In 1997, minorities made up only 17 percent of all women-owned businesses in the U.S. Today, “women of color” own one-in-three of all women-owned businesses in America – that’s nearly a 100 percent increase! Minority women-owned businesses are also the only businesses besides publicly-traded companies which have seen a net-increase in employees over the last six years.
Dr. Karen Eng seemed an unlikely candidate to become an entrepreneur. Having completed her doctorate in optometry at the New England College of Optometry, Eng had already begun a successful career in the field when she recognized an opportunity to lead her father’s business. Confident that she could take the family business, an engineering firm called CSMI, to the next level, she committed to learn everything that she could about the business and then take managerial responsibility. Her father, who had supported her choice to become an optometrist, was surprised that she wanted to get involved in the family business, but over the next few years she transitioned fully into CSMI and became co-owner in 1999.
In 2009, with her parents’ blessing, Eng finally purchased CSMI outright and has since led the company to becoming a top engineering consulting services firm for the Food Drug Administration & the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulated industries, a mission that her father had laid the foundations for. The first major change that Eng implemented at CSMI was to look at ways to attract and retain the best talent. Regarding these initial efforts, Eng offers: “The most obvious change that I made was to make sure that our employees were getting the best benefits. We implemented a match with the 401(k) plan, reimbursed for education and training, increased the health benefits, and tried to make sure we were working cohesively inside and outside the office.”
Leveraging her family’s Chinese heritage, Eng wanted to expand CSMI’s footprint in Asia. In order to build a base of knowledge and support system before expanding operations abroad, Eng was careful to utilize all of the U.S. Federal Government resources that she could. She worked closely with MBDA, the International Trade Administration, and the Export-Import Bank of the United States to garner support and guidance. By utilizing these resources, CSMI has been able to deliver on contracts across the globe by expanding its contracts in China and the Philippines, and entering into new markets including Vietnam, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.
Recently, on a panel discussion at the 2014 Ex-Im Bank Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., Eng highlighted that working closely with the U.S. Federal Government has opened doors and helped make initial business connections that have blossomed into important contracts. Eng was especially appreciative of working with MBDA, saying: “As a business owner, there are so many unknowns when trying to build and grow your company. MBDA clarified the unknowns, and worked with me to ensure success.”
CSMI and Eng have won many awards over the years, including the 2009 MED Week Award for Minority Service Firm of the Year. This Asian Pacific American heritage month, MBDA wishes to once again recognize Eng for her continued success as an entrepreneur and business owner.