Lift As You Climb: Leading with Purpose, Passion and Pivotability
Lou Kennedy stands apart from her peers within the medical manufacturing industry. Since 2007, Kennedy has operated as CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals. With Kennedy at the helm, the company has grown tremendously and found a new home in South Carolina, where she has roots and attended college. On top of that, Nephron manufactures its medical products within South Carolina, a rarity at a time when so many items are produced overseas. Outside of the C-suite, Kennedy generously gives back to and invests in her local community. And it’s for these reasons she’s the kind of trailblazing leader we are proud to spotlight.
With Lou Kennedy at the center, this episode of Beyond the Mold is packed with inspiring management insights, female empowerment, and future-thinking leadership ideas. We sit down with Lou to discuss her approach to leadership and the unique achievements that have made her a pioneer both in and out of the medical industry. We’ll also get her thoughts on the value of giving back to the next generation of leaders and her insights into what comes next. Join us and venture Beyond the Mold with industry powerhouse Lou Kennedy.
Lift As You Climb: Leading with Purpose, Passion and Pivotability
Tracy Broad is Husky’s Global Marketing Manager and host of the Beyond the Mold podcast.
Tracy Broad: Welcome to Beyond the Mold, a podcast about the breakthrough innovations and the experts who are pushing the boundaries of traditional injection molding, packaging design, and sustainability. I'm Tracy Broad of Husky Technologies.
Tracy Broad: Fearless commitment, trademark enthusiasm, manufacturing icon, infectious energy, these are just some of the descriptors for my guest today. I'm honored to be joined by a leader who has shattered glass ceilings, and blazed a trail in the industry. I'm thrilled to welcome medical maven, CEO and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Lou Kennedy, welcome to Beyond the Mold, Lou, thanks for joining me today.
Lou Kennedy: I am happy to be with you, and I'm honored that you asked, and I love the clever name Beyond the Mold.
Tracy Broad: Thanks Lou. So let's get straight to it, I'm sure when I just introduced you just now, many of our listeners who don't know you, expected to hear the voice of a male, with the name Lou, and I know this isn't the first time in your life you've heard that. And admittedly, I thought it was short for Louise. I'm sure this is a pretty typical situation you find yourself in. So what's the story behind your name, Lou?
Lou Kennedy: I'm an only child, my parents wanted a boy, my nursery was blue. Of course back then, they didn't know what sex they were having, but they wanted a boy, they had a boy's name picked out and I had a blue nursery, they never painted it, I just stayed that way. So I think that they had some uncanny sense about what I'd end up doing later in life, because I'm always in a room full of men. And I think they must have had a little foreshadowing, or something, to name me a man's name, and it isn't short for Louise, it's just plain old Lou. And my mom said, "Well I've never had any girls in my classroom named Lou."
Lou Kennedy: And I said, "There's a reason for that, mom." All the people I know with the name, Lou, it's either a nickname, or it is short for Louis or Louise. So anyway, that's my name, and so I've grown to embrace it, but it's also a nice, or a nifty little trick, when someone calls up and says, I need to speak to Mr. Kennedy, we know to screen the call. So it works, it has some pros too.
Tracy Broad: Has some good advantages to it. So in one interview, you described a tough period in your life, but you see now in retrospect that time in your life was actually a blessing in disguise. What was the watershed moment for you? And looking back, how did you defy the odds, and stay true to what many people have described as your winning spirit, and also, most importantly, setting a positive example for your daughter?
Lou Kennedy: Well, thank you for asking me about this. I've often said those years of my life enabled me to have a PhD in psychology. My ex-husband, the father of my child has, and had, a very, very strong addiction problem. And I learned so much about how not to set off the anger, and the temper, and things like that, how to spot a con artist. So all those skills, rather than saying, "Oh, how rough the time that was." I look at it as what I learned from it, and I believe it's the way I was raised by my parents, we have a very strong sense of the word faith, and faith to get through things. One step at a time, things are worth fighting over if they're going to matter in 20 years from now, they're worth fighting over. And if you got to get up and fight, then give it the good fight.
