The 2003 AWIB Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Winner - Shirley Lam
Connetquot West Inc
Connetquot West Inc. is a medical supply company located in Farmingdale, New York.It has over one thousand items running the gamut from nutritional supplements to ambulatory products. Revenues in 2002 reached $3.9 million and projected growth is 20% per annum.
At age 17, Shirley and her family emigrated from Canton, China to the US and settled in New York. Shortly after graduating from high school, she married, had 3 children and was, basically, a housewife. When her youngest child entered high school, she went to a community college to learn a profession. When she graduated in 1992 she did not know what business to start, and after 25 years as a housewife, she questioned her own ability. One day, she read a Wall Street Journal article on adult diapers and aging baby boomers and she found her calling.
She did research on incontinence products and in November of 1992, founded her company, bought one case of diapers and set up shop in her home.By August of 1993 she moved into an office space and started to grow her business. Shirley, an outgoing and down-to-earth woman, became known as “The Diaper Lady”.
In 1995, her oldest son, Noah, joined her company and two years later, her husband became an employee. By 2002, her daughter, Alicia and her second son Norbert came into the fold, making Connetquot West a true family run business. When each of her children became a part of the company, she reminded them that “at home, treat me as your mom but at work, treat me as your boss."
When Shirley first started her company, she was turned down repeatedly for a loan because she had no experience, no W-2 and everything was tied to her husband. Today, everyone wants to give her a line of credit but she remembers the bank that gave her that first loan, and reminds other entrepreneurs of the importance of finding a good bank and remaining a loyal customer.
Her advice to entrepreneurs is “Do what our heart tells you to do. Give 120%, be a learner, network and find a good banker”. Shirley is involved with the Women’s President Organization, the L.I. Minority Network, and was a director of the Suffolk Women’s Business Enterprise Coalition and the Chinese Immigrant Services.
Shirley and her husband, Kwok, live in Oakdale, Long Island and besides her 3 grown children, she is a grandmother of two potential employees.