By Brian Ehlinger—On Friday, November 20, 2015, I attended the Cameron School of Business First Annual Business Symposium. I among the UST students, CSB Faculty, and CSB alums listening to the Business Symposium Opening Dinner Keynote Speaker, Donna Fujimoto Cole, who was the President and CEO of Cole Chemical. During the dinner, Ms. Cole discussed the history of Cole Chemical, her work experience and recommendations for current graduate students.
History of Cole Chemical
Cole Chemical was started in Houston in 1980 by Donna Fujimoto Cole who has an extensive background in the chemical trading industry. Ms. Cole founded Cole Chemical at the age of 27, divorced with a four-year old daughter and $5,000 from savings. Cole Chemical’s initial clients included Shell, DuPont, Monsanto, and Exxon. Then in 1984, Ms. Cole began another company, Cole Distribution, a warehousing and customer service corporation to complement the expansion of Cole Chemical. Eventually, these enterprises combined to become Cole Chemical & Distribution, Inc. The corporation specializes in distributing chemicals used by food, electronic, plastic, oil, chemical automotive, coatings, beverages, paper, textile, gas, and personal care product industries. Some of Cole Chemical’s customers include Bayer, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chrysler, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, Procter & Gamble, Shell and Toyota. Cole Chemical has received numerous quality awards from Fortune 500 companies and the Small Business Administration. Over the last ten years, Cole Chemical has had annual sales average $70 million.
Ms. Cole served as an Administrative Assistant in 1973 at J K Lasser & Co Inc which was a large accounting firm. Then, Ms. Cole was a receptionist in the sales department, and a secretary to the director at Lone Star Gas Company from 1973 to 1976. Ms. Cole began her successful career in the chemical industry when she started as a Sales Representative at Goldking Chemical International Ltd in 1976. While at Goldking, Ms. Cole’s job duties included secretarial, accounting, customer service, and sales. After two years at Goldking, Ms. Cole became the Vice President of Sales at Del Ray Chemical International, Inc. At Del Ray, Ms. Cole was a 26 percent owner of Del Ray as well as a 3 percent owner of its parent company, Goldking Chemical. Next, Ms. Cole started Cole Chemical in 1980. Ms. Cole was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 by Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce and recognized as a Junior Achievement Laureate.
In 2014 Ms. Cole received The Japanese Ministries of Foreign Affairs recognition for her work bridging US Japan relations. Ms. Cole was accepted to be on the Board of US Japan Council and the Advisory Board of Women Energy Network. In addition, Ms. Cole has served on many national, regional, advisory boards and currently serves on the Center for Asian Pacific American Women Board, Advisory board of University of St. Thomas, Rice University’s Chao Center for Asian Studies, The Women’s Home, and the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council Board and Executive Advisory Board. She also served on President George H. Bush President’s Export Council in 1991-93. Ms. Cole is a Co-founder of Pantheon of Women, a production company telling stories of strong women in film and television to change the way men treat and perceive women and how young girls see themselves.
Recommendations for Students
Ms. Cole emphasized that current students need to focus on school especially their opportunities to gain leadership skills from group projects. In addition, Ms. Cole recommended that students should utilize the cases they learn about from the Harvard Business School which provide information about public companies in various industries. Ms. Cole stated that students should be involved with organizations that perform community service. Lastly, Ms. Cole stated that students should maintain personal relationships with their faculty.
The Cameron School of Business First Annual Business Symposium gave CSB students the opportunity to learn about professionals that work in the corporate world. The opportunity to gain insight from these professionals and learn about their companies is beneficial to students because it gives them a greater understanding of current events in different industries and of the different experiences professionals have in their various careers.
UST – BBA/MBA Candidate, Cameron School of Business