Lou Kennedy: So I think my upbringing, and the way my parents raised me in the church really helped me have a lot of faith. And I didn't realize how bad things were then, until I looked back, and I see my power was being shut off, the water was being shut off, I had to do three jobs to try and make ends meet for my daughter, but I hope that she learned that you got to have a fallback plan, you got to have plan B, and C, and D, and working hard, is just a hallmark of anybody's life. I mean, I'm proud of the hard work, and I still treat each day as if I'm that same broke single mom, that I got to get up and make it through the day, and try to champion whatever I'm approaching that day. Not everybody knows this about me, but I never once, since I've been married to my husband, have ever looked at the final number on the tax return, I still think of myself as a broke single mom.
Tracy Broad: That's amazing. That's incredible perspective, and something that I know sometimes you wake up in the morning, and think if there's saying in the mirror, or something that you drive into the office and tell yourself, that's an amazing reason to hustle every day.
Lou Kennedy: Yeah. Well, I mean, there's no secret that I like to win. I like to watch my teams win, and I like to see the team here at Nephron win, in whatever the endeavor is. So I like winning, I like to be around winners, and help people be winners.
Tracy Broad: Well, that's amazing. And that brings me to talk a little bit about your career, and your leadership style today. And it's funny, you mentioned the logo on your fridge there with the female basketball team, and talking about female led, and actually certified female owned. This obviously is just not just a philosophy for you, you live it, you breathe it, you walk the talk, and I can tell it's such a great sense of pride for you, and so much so, that your business is recognized as certified woman owned. Can you tell our listeners about why this certified, and inspiring more women to lead, is such a priority for you?
Lou Kennedy: Well, in the early days, when we were considering it was a little bit, my husband's an only child as well. And so there's a little bit of household competition, and I think folks, because my husband's 20 years older than me, thought in the beginning of this is just going to be a placeholder, we'll make it a woman-owned business, but I was very eager to show that I have my hands, arms, and everything wrapped around what goes on here each and every day, from the minuscule thing to the macro thing that I need to consider. And so I plowed right in, and made sure that I was capable of answering FDA, or other types of audits, that I don't have to rely on someone else to do it.
Lou Kennedy: And in doing that, I thought we should be recognized. I worked really hard to learn a new industry, I had no background whatsoever, I have a bachelor's degree in journalism, certainly not in making medication. And so I was just convinced that I needed to have that encompassing knowledge, and I feel like knowledge is power. And so the early days, it was just to be recognized for doing the hard work that we've been able to accomplish. Now, what I can tell you is some stats today about our company, without even really trying, we are 53% female in this company.
Tracy Broad: That's incredible.
Lou Kennedy: Almost all department heads are female. We have over 44 countries represented here, so we're extremely diverse, and the stats will tell you the more diverse you are, the more productive you are. So I do think it starts with the fact that I'm in a non-traditional role, as a female. And I think others in the community may tend to apply here. Well, if she can do it, I can do it. So I think without setting out to be that many, the ratio for females to be that high, it's happened organically. And so a lot of talent here, and I like to say, I don't really look for the right female, I look for the right person for the role. And in our case, we've found a lot of really talented females, a lot of really talented males, as well.
Tracy Broad: Good. I've read, you tell the story about your career and how you started out, Nephron building up the sales force, and then taking over as CEO. And how under your leadership you've experienced such tremendous growth, $300,000,000 in investments in just the last two years. I think so many of these are items are noteworthy, but when you actually sit back and reflect, what stands out the most to you?
Lou Kennedy: Watching the people working here blossom, that is a favorite thing about what I do. Just seeing somebody get an opportunity, run with it, and realize their own potential, and help to make that happen. That's my favorite thing about what I do, and you mentioned the words, management style, I would say fortunately, and unfortunately for the folks that are employed here, I'm more like a mom in my management style. So when things are going well, mom's really happy, when things aren't going well, it takes a toll on the whole team. So I think it's important for me to try and keep everything, pushing ahead and happy. And that's a big statement given that I've had the last three weeks of six investigators from FDA in visiting us. So I'm eager to get back to day to day work, as I knew it three weeks ago.
Tracy Broad: Sounded like a little bit of mama bear to me.
Lou Kennedy: A lot of it.
Tracy Broad: So if you look back to where you started, to where you are today. You mentioned you were an only child of a school teacher who aspired to be a food writer, or a TV chef. I had a good giggle with that one, and now to the CEO, and owner of a certified woman owned leading medical company, that's quite the shift, walk me through your journey.
