Interview by Olamide Ogunlowo
Olamide: What drew you to international trade?
Katie: I grew up in a community that had a sister city in Japan, and I started learning Japanese. There were yearly economic development missions that travelled between the cities. In high school, I did my capstone project on trade promotion and traveled to our sister city. There I gave a speech in Japanese to business and government leaders as well as other delegates from my hometown that had travelled to Japan for the 20th anniversary event of the sister city relationship. In college, I studied international relations and urban planning so I was trained to view things through a development lens. After I graduated, I had the opportunity to live in Africa – Kampala, Uganda most recently.
My family works in agriculture and construction, and I have worked in both industries on and off for most of my life. While in Uganda, I noticed a gap in the construction industry which I saw as an opportunity. Market research shows that international firms dominate the infrastructure and heavy construction sector, as domestic contractors lack access to affordable equipment and capital. I want to increase domestic contractors’ share of the market. I see Teutizoku as a way to advance American companies and Ugandan companies by building an ecosystem.
Olamide: What is the best trade job you have ever had? Why?
Katie: Honestly, I don’t think I have had a “trade” job in the past, at least not directly. I was exposed to trade and international relations when living in New Mexico in the border region. I was also involved with economic development and promoting the city to attract foreign investment from other countries.
Olamide: What is the most complex trade issue you have tackled in your business?
Katie: I started my business in January and there are a lot of moving parts and relationships that need to be built for the ecosystem to happen. Uganda is a land locked country, so one challenge is getting the equipment there in a way that is competitive. I also have to find and build relationships with American companies interested in going global.
Olamide: What trends do you see impacting your business over the next year?
Katie: I anticipate the COVID- supply chain disruption will have a significant impact on my business. Manufacturers will need to diversify their supply chains, which is a positive, but COVID impacted my ability to travel there. I am optimistic about emerging markets, and I think the growing economy is an opportunity.
Olamide: What advice would you give to other women looking to enter the field of international trade or looking to start their own business?
Katie: My advice to anyone is to have very clear goals and be intentional in the way you work towards them. Even when it’s tough, just keep going. Having a great team and network in place is critical. Finally, be confident.
Olamide: Do you have female mentors and what wisdom have they shared with you?
Katie: Yes, I do. My mentor is Virginia Diamond, an attorney and the President of the Northern Virginia AFL-CIO. She is the kind of person who sees a need and steps up to do it, and that is a great leadership trait to have. She’s also passionate about her work and fights hard for her vision.
At the end of our interview, I asked Katie a series of rapid-fire trade questions to hear what comes immediately to mind.