The 2008 AWIB Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Winner
ComStar International Inc.
ComStar International is a manufacturer of chemical products based in College Point, NY. The business was started in 1990, and ComStar's products are sold domestically as well as internationally. The company has nearly $7 million in revenues and a full time staff of 25 as well as 30 part-timers.
A fourth-generation Japanese American, Joyce Takiguchi grew up in Arizona. After recieving an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University, she moved to Japan for post-graduate studies, where she met husband Steve Mella. Both moved back to the US and Joyce took up marketing-based jobs in various industries to have a broad knowledge base of different components to run a business.
In 1990, when Steve's job was going to take them from New York to the Midwest, Joyce decided that the time was right to start a business. That and her belief that a business is the 'best way of controlling your destiny if you plan on having a family and want to be a dedicated mother.' With her savings and money borrowed from family, Joyce bought a chemical products manufacturing company from a broker - and ComStar was born. Starting with 60-70 products Joyce's company now sells over 300 custom blend chemical products. The company's US sales are close to $4m, while international sales are almost $3m. The company went 'green' around 1994 - which Joyce says 'got a lot of criticism, especially since it was an industrial product'. But the strategy got ComStar into the Japanese market, which was followed by forays into China, Europe and the Middle East.
Joyce attributes her success to 'hard work and the ability to wear many hats and know each segment of the business in detail'. She has also taken advantage of the boom in M/WBE programs and gives credit to women and small-business focused policies at banks and brokerage firms for giving her loans needed to grow. Her clients include Con Edison, National Refrigeration products among others.
Joyce is somewhat a rarity in what is still a non-traditional field for women, and has turned it into an advantage. 'I think I take people by surprise, because they perceive you to be subservient and not willing to take hard decisions'. Her advice for other Asian women is to 'join networking and mentoring groups to put you in touch with other women entrepreneurs'. Also, 'leave your cultural baggage at the door. Learn to talk loudly'.
Joyce's future goals include becoming a presence in the 'green' refrigerant business, growing her Joint Venture in China and to more aggressively court the corporate market. She stands out from competition by offering a diverse and customized line of products.
She serves on boards and committees of various women's and children's organizations. A self-confessed hockey mom, Joyce lives in Connecticut with husband Steve and sons Alexander, 9 and John Paul, 7.
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