Lou Kennedy: And who knew in the 80s how much money Paula Dean was going to make as a southern chef on TV. I mean, maybe I could have made more money if I could have stuck with the original dream, but I just have loved every step of the way. And I didn't so much have a real plan, as I've taken each experience, and parlayed into what I do now. So whether, it's working a lot of jobs and a lot of hours, whether it's sales, whether it's been in marketing, all of the things that I've done up to this point, in some way, touches what I do every day, whether it's people skills, public relations, special event coordination, all those things I get to do in my role here at Nephron. And so I would say, how's it going? We're just on an uphill climb and keep breaking barriers.
Lou Kennedy: I mean, I'm thrilled for where we are, and where we're going. And over two years ago, I had no idea that I was going to be in the molecular biology business, but I said, "By gosh, we're going to have the cleanest certified labs so we can keep our employees safe and working through the pandemic." Now that has turned into, we're now about, on May 18th, to open a wellness center to treat all of our employees, and their families for free, and do all the testing in the molecular biology lab that was originally started for COVID. So I try to take some of these ideas that pop in my head and then figure out a way to make them profitable, or pay for themselves, or whatever. The original purpose was to stay healthy and that's turned into something even bigger and better for our employees.
Lou Kennedy: So I also didn't set out to have a nitrile glove business, and somehow that popped up last summer. And I've been fast working on my business, that I'm so thankful, and I'm not being paid to say this, I'm so thankful for the help Husky has given us to help me navigate this injection molding business that soon to open. I mean, I had the wild idea, and then started purchasing equipment and then said, "Maybe I need some help." So I didn't have as good a plan on that idea, and so thank goodness for Husky to help get me between the lanes, and driving that project forward. So we're looking forward to seeing how that's going to unfold here soon.
Tracy Broad: I like how you jumped into it, because there's really no greater leadership test than guiding a company through unchartered waters, or unprecedented circumstances. And this pandemic has certainly pushed the boundaries, and pushed us into places we never thought we'd be before, but it doesn't mean that it's impossible to overcome, and what you just said now about, "I bought the equipment first and figured it out later." That just shows that obviously you think nothing's impossible. So in terms of some of the unique challenges that you and the team at Nephron have recently faced, what do you think enabled you to navigate these times, and be successful? I mean, you talked about two key, the nitrile glove facility, and also now, the other investment that you've got coming up, how did you navigate these times?
Lou Kennedy: Well, there's a third one, Tracy. We also, when the pandemic started, I said, "We need to be able to fill vaccines if we're needed." So we started construction on a brand new wing, I have received two filling lines for filling vaccines. I'm getting those installed as we speak, we finally moved in, started moving into the building January 1 of this year, of that wing of the building. So I've got to go out there and find a vaccine partner, in the meanwhile, because I have the wing, and the space, we've been approached by countless folks asking us, "Could you make this or that?" Nothing to do with the vaccine, and I'm so happy that we charged forward, because now we've got available space for some really new, and exciting endeavors, for our company with a couple of new partners. So I don't always have a rock solid plan, but I know we can make something of it. Again, it goes back to that faith, having the faith that you've got the talent, the people, the team, now what are we going to come together to make great out of the opportunities?
Tracy Broad: Yeah. I think that's where things will come up that you probably, from out the pandemic, would've never imagined, and opportunities. And if you're there, and you're there at the right time with the right solutions, it's amazing what can happen. So it's really exciting for you.
Lou Kennedy: I called our governor early on, and I said, "If I were to get in the Cleo laboratory business, don't you think I could help take some of the stress off of the hospitals, for nothing but just community testing."
Lou Kennedy: And he said, "Lou, go for it." And I mean within three weeks, we had the lab certified, and built out. We had a plan, a drive-through tent set up, and we're still to this day, giving vaccines out of that drive-through line. And I was fortunate enough to have our neighbors, Dominion Energy, loan me the land, so it'd be right off of a major interstate, and we're still seeing patients two years later.
Tracy Broad: Wow. That's incredible.
Lou Kennedy: Yeah, so I'm happy how that worked out and, I mean, that wasn't anywhere in my radar, three months before.
Tracy Broad: Yeah, no, it's amazing how things have shifted, and opportunities you probably could have never imagined have popped up. So I guess, I didn't congratulate you earlier, but congratulations on your recent win for the Manufacturing Icon Award from the National Manufacturing Association, that's quite an honor. This is another in a number, or I guess, long line of incredible accolades you've received for your contributions. You mentioned now, just the community, and speaking with the governor, and the medical industry in general, if you had to choose just one of those recognitions, what would you say you’re most proud of?
