• 10-16-2009: SDSU Newscenter

    10-16-2009: San Diego State Universty 360 Magazine

    Test for Success
    Zeynap Ilgaz and her husband turned an idea into a multimillion dollar busines…


    The story of Zeynep Ilgaz is a quintessential California rags to riches tale.

    She and her husband, Serhat Pala, came to San Diego from their native Turkey in 1998 with dreams of starting a family business. Five years later, armed with M.B.A. degrees from San Diego State

    University, they launched a home test kit distribution company from their garage in Kearny Mesa.

    The fledgling firm filled online orders for testing kits for pregnancy, fertility and infectious diseases. Ilgaz and Pala agreed that he would build the distribution business while she went to work for a local startup.

    Their plans changed when company revenue rose from $300,000 in 2004 to $1.1 million in 2005, and $2.6 million in 2006. Ilgaz, then working for CONNECT, left her position to become CEO of their company, Confirm BioSciences, while Pala took on the role of chief financial officer.

    Working together, the couple saw an opportunity to expand the business by catering to a growing demand for workplace drug testing. They secured exclusive rights to cutting edge technology from labs around the country and created new test products, including the hugely successful HairConfirm, which was featured on national news programs and is now available in over 25 countries including the U.S.

    Thanks largely to HairConfirm, Confirm BioSciences was sixth among San Diego’s fastest growing companies in 2008, according to bizSanDiego.

    With samples of hair from the scalp or body, the product can reveal an individual’s drug use over the previous 90 days. Not only can HairConfirm identify the type of drug used (cocaine, marijuana, codeine, morphine, crystal meth, Ecstasy); it can also determine if the individual is a recreational or habitual user.

    "Drug testing is a controversial topic," Ilgaz admitted. "If a family chooses to test, the product is available. But my husband and I agree that communication between parents and children is the number one way to discourage drug use."

    Ilgaz frequently refers to her husband in conversation. Earlier this year, as one of eight College of Business Administration alumni to win the Lamden Rising Star Award, she began her acceptance speech by thanking Pala.

    "When I’m speaking to SDSU students, they often ask me what it’s like to run a business with your husband. For me, it has been the most wonderful experience, my dream really. We’re building a family and a business together. "

    She laughed. "He’s my partner in crime."

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