Eren Ozmen, self-made female billionaire, president and majority owner of Sierra Nevada Corp., is the poster-woman for entrepreneurial success in America. Eren Ozmen was born and raised in Turkey and immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s to pursue her education.
That’s right, she came here legally, and instead of waving the Turkish flag, she embraced America and all that it had to offer. Just look around the world, and as Milton Friedman said, you can judge a country’s worth by the feet of people attempting to enter it.
This was Eren Ozmen. Her quote, “Look at the United States and what women can do here, compared to the rest of the world. That is why we feel we have a legacy to leave behind,” says volumes, and is perhaps why she is not embraced by the progressive left.
Unlike some of her industry peers, Ms. Ozmen was not admitted to college by bribing a professor or donating to a charity of a college recruitment company. She did one step better. While pursuing her college degree, she cleaned the very office building at nights that she owns with her husband today. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, who was infamous for cleaning his store bathrooms, would be proud.
Ms. Ozmen attended the University of Nevada in Reno where she earned an MBA. In 1988, she joined what could loosely be called an aeronautics mom and pop shop called the Sierra Nevada Corporation. With some 20 employees and in difficult straights, the Ozmen’s purchased SNC and began an acquisition binge. There are really only two ways to grow, organically or by acquisition.
Ms. Ozmen quickly realized that their best option was to buy other firms and horizontally integrate them into SNC. As synergies emerged, Ms. Ozmen states, “Purchases had a lever-like effect for us. Within the next 5-10 years, we reached the billion-dollar mark.” From a humble business with 20 employees to a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, SNC now operates in 33 locations in 4 countries, employs more than 3000 staff and has acquired 19 companies along the way.
However, what Ms. Ozmen may be most proud of is the environment and legacy that she hopes to leave as a result of her success. Talk about being ahead of the social curve, Ms. Ozmen created on-site daycare for SNC employees in 1991. This was actually before she even owned the company.
After taking over in 1994, the Ozmens instituted a strong employee benefits program and stressed the importance of work-life balance. All of these efforts have led to SNC being designated “Best Place to Work” in Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
As one would imagine, the philanthropy goes beyond the workplace. In 2014, she created a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to helping humanity make the world a better place, caring for people and funding it forward to future generations. Areas of focus include Pay It Forward, Education, Entrepreneurship, and Community. Ms. Ozmen puts it like this. “Leaving behind a huge capability is so much better than leaving behind a bunch of money in the bank. That’s what we are doing, converting everything to a capability that the next generation can benefit from.” Her awards and distinctions are many, and include:
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Board of Advisors
- Forbes’ Annual List of America’s Top Self-Made Women
- World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space, Fast Company
- America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies, Inc.
- Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New in 2017,” featuring SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft
- Tier 1 Superior Supplier for U.S. Air Force
- Aerospace Company of the Year
- Top Women-Owned U.S. Government Contractor
- Fastest Growing Women-Owned Company in North America
- Aviation Entrepreneurs of the Year