Lou Kennedy: Well, it's not about me, but I was really, really tickled to receive a Facility of the Year award, because I poured my heart and soul into the design of this company. And so then, that was early on, and to follow that up with this Manufacturing Icon Award, it just validates and confirms we're doing great things with our team, and for the public at large, and for patients. And so I think it's a good day to tell people you're manufacturing. Years ago, people looked at it as a sweat shop, a dirty factory, and we're in fact more of a tech company, that by the way, produces lifesaving medications. And so I'm very thrilled about those two, because I look at Nephron, the physical building, and the company that hums along inside of it, as my baby. So I liked getting that Facility of the Year award a whole heck of a lot. And then I was thrilled, they had never named a Manufacturing Icon, I was the first ever to receive it. So there was just underscore good times 10.
Tracy Broad: Well, and I also found, in my research in 2019, you were awarded the Healthcare Entrepreneur of the Year. And when I think about the definition, or the traditional definition, of entrepreneur, it's usually synonymous with someone who is early on in their career, maybe just getting started, or looking to prepare their propel their business forward, for a startup, for example. For you, it's quite the opposite 2019 isn't that long ago, so what did this recognition mean to you?
Lou Kennedy: Well, funny enough, the function was held in Atlanta, all the way there, I'm like, "Why am I doing this? I'm not even going to win."
Lou Kennedy: My husband's like, "Do we really need to make this trip?" So I was watching, as other awards were given out in different sectors, and it seemed like the first few to win, happened to be out of five, the fourth one on the list.
Lou Kennedy: So I'd already looked at Bill and I said, "I'm not the fourth one on the list. So you're probably right. This may just have been a wasted trip to Atlanta." So when they called my name, I was third on the list, because it wasn't believable to me. And so my friend was winning a Lifetime Achievement of the Year, which made it all the more special, a lady named an Anita Zucker. And she was seated with her family at the table next to ours, she jumps up and starts clapping and I'm still waiting for the fourth person to stand up.
Lou Kennedy: So it was pretty surreal, I was just delighted to have that honor. In recent years, probably since 2018, I've become friends with an Irish fashion designer, who happens to be named Louise Kennedy. And so, sure enough, not only do we look like we could be sisters, we almost have the same name, and she won the same honor in Dublin. It makes me very happy that Ernst and Young would even consider me, so that was a nice award, I have it sitting on the front of my desk.
Tracy Broad: Yeah. It's a great program. And I always thought it was traditionally for startups, so it was really interesting, when I read a little bit more on companies that got it.
Lou Kennedy: The old gals got it.
Tracy Broad: Well that's okay, and you were third on the list, versus fourth, so I think that's even better.
Lou Kennedy: And it was after, I was being such a dummy, it was all by alphabetical order. It just was coincidental of course, that the two or three that were called before me having to be fourth on the list. So my theory was debunked.
Tracy Broad: Well, there you go. Well, I talk about, early on in your career, you talked about taking chances and don't always have the plan, but I'm going to take a chance, and move the business forward. Looking back what were some of those critical decisions? And maybe there was a chance that you took that maybe you wish you hadn't taken? Tell me a little bit about that.
Lou Kennedy: Oh yeah. There have been some trip ups, but I'm not afraid to fail. And that's probably my biggest advice to anybody, because out of failure, some of the best ideas are hatched. And so, if you approach everything, "Well, if I fail, I'm just going to figure out a way to do it better than I originally planned, or pivot." And as a private company, we're able to have that kind of flexibility and we, in fact, coined it, a group of us in a planning session a year or so ago, the word that probably most defines our company, is a word we made up, pivotability. It's just the one word that we can turn on a dime, and make things happen. And it helps us to be able to compete against these large pharma companies that are in the same drug categories as some of the things that we make.
Lou Kennedy: So, I mean there have been a couple of products that I thought were going to be huge, and just weren't, there's just been some things like that. There's one particular product, we took a big leap of faith, and bought plenty of raw material, and didn't end up using it, so took a lot of loss on that. So, I mean, we all make mistakes, but I'm not afraid of that. And I think if we're going to be successful, we have to take risks, and you can't be afraid to fail. You just have to figure out what to do in the event of failure, to make something better.
