Stories and Articles
Home Testing was a Home Run For this Entrepreneur
Love of entrepreneurship and personal agenda drove Turkish immigrant to success
When the founder and president of Confirm BioSciences, Zeynep Ilgaz, and her husband, Serhat Pala, arrived in the United States from Turkey in 1998 they “had nothing but two suitcases, a love for each other, and our shared passion for entrepreneurship.” But they also had college degrees from their native country, some English skills and an overwhelming desire to succeed, all of which has contributed to the thriving business they enjoy today.
Coming to San Diego
After doing extensive research in their homeland, Ilgaz and Pala came to San Diego with the express purpose of obtaining their MBAs, raising a family and creating a good life for themselves. They enrolled in the MBA program at SDSU’s College of Business Administration shortly after their arrival on American soil.
“While I was working on my degree, I had the opportunity to work at what is now the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center. This gave me access to so many wonderful opportunities, such as learning to plan and execute meetings with business leaders,” said Ilgaz. “I got my first job after I earned my MBA through a connection I was able to make while I was working at the center.”
The Seed for the New Company is Planted
It was also during an SDSU class project where she was first inspired to establish a business in the diagnostic testing market. “My husband’s and my final project at SDSU was to develop a feasibility plan for a real-world local company,” recalled Ilgaz. “This company was in the home medical testing industry and we saw it as a growing niche market. That experience is what really gave us the idea for our own company.”
"My husband’s and my final project at SDSU was to develop a feasibility plan for a real-world local company."
That idea, along with the couple’s entrepreneurial instincts led Ilgaz and Pala to form Confirm BioSciences in 2008. “I’ve always had a passion to fight substance abuse and once we confirmed that there was a market for home testing, this was the direction the company took,” said Ilgaz, who serves as the company’s president. “Over the years, Confirm BioSciences has expanded to include corporate drug testing, government contracts and international markets.”
In June 2009, Ilgaz (who plans to teach entrepreneurship at SDSU in the fall of 2015) was honored by SDSU’s College of Business Administration with the Lamden Rising Star Award for her company’s early success and for her mentorship contributions to students from the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center.
Lessons Learned and Given
Ilgaz says that one of the most significant lessons she’s learned – and one of the keys to the Confirm BioScience’s success – is the importance of teamwork and not just among the employees, but with the organization’s partners, vendors, shippers, bankers, service providers and customers.
For anyone thinking of forming a business, she offers this advice: “When you start a business, it’s natural to put in 80 -90 hours of work and have a crazy schedule,” she said. “But once I had children, it reminded me again and again of the importance of balancing life and work and that you should make sure you take care of your personal life. Never put your family or personal life on hold.”