Meet Karen Lai, President & Founder of KPM Power Inc.
2022 Innovation Award Finalist
Karen is the President and Founder of KPM Power Inc, a customizable lithium battery solutions provider, with a specialization in Battery Management Systems. She is an ardent supporter of the advancement and implementation of clean technologies and is committed to fueling these initiatives to get to market. Karen has nearly 20 years of experience with global supply chain management, design for manufacturing and validation, and vendor management. A mechanical engineer herself, she is passionate about encouraging and empowering more women in STEM, and helping women realize their goals and fully reach their vast potential. Karen is a member of the advisory board for York University’s BEST Program, which supports entrepreneurial initiatives and programs with a STEM focus.
My first job ever was… working at the CNE flea market selling hair accessories with my mom at 11 years old. My mom couldn’t afford childcare, so she always brought me with her. When it got busy, I especially found satisfaction in helping things run smoothly, and also enjoyed doing cash transactions in my head!
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… my husband had faith that if we invested in me, the return would be higher than any stock or fund. Being raised in an immigrant family, my parent’s dream for me was to get a good job, marry a good person and be a good mother and wife. I was 40 years old when I started being an entrepreneur, and I never would have believed this was going to be part of my journey.
My boldest move to date was…quitting my job when I was 39 years old. I had no other job lined up. I suffered burnout and decided to take control of my life again.
My biggest setback was… I have been through many setbacks. I don’t know how to measure what my biggest setback would be from growing up relatively poor, to almost failing first year university, to being demoted after returning from maternity leave. I feel life is a journey of ups and downs. When life is down, the only direction you can go is up and it was always a goal for me to get back up.
I overcame it by… taking life back into my control. I can’t control what others say or do to me, but I can control taking myself out of those negative situations. I can control myself to work harder. I can control focusing on my positive traits and excelling at what I do best. I can control my decision to make a positive impact on others.
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I love to go grocery shopping. Some may find it as a weekly chore that has to be done, but if I had a lot more free time, I would spend hours at a large grocery store going through every aisle looking for deals and envisioning various types of meals that can be made.
When starting my business, I wish I knew… how I could have been more confident. I wouldn’t have started my business if it wasn’t for others believing in me, like my husband. I didn’t envision myself as an entrepreneur or business leader. I wish I had more confidence in my early years.
My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… trust your gut. When I was working for others, I often found it difficult to vocalize that uneasy feeling in my stomach, when I may not have been fully onboard with something. I realized as long as I am staying true to my integrity, I had to trust my instincts, even if it meant taking the unconventional path.
I stay inspired by… working with the new generation. I am a big supporter of hiring students for internship/co-op jobs. I am inspired every day when I see a student or new graduate discover their potential and witnessing their transformation.
The future excites me because… I never saw myself as an entrepreneur or leader. This whole journey has been new to me. With the success of my business, I am starting to see the type of impact I can have as an industry leader, and that I can influence change. I can demonstrate to future leaders, and my children, that leading with empathy helps bring out the best in people, that that makes going to work every day exciting!
Success to me means… finding your purpose and staying true to your core values. Before my dad passed away, he said to me that he wished he was more successful in life. I told him that his success is his legacy of relationships, as a father, grandfather, husband, friend, etc. At the end of one’s life, all the money you have will not bring you that feeling of being content. Living a life of purpose does.