MBA graduate builds multimillion-dollar business
By Rudy Arispe, ’98 BA
So as the San Antonio native mentions the coveted contracts her company holds with the Department of Defense, for instance, or that for the past three years in a row InGenesis has been named one of Inc. magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States, or that it reported $52 million in consolidated revenues for 2010, you have to hand it to her.
Even so, it’s comical to hear her describe the first corporate “office” she occupied about a decade prior to the suite she now has on the third floor of the Wedgwood Professional Building on Blanco Road.
“I was in my utility room with my washer and dryer at my back with all my notes stuck on the wall,” the cordial president and CEO of InGenesis says with a laugh. “When my little girl was asleep, I would make client calls. So I would do business around my daughter’s nap time.”
Since founding InGenesis in 1998, Edwards has been on a roll, but not without plain, old-fashioned hard work. She’s doing her homework to position the company, which employs 800 people in 27 states, as one of the top medical staffing firms in the nation.
Edwards, who was the recipient of the 2010 UIW Alumni of Distinction Award for Professional Development, has always had a bright head on her shoulders, which she attributes to her parents. Her father is a retired U.S. marshal who was in charge of security for federal judges, and her mother is a successful real estate agent.
“I’m a combination of both,” she says. “My mom is aggressive, very friendly and persistent. My father is very methodical and rational.”
Edwards’ entrepreneurial spirit, however, is all her own.
After graduating with a journalism degree from Texas State University, then known as Southwest Texas State University, Edwards landed a job at Southwestern Bell, selling advertising for the Yellow Pages.
“I decided to work at a large company and start at the bottom and work my way up,” Edwards says. “I did telemarketing. It was hardcore on the phone, trying to sell people thousands of dollars of advertising.”
When the company’s annual report found its way to her desk, the first thing she did was flip to the corporate executive bios “to find out what they had that I didn’t.” That missing piece was an MBA, she discovered, so she enrolled at the University of the Incarnate Word to get her own. Around the same time, she transferred to the wireless division, when she realized that wireless was poised to take off.
“I started studying the infrastructure of wireless as part of my homework case studies,” Edwards says. “My superior gave me access to the organizational infrastructure while mentoring me.”
Because of her solid work ethic, Edwards was promoted to director of strategic marketing by age 24.
“I would write articles for newsletters and brochures, but didn’t get paid extra. I did it to get the experience,” she says. “For three years, I was listed in the annual report at the shareholder’s meeting as one of the top employees.”
Management positions in sales, marketing and public relations in California and Florida for Southwestern Bell later followed, but when Edwards returned to San Antonio, she was laid off.
“I decided to try my luck at entrepreneurship because I always wanted to own my business,” she says. “So I started InGenesis. I gave myself 90 days to succeed, or I was going to go find a job.”
Edwards began as a headhunter for telecommunications clients, but after six years she shifted her focus to the medical industry when her research indicated that telecommunications was about to crash, and the medical field was booming. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she phoned the Mayo Clinic and soon landed an important contract.
“They told me they were looking for four neurosurgeons,” she says. “I realized I didn’t have to do the surgery, but take care of the client while delivering fantastic customer service.”
Today, her clients include the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and the University of Texas Health Science Center, among others. InGenesis is expected to earn $78 million in revenue this year, Edwards says. Still, even with such promising financial figures, the company president doesn’t plan to pop open a bottle of champagne. At least, not right now.
“I never stop to rest on our success because the minute you stop for too long, you lose your edge,” she says. “It’s just another day. You have to continue to build the business and make sure clients are happy because if one of those pieces fails, then the whole operation is weakened.”
Edwards, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at UIW, has been supporting the community through two scholarships she established through the university. The first is a medical scholarship in memory of a former InGenesis employee, Talitha Karstens, who died of cancer; another in honor of her brother, Darrell Musquiz, for students seeking to attend UIW’s H-E-B School of Business and Administration. He died in February.
The company is taking its philanthropic efforts even further through the establishment of the InGenesis Institute, which will assist research scientists and medical device manufacturers to access grant dollars, Edwards explains.
“We’ve hired the staff, and we’re going to get more involved in San Antonio, whether it be through programs, such as diabetes, wounded warriors or traumatic brain injuries. It’s advancing the medicine of the future, so that there’s better patient care,” she says. “We’re also moving forward to create a foundation that will focus on development of new scientific technologies and studies.”
For all the business awards and public accolades that InGenesis has achieved, Edwards insists it’s because of her philosophy of striving to be the biggest and the best.
Or, as she puts it, “Go big or go home.”