Tracy Broad: And you took the words right out of my mouth, looking at the next topic we talked about, I've read so much about how you've pivoted your business. Given 85% of the world's medical devices are imported, and that imbalance was really exposed, over the course of the past two years with the pandemic. And now you've, I would say made it your mission, and I don't want to take words out of your mouth, but to ensure that Americans have access to American made PPE medical devices, vaccines, how have you been able to make an impact in this area locally, and in your view, in the country as a whole?
Lou Kennedy: Well, we've invested in and are part owners with Nephron Nitrile Glove business. We want to make our own syringes, plunger rods, caps, and so forth. And thank goodness for Husky, we might actually get there in the near future. I have made it my business to talk to all of the vendors with whom we do business, and suggested, "Would you like an east coast presence in America? Would this be a place that you might?" And I'm proud to say, two or three of the people, I just threw it out there, are actually looking at property in this industrial park. So I think my unabashed side hustle, is I've somehow elected myself to be a part of economic development in South Carolina, because I'm always trying to cheerlead for what a great place to do business it is here in South Carolina.
Lou Kennedy: You know, we have the fourth, believe it or not, even though we're a small, not very wealthy state, we have the fourth largest number of interstate highways systems, all of the rails comes through here, we have a newly expanded in port in Charleston, South Carolina, who didn't get backed up like the ports on the west coast, in New York, at the worst of the pandemic. So, I mean, there are a lot of compelling reasons, and I never shy away from a chance to talk about come on down and do a little business with us. I'm sure, I probably said something to your leadership at some point, "Oh, why wouldn't you want to put a Husky location right here in South Carolina?"
Tracy Broad: I'd be down with that. I thought it was a cute pun, or play on words, when I heard Nephron Nitrile, and really, I think it's anything but, this is a new and exciting venture for your business, and what's your vision for this, in terms of, contributing to the localization of the production of these medical supplies that are critical?
Lou Kennedy: Yes. And we felt like onshoring, and reshoring, getting things back here like America was known for in the turn of the century, been a little bit of a mantra of mine, even before the pandemic. So this just really put, and in my terms, a laser focus on being a part of this. So when some friends said, "What about Nephron Nitrile?"
Lou Kennedy: I said, "Oh, well, that's got to ring to it." And we have the distribution, and the infrastructure, so we are going to be producing exam gloves, later, sterile exam gloves, and finally ending up with surgeons gloves.
Tracy Broad: Wow.
Lou Kennedy: And I think it dovetails nicely with the hospital population that I already talk to on a regular basis, those are my customers. And so I think sterile gloves, sterile medications, it falls nicely into a good medical basket. And then for me, to get the ability to sell sterile syringes, this is all just fits. And so, I'm not only happy to control my own supply of these things, but also be able to give back, because both the gloves and syringes, were both in steep shortage as governments around the world were building up their national stockpiles, and hospitals were overrun with patients, I mean, it was just a real problem. And so we like being a part of the solution.
Tracy Broad: Yeah. It seems like there was a scramble there for a little while, now everybody's figuring out what's the next thing that we need to make sure that we're ahead of, and it sounds like you've got that well in hand, you talked a bit,
Lou Kennedy: One day I'll get in the gown business.
Tracy Broad: Well, you're connected to a good fashion designer, by the sounds of it. So you talked, you just said something there about giving back, and as the child of a school teacher, it seems that education is really part of your DNA, whether it's having students visit Nephron, we've seen lots of that on social media, to exploring manufacturing careers, even your state science fair, handing out awards, or internships at Nephron, it seems really important to you to inspire young people and educate them about careers in the manufacturing industry. Why is that so important?
Lou Kennedy: Well, it's even a part of the design of the building. I said to the architects and engineers, I want everything we do in this plant to be visible through glass, so that we can host children, in America we have a law, or OSHA has a rule that children under the age of 11, can't be allowed onto a factory floor. So everything in our plant can be viewed through glass, and my goal there was to inspire future chemists, machinists, microbiologists, and other disciplines that we have here. So even the design of this facility was meant with education in mind. We hired a certified school teacher to be the person who leads tours, and recruits classrooms to come here and take a visit. And I'm so happy to say, we're back doing that again, for a lot of time, we didn't host any field trips, and school was out anyway.
