From Environmental Monitoring to Aircraft Parts & Retail, Women-Owned Businesses Make Economic Impact in Vista
As various weather and natural events around the world are spurring greater attention to environmental monitoring, one Vista-based company Precision Measurement Engineering (PME) is answering the call by designing freshwater and oceanographic research devices for organizations all over the world. From the rushing rivers in the Rocky Mountains, to the third largest lake in Italy and from remote regions in Antarctica to the crashing waves in California, PME’s sensors are providing valuable data.
In particular, PME’s instruments are helping glaciologists in Nepal understand how glaciers are melting and what their drainage system looks like. The company also has technology on every continent collecting valuable data that are allowing researchers to better understand their aquatic systems.
“The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector with an annual growth rate of about 5.8%. This multi-billion dollar industry will look to help feed a growing population,” explained Kristin Elliott, PME’s CEO.
Closer to home, Elliott said PME is helping with various local projects such as the shore-based seawater CO2 and pH monitoring system in the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad. Meanwhile, Scripps Institution of Oceanography is looking to create a model of the entire lagoon to estimate the effects the lagoon has on carbon levels, temperature, and human impact.
PME has been in this niche business for nearly four decades, first launching in 1982 when Elliott’s dad, Dr. Michael Head, developed a conductivity sensor from his thesis at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Universities heard about this new development over time and helped to commercialize the technology. From there, Head created other water sensors for a variety of research applications.
Elliott began working for the company around 2005 after graduating with a BA in Communications from UCSD.
“I actually started as an assembler for the business and manufactured various parts,” she said. “From there, I moved more into accounting, marketing, and sales. I attended trade shows, spoke to customers, pursued new business ideas, set up our international distribution network and really enhanced the sales channels. I was named CEO towards the end of 2016 and have been pursuing the new technology brand, Aquasend, targeted for aquaculture farmers.”
Aquasend, an integrated monitoring platform for aqua farming, is a sub-brand of the PME enterprise and brings decade’s worth of environmental technology knowledge to local farmers, Elliot said.
“These technologies help aquaculture farmers better manage and monitor their water quality, providing healthier and happier farmed fish to consumers.”
Since taking the helm of PME, Elliott said she has also been focusing on the business internally to define the company culture, vision, mission, and goals. Her husband, Erik, joined the company in 2007 and now leads operations and manufacturing.
“It has been our strategic goal to ensure a strong company foundation which we can build upon,” Elliott said. “This includes implementing a new Enterprise Resource Planning system, reviewing inventory management, enhancing manufacturing efficiencies, streamlining sales processes, and ensuring clear communication across all departments. We focus on customer satisfaction, optimal quality products, and solid relationships.”
“Externally, we have been focused on expanding our distribution channels, creating a solid brand, honing in on providing exceptional value to our targeted customers and really understanding the future path of technology in this industry as well as other opportunities,” she added.
Under Elliott’s leadership, PME has certainly been in strong growth mode. She has helped triple the company’s annual revenues over the last several years, with expected revenue of $2.5 million in 2019. The company’s employee roster has also expanded to more than 15 people in the last two years.
PME has grown more than 115% in the last three years while profits have grown over 300%. “We’ll also be hiring a new CTO in the next 12 months to alleviate my dad’s responsibilities and to further support the business,” Elliott said.
She said being based in Vista has also contributed to the company’s continued success.
“We love Vista because of the great location. Some of our suppliers are located in Vista, and we’re a desirable employer because of our proximity to major freeways, among other reasons. City of Vista personnel have been very helpful in sending us opportunities for collaborations, as well as introducing us to other entities who may have a need for our product.”
For Elliott, there’s no place or industry she’d rather be.
“I love the opportunity to learn and grow both professionally and personally. I’m passionate about solving problems and providing innovative technologies to industries looking to advance their understanding of data. I’m also dedicated to business development, employee cultivation, and overcoming challenges. Our customers in environmental monitoring and aquaculture are looking to better understand their natural waters as well as desire to better predict or forecast natural occurrences, such as algal blooms and disease.”
Elliott’s view from the top certainly looks bright, but she admits that as a woman executive providing technology to science and aquaculture, it can sometimes be a little more challenging to make an impact.
“These sectors are very male-dominated, but I find that experienced individuals are very receptive when I ask them for counsel,” she said. “Sometimes it can be daunting to speak with industry leaders and experienced business mentors in your industry, but most individuals are willing to provide guidance and advice when approached. I recommend finding a mentor or someone you admire who has been on the same path to learn from and obtain feedback.”
She also offered some other sage advice to other women business owners about balancing work, life and family.
“I’m a mother of three young children – an 8-year-old girl, 6-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl. Working full time and running a company definitely has its challenges while also juggling school activities, sports, and social events. I try to not overwhelm my calendar, but it can be tough. Some rules that we try to live by are family first, leave work at work, and be present.”
Elliott is one of dozens of women who are running successful businesses in Vista. Below is a sampling.
- Gia Senigaglia, GDS Industries, a national provider of products and services for both the electrical and telecommunications industry.
- Toni MacKenzie, MacKenzie Aircraft Parts, which has provided parts, supplies, tools, lubricants, and materials used in the aerospace and industrial manufacturing markets for over 35 years.
- Julie Lowen, Children’s Paradise Inc., which delivers high-quality early childhood education to more than 1,000 children and families across North San Diego County daily.
- Riley Herington, re•find Off Main, a fun and rustic vintage clothing shop.
- Mia Kyong Davis, Mikko Sushi.
“These women-owned businesses in Vista reflect the vibrant mix of industries in our city and are major players in our local economy,” said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter. “We are proud to support these women entrepreneurs who push the boundaries of possibility every day.”
Economic Development contact for the City of Vista:
Economic Development Director