a business seeing I don’t know how to do it,” said Osler. 
 
In January by word-of-mouth Osler heard about the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Program and decided to apply.  Emerging Leaders is the only federal training specifically tailored for small business executives poised for growth. The free program includes approximately 100 hours of classroom time, connects small business owners with a network of industry experts and peers, and supports the creation of a three-year strategic growth action plan. QOR360 was one of the 20 small businesses accepted into the class out of the 73 that applied. 
 
To qualify for the class small business owners must have annual revenues of $400,000 or more, been in business for at least three years, and have employees. Each year a variety of Vermont companies are represented. A few of the businesses in this year’s class include an engineering firm, a custom-built bicycle shop and a graphic design firm. 
 
“This class is so much better than reading about it in a book. Interacting with the class is really informative and collaborative. Everyone in the class seems to know much more than I do, I am learning so much,” said Osler.  
 
In October Osler will complete Emerging Leaders and have his three-year strategic plan. He said one of his primary goals is to expand internationally, specifically Asia, and sell QOR360’s 10,000th chair in the next 12 months.   

 

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