The Last Word: Turning adversity into opportunity

Norine Carlson-Weber, Founder and president, Alpha Source Inc., Milwaukee

Education: Bachelor of arts degree in journalism and executive MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and juris doctorate from the Marquette University School of Law.

Family: Husband, Michael Weber; and daughters, Christine and Julia.

Necessity is often the mother of invention. In that same vein, recessions often spawn entrepreneurs. Such was the case in 1986, when Norine Carlson-Weber’s job was eliminated. Undaunted, she used a $10,000 investment from family and friends to start her own company, Alpha Source Inc. Twenty-three years later, Milwaukee-based Alpha Source has grown to become a global distributor of medical devices and accessories and a battery pack manufacturer with annual sales of more than $12 million.

“While growing up, young women were encouraged to mainly pursue secretarial and clerical careers. But it was through my education and professional experiences receiving lower pay and being denied promotions simply because I was a woman that played a major role in giving me the push and ambition to forge ahead and start my own company.

“Prior to starting Alpha Source, I had been content working as a marketing manager for a local communication company. But, when my position was abruptly terminated, it was a wake-up call. That’s when my survival skills kicked in, and I became determined to get as much education as I could in order to create a situation in which I was financially independent and able to provide an equitable workplace for others. 

“Within the first four months of business, Alpha Source was able to secure a commercial loan using a newly acquired customer contract as collateral. This was definitely an exciting time, but it wasn’t until we hit year three that I knew I had overcome the major barriers and setbacks of starting a business.

“Based on my experience, the most important advice I can give to any aspiring entrepreneur, student or person in general is to keep learning as a top priority. Always be willing and open to improve yourself, because we are all a work in progress. Embrace change tenaciously, because the glass really is half-full. And finally, whatever you do in the world, remember to make a positive difference."

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