A Conversation With NAWBO Chicago Past President Edie Comminos, President/Founder of Alpha Metals Corporation
You founded Alpha Metals in 2004. Describe the moment when you made the decision to be a business owner?
After working for other scrap processors for 15 plus years, I came to the realization, that I wanted to make and stand -by my own business decisions. In hindsight I know now that it was a natural progression for me to become a business founder and owner. In 2004 a $100,000.00 home equity loan didn’t go very far. It was one of the most focused, determined times in my life. I adopted the mantra “failure is not an option!” I figuratively just had blinders and noise cancellation to keep me on point. You absolutely just have to: “push all your chips into the pot and be all in!”
This is the year of advocacy for NAWBO Chicago. What does advocacy mean to you?
I believe every year should be surrounded by the inclusive notion of advocacy; women working together to support one another. NAWBO’s spotlight on Advocacy this year, will create conversation and dialogue that might not have been as open and engaging in the past. Bringing Advocacy to the forefront of conversations will allow women from all sectors, to more freely seek out support and direction and will encourage more seasoned veterans to contribute and assist women in creating successful companies.
Congrats on being president. How did you secure this position?
I became involved in NAWBO a couple years ago through Connie Lavin from First Midwest Bank. She also brought me into the executive roundtable where I was exposed for the first time in my professional life with a group of women who I strongly identified with on many levels. The unique sentiment I found in NAWBO was a group of dynamic, assertive and passionate women, in all areas of their lives. It wasn’t about networking as much as it was about feeling like I belonged, and I wanted to contribute.
You are a lifer when it comes to the scrap metal business. What kind of confidence do you need to succeed in such a male-dominated field?
I had the privilege of working for a lot of very tough men. I quickly adopted a thick outer persona and always tried to keep my emotions at bay. Most of the men I have worked with are strategic, compartmentalized thinkers. Survival and success depended on my ability to think analytically and deliver ideas and closings - always being aware that I was the only woman in the room having to present my ideas in a collaborative and assertive, lady-like way. Humor and levity have always been a good way to connect.
With the organization's membership drive coming up in September, what is your goal for sharing the importance of membership?
September highlights membership. It’s the perfect time of the year, from starting school, the change of seasons for people to join. But, promoting membership is an essential part of advocacy. Talking to other women business owners who haven’t been exposed to NAWBO is a key component to Advocacy and inclusion.
What advice would you give your best friend if she was starting a business?
Well, not to be cheeky, but if my best friend came to me now and asked about starting a business -I might say you should have started 20 years ago. But, I strongly believe in mentorship and entrepreneurship at all ages. Particularly, in this age of technology, the playing field is open to people of all ages and backgrounds. Incubators like 1871, are designed to create an environment of inclusion and a setting to gather valuable insight and resources.
What does success look like for you?
The second half of 2018 has been challenging. Success would look like: Commodity prices declining and the uncertainty of trade-laws, and limits directly impacting the manufacturing sector and base metal prices. I am not particularly bullish at this point in the year. I hope and anticipate that the manufacturing sector will increase in 2019.