SALT LAKE CITY — Ask Jennifer Hwu her secret for success in business and she will tell you to embrace change, pay attention to detail and do what you love.
"Embrace whatever idea you believe is the one you want to go after, and then just go after it," she said.
Debbie Jacketta would say work hard, make connections and learn to delegate.
"You have to decide what is most profitable for you to do," she said.
The two Salt Lake business owners have been named Woman Business Owner of the Year by the Salt Lake chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
Utah saw a 73.4 percent growth in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2013, according to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Business report published by American Express.
Women-owned businesses nationally grew to 7.8 million in 2007, up from 5.4 million in 2002 — a 20 percent increase — according to research by the National Women's Business Council.
Physics to business
Almost 30 years ago, Jennifer Hwu quit her job as a high school physics teacher in Taiwan. She moved to California to study electrical engineering at UCLA.
After earning a master's and Ph.D., Hwu accepted a job as a professor at the University of Utah. Twelve years later, she decided she wanted to put her research to use. She quit her job as a professor so she could start a business.
She now owns InnoSys, a company that manufactures electronic components for electric systems and applications, such as the electric units inside LED lighting. Her company tries to meet the specific needs of each customer — something she attributes to her ability to pay attention to detail and to teach her employees to do the same.
InnoSys is moving from the private sector and will offer consumer products later this year, a shift that she anticipates will double its current revenue. Her company has seen steady sales growth for the past eight years.
Even though she has been retired from teaching for decades, Hwu finds herself teaching her employees. Change is good, she tells young people, and, in her experience, requires four to five years of hard work before it pays off.
"I really believe that everybody can make a good success as long as they work hard at it and don't give up too early," Hwu said.
Janice Boes, president-elect of the Salt Lake chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, described Hwu as "an engineer and scientist, a visionary, an inventor, a manufacturer, a government contractor, a multiple patent holder, an international public speaker, mentor to students, an environmentalist, and CEO and president of a multimillion-dollar company, many times over. … Need I say more?"
No stranger to awards, this year is Hwu's second consecutive nomination. She also received the Outstanding Asian Business Award by the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Women in Technology Council's 2011 Award for Entrepreneurship, and works to inspire young women to study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, Boes said.
A witch hat hangs on the wall of Debbie Jacketta's office at Jacketta Sweeping Service, above a miniature wooden replica of a Jacketta street sweeper.
"My other car is a broom," she joked.
She took over operations for her father's street sweeping business in 2002. She worked there through her teen years. After she had her first baby, she took over the accounting.
She supplemented her high school education by taking management, accounting and marketing classes through Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah's Division of Continuing Education. She joined a national street sweeping association and the National Association of Women Business Owners. Through these connections she has been able to learn from other professionals in similar situations.
She said she feels many other women deserved the award this year.
"I was honored. I was humbled. I was surprised," she said.
In the next breath, she talked about the difficulty women have with championing themselves. She said she hopes her award will motivate other women to push themselves farther in business.
Her company reached more than $1 million in sales in 2007.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services does not gather data based on gender but it has seen an economic uptick as business owners become more varied, said spokesman Nic Dunn.
This is because businesses exist to solve problems and provide services, he said, so the more ideas there are floating around, the better equipped businesses are to respond to those needs.
"The more people you have with diverse backgrounds and experience in business, the more robust your economy will be overall," Dunn said.
Hwu and Jacketta will officially be honored on Wednesday. They will be joined by Rising Star award recipients Jennifer Ha of JLJ Law and Joan Muschamp of LemonZest Marketing LLC.