Thai Lee Owns America’s Largest Woman-Owned Business: Forbes
by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
Thai Lee, a 56-year-old Korean American entrepreneur, heads the largest female-owned business in the United States, Forbes reported last week.
Lee is the CEO and co-founder of SHI International (formerly known as Software House International), an online marketplace where it sells third-party hardware and software as well as IT consulting services to enterprises.
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Lee was greatly influenced by her father, a prominent Korean economist who traveled the world promoting South Korea’s postwar development plan. She moved from Korea to the U.S. during her teen years, and eventually earned a B.A. in biology and economics at Amherst College.
“I was determined to avoid any and all courses that required writing and speaking in class,” Lee told Forbes, “because I was determined to get the best grade possible. I knew then that the best chance of success for me was to start my own business, because after I x-ed out all the professions I could not be successful in, that’s what I was left with.”
Lee dedicated her 20s to studying business. After raising money for school by working for an auto parts marker in Seoul, she earned her MBA from Harvard Business School.
In 1989, she and her then-husband Leo Koguan bought the then-struggling Software House International for less than $1 million. Today, SHI has $6 billion sales from over 17,000 customers, including AT&T, Boeing and Johnson & Johnson. It is one of the largest minority-owned businesses in the U.S., according to Forbes.
While Lee and Koguan’s marriage did not survive, their partnership did. Koguan serves as SHI’s non-executive chairman and owns 40 percent of the company; Lee owns the remaining 60 percent.
Featured image via Forbes