Lou Kennedy: So just this morning, we had a Travel Abroad class from Spain visiting. Last week, there was a class from France. And so again, it all of goes nicely with my plan for diversity, and future employees, and recruiting. So it could be any day of the week, you're seeing people touring through our facility. And I love the fact that we have an Educator Program here, that teachers can come in, and pick up part-time work for $21 an hour, and that's been going on now for the third straight year.
Lou Kennedy: And the unintended consequence of that Educator Program is A, it helps me while we're here in America, that's a war on talent. We have such low unemployment, that you're trying to fill positions with, not a huge pool, so this part-time helpers are amazing, but the unintended consequence is, they take what they learn here back into their classrooms and say, "This is why it's important to study chemistry," or, "This is why it's important to pay attention in biology class." And so I have such a respect for how hard the teachers work, and how much they deserve for training our future leaders, I try to celebrate education in any way, shape, or form that I can.
Tracy Broad: Yeah. And I watched that NBC story, and so tell me about the red uniforms. Why are those so significant in this program?
Lou Kennedy: In our facility, there are different color scrubs for the formulation team, the engineers, the chemistry lab coats, and things like that. So when we started the Educator Program, I said, "We need red for the educators, like a teacher's red apple." And so even the color scrubs, when they're coming, and going in to the facility, it cheers you up, it's just happy. And I never dreamed that when this whole educator thing started, one of the biggest questions they asked, "So we can go to the bathroom anytime we want." I didn't realize we had such a perk.
Tracy Broad: They don't have to ask for permission.
Lou Kennedy: Or have someone to watch the class.
Tracy Broad: Yeah. I think of the red pen when my assignments used to get marked up, instead of the apple, I don't know, but I saw there was a great story on NBC of one of the mothers, who was a teacher and how inspiring that program was for her, and her family. So congratulations, that's a great initiative.
Lou Kennedy: It was so nice that they followed up one year later, and showed her putting the keys to her new home, in the door from making her down payment money from working these extra part-time hours here. So we we all celebrated when she opened the door and walked through the threshold
Tracy Broad: That's so exciting. So if we look at South Carolina, I know you've got a lot of love for your state, and it was impacted by the pandemic in so many different ways, as well. And being a local business owner, employer, and community ambassador, how did you and the team at Nephron, step up and lead the way to give back, and make sure that residents were able to get access to supplies, or vaccine, or other supports that they might have needed?
Lou Kennedy: I mean, we did anything and everything that we could, from actually opening up a childcare downstairs in our building for a number of months, as so many day cares were shut down. I tried so hard to support the local restaurant owners, by having food for 50 catered in, by different restaurants every day. And we did that for three, four, five months straight, just making sure people had some revenue coming in. I ordered things from clothing stores for the employees here, just so a small business owner wouldn't have to shut his doors. Just little things like that, we also did, and are still doing testing for the community, and for the employees, and vaccine administration. We, I don't know, the list just grows longer, and longer. I was asked by our governor to serve on a task force called Accelerate SC, where people from all across the state came together in the capital, stretched eight feet apart.
Lou Kennedy: And we discussed what we would do with CARES money, or the ARPA funds, and gave our recommendations to the governor, so he could then give that to the legislature here in our state. So there were a lot of reaching across aisles, helping each other out. I mean, at one point, I invited a barber and an esthetician to come in here, sit outside on a stool, and trim people's hair, spritz it off with water, so people could get a haircut. I mean, we were just trying to do whatever we could to thank these team members, as scared as we all were, especially early on, for coming in to work, and helping us get the medications. I mean, even the salesperson who wasn't allowed to go in the hospital, would drive the medications, at least here in South Carolina, he'd take them, and hand deliver them. We did the same with giving out hospitals hand sanitizer, that we made here, per FDA's instructions. And there was just a lot of little examples of working with, and throughout the community, and the state, to be an answer to some of the problems we were all facing.
Tracy Broad: Yeah. That's amazing. I know the list goes on and, you think if you look back, I would've never thought we'd be saying two years later, here's all the things we've done, but it's amazing how you've been able to contribute. So I guess I'm coming to the close of our time together, and I have one question, in terms of, sharing some wisdom with us. If you were to mentor a young person, and you probably do, I'm sure you have in your career. Someone who is maybe struggling to move forward in their career facing similar challenges, or doubting themselves, and their abilities, what would you tell them? Or what would you share from your experience that might inspire them to stay the course and pursue their dreams?
Lou Kennedy: Well, anytime I speak to students, or young folks, I always share that, don't be afraid to fail. And so many times we are risk averse, and we won't put ourselves out there, and I'm always encouraging women, particularly, speak up and have a voice, make yourself relevant in the situation. And if you make a mistake, or something fails along the way, learn from it, and just do it better the next time. I think that's just so very important. And then I have a friend whose president at Bank of America here in South Carolina, and I've stolen her phrase, lets lift as we climb. And I take that very personally, and I'm forever trying to answer any female, that wants to ask me for advice of how does it feel to be a woman with this type of responsibility?
Lou Kennedy: And I will tell you that, once a year we have all of our employees get together, it takes three days to do it, to cover all the shifts, and the number of people that we have. It's in those three days, that it hits me, because I see 350 of them sitting each day, in front of me, how many lives I'm responsible for making the right decision. And it causes me to have a big lump in my throat, every year. I know it's coming, but I do it every year. And I think, I say my prayers that I will make good decisions that help support employees, and their families, and just do the best that we can. And hopefully we're training the next batch of leaders as we do it.
Tracy Broad: For sure. Well, I want to thank you Lou, for joining me today. I'm sure I speak for our listeners when I say that you have certainly, the not only blaze the trail in the medical industry for Nephron, but demonstrated leadership qualities that so many aspire to, not only young female leaders, but many business leaders around the globe, with the amazing work that you, and the Nephron team, are doing, and congratulations on your success to date, and I wish you all the best as you continue, the amazing work that you're doing, especially providing much needed support to your community, educators, and the medical industry. So thanks for your time today.
Lou Kennedy: Thank you for even wanting to hear my story. Thank you for listening. And I feel again, very honored that you would ask, and I hope that somehow we inspire at least one person from this podcast.
Tracy Broad: Thanks for joining us. Check out our show notes for resources discussed in today’s episode. And if you like what you heard, rate and review us on Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll see you next time as we venture Beyond the Mold.
LOU KENNEDYCEO, Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation
Lou Kennedy is the CEO and Owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation. She has held a variety of marketing and operational roles at Nephron and created the Nephron national sales force.
Under Kennedy’s leadership, Nephron has experienced unprecedented growth. The company employs nearly 2,000 people and produces one billion doses of life-saving medication
A West Columbia, S.C.-based company, Nephron develops and produces safe, affordable generic inhalation solutions and suspension products. The company also operates an industry-leading 503B Outsourcing Facility division which produces pre-filled sterile syringes, luer-lock vials, IV bottles and IV bags for hospitals across America. Nephron launched a CLIA- certified diagnostics lab in 2020 where it tests people for COVID-19 and administers vaccinations. In July of 2021, Nephron announced the opening of Nephron Nitrile, a plant that will produce American-made, medical-grade nitrile gloves.
Kennedy has been widely recognized for her achievements in business and leadership. The National Association of Manufacturers (N.A.M.) recently honored Kennedy with the Manufacturing Icon Award for promoting and growing manufacturing in America. Kennedy serves as a national co-chair of the N.A.M. Creators Wanted initiative.
As the worldwide pandemic reached South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster appointed Kennedy to #AccelerateSC – the state’s coordinated COVID-19 advisory and recovery team.
The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce celebrated Kennedy as its 2020 Business Leader of the Year, and the South Carolina Biotechnology Innovation Organization (S.C. BIO) recognized her with its South Carolina Life Sciences Pinnacle Award for Individual Contribution the same year.
Kennedy has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Regional Award and an Outstanding Leadership Award from the N.A.M., at the N.A.M. Institute STEP Ahead Women’s event. Nephron won an honorable mention award for Global Facility of the Year in 2017 from the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE). The award hailed Nephron's innovation and automation. Kennedy, now a member of the judge’s panel for the global facility of the year award, joined the ISPE board of directors in 2019.
In addition to serving on the ISPE board, Kennedy serves on the N.A.M. Board of Directors and is Chairman of S.C. BIO, a statewide association promoting the life sciences industry. Kennedy is a member of the Columbia Urban League board and a recipient of the Urban League’s awards for impact on education and for being a bridge-builder. She is past Chairman of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
Kennedy received South Carolina’s highest civilian honor – the Order of the Palmetto – from Governor Nikki Haley in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding service. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in public relations from the University of South Carolina.