Spotlighting Oil and Gas Entrepreneurs—Taking the Unbeaten Path
Walt Disney is credited with the quote, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Often times, we are limited only by our own imagination. Most of us follow the traditional path—go to college, get a job, work for 35+ years, and retire. In some ways, it is the least risky path because it is the most prescriptive, most well defined. Sure, there are plenty of challenges, but the game plan is very conventional.
Entrepreneurship is quite the opposite. High risk, high reward! When someone pursues entrepreneurship, the initial opportunity cost is quite high; giving up a good job and steady paycheck, sacrificing time with friends and family, and adding significant amounts of stress and risk. On the flip side, the work is often more inspiring, the learning curve is far steeper, and people are more engaged. And if the venture takes off, the payoff can be extremely high, both in terms of money and job satisfaction.
In this article in the Discover a Career section, we spotlight on Kristin Hatch and Tanhee Galindo, co-founders of GeoKimika Oil & Gas. As you read through this interview and learn about their inspiring journey, think through what your dreams are, and ask yourself: Do you have the courage to pursue them? Kristin and Tanhee did, just like Walt. You can be next!
-TWA Editors Richa Bansal, Tarang Lal
What motivated you to start your own company? How did you come up with the idea and inspiration to pursue entrepreneurship?
Kristin: After graduating from college, I had hoped to find a job within weeks but to my dismay that did not happen. In fact, my first real interview lasted only about 5 minutes, but left a lasting impression. The gentleman who conducted the interview told me I needed to stay in sales and the key to my success would be identifying a problem and bringing a solution to it. I started an entry-level job in technology sales and was stuck with 3 months of computer training in a cubicle shared with five others. I knew that was not for me and I kept looking for a way out. I had many friends in the oil and gas industry, including Tanhee, who constantly complained about chemical analysis in the field taking too long. I wondered, if this is such a common problem, why can’t someone find a faster way to do it. I didn’t have a technical background on fracturing or chemicals, so I started to ask around. What I discovered was that there were ways to get results faster, but it is just the way things had been done in the field. I had found a problem, now I needed to find a solution, one that people would be willing to pay for.
Tanhee: When Kristin first approached me about her idea, I knew from my own experience that there was value in performing on-site testing. At the time however, while I was supportive of her interest, I was not ready to leave the safety net of my job. She, however, was determined to get the business going. As I watched her idea take shape, I began to look at my own job and some of the challenges I faced. One of the glaring issues working in a large corporation was the lack of freedom to make decisions. I felt very passionate about certain opportunities and despite that, had to pass them up because of management decisions. I felt my hands were tied or sometimes my voice went unheard in the large management hierarchy. I saw a sharp contrast in the day-to-day life of Kristin and of some of my other entrepreneur friends. The ability to try something I wanted and to have complete control of how it is done became really appealing. When Kristin approached me again a year later (she had a customer base and wanted someone with a technical background to help grow her profitable business), the fear of not having a safety net was gone. She was also confident that my technical expertise would help guide the team and bring new ideas to the table.
What's your vision for the company? What do you want it to look like 3–5 years from now?
Kristin: We would like to “retire” at a young age. A lot can change in 3–5 years; the energy sector has been going through up and down cycles following the oil price, and companies are changing the way they run their operations, especially when it comes to chemicals. In the past year, we have seen many trending products and new companies enter the chemical space. Though the way we see it, trends are nothing more than temporary solutions, and we are not looking to be a trend. We created a business to serve a niche market, one that had a big need, so we are looking to establish a company with a track record of providing valuable solutions that stays current with market demands. We have a strong foundation in what we do and if the past year and a half is any indication, there is much room for growth. We started in the Permian Basin and have seen the benefit we bring there. I know there is a need in other areas and we are planning how best to deploy our capabilities.
Tanhee: To follow-up with what Kristin has said, we have done some unique things. We found a way to bring the lab to the field and have developed our own proprietary testing methods and equipment. We are encouraged by the growth in demand for our services and as we look to the future, we see the possibility of an acquisition by a large service provider or testing company who can benefit from the footprint we are creating.
What is your outlook of the market and the opportunities that exist for entrepreneurship?
Kristin: The market is open to entrepreneurs, and companies are encouraging more ideas from employees. We are seeing many more start-ups; just in Houston, there are many technology incubators and we often come across people who are trying to find the best way to start their own venture.
Tanhee: I think we are just at the beginning when it comes to seeing more start-ups in our industry. Many of my friends and colleagues want to start their own venture, and are finding there are many more avenues for launching their ideas. In our SPE section, we have a Shark-Tank themed event and a committee dedicated to entrepreneurship. I think that really speaks to where the industry is going. There are many challenges our industry faces from equipment, personnel, data, safety, etc. Those challenges will only be solved by people who take the initiative to think outside the box and find solutions.
How has your experience been being entrepreneurs in the oil and gas industry?
Kristin: It’s a bit of a roller-coaster. Having your own business and the responsibility of being profitable weighs on you. The price of oil changes, sometime in the wrong direction. Add to that the day-to-day challenges of running your own business. There were many things we had to learn as we go. We are also in a very large, complex and competitive industry, therefore we are challenged to be innovative and to be very persistent. Being in sales, I have learned not to get beaten up by “No”s or unanswered calls. You keep trying and eventually the doors open. It is a large industry, but a small network of people, who know it is not an easy task and therefore, are very supportive of young entrepreneurs.
Tanhee: My experience has been good so far, I have received a lot of encouragement from my peers. Not everyone has the opportunity to work for themselves or the desire to take on such a big task. People I have worked with in the industry have been very receptive to our services and they offer guidance on how to navigate the market. Oil and gas has a lot of networking opportunities and I know personally, being active in various organizations has given us great exposure.
In your experience, are there any advantages and challenges of being minority entrepreneurs in the oil and gas industry, which has been traditionally white male-dominated?
Kristin: I don’t like to think that I have any more advantages than any other person regardless of their race or gender. Honestly, each person has his or her own adversities. Every person can have the opportunity to be successful, but not everyone has the drive or willpower. The biggest challenge we face is that much of our work is in the field, which is primarily a male domain. There have been a few times where we have personnel that do not want to take instruction from a female. In those cases, they struggle with the fact that those female managers can and will write their pink slips.
Tanhee: Being in the field does present challenges, many times I am the only female at a job site. The personnel on site are very understanding and helpful but that can often be misconstrued. The field perception is that the women who come out there are just there to look and see, they don’t “know” how to do the job. So it is a teaching opportunity for me. I show them that I can do the job too; I climb on frac tanks, I help them with their equipment, etc. Once they see that I do know what I am doing, you can tell their attitude changes. They are more receptive to what I have to say and that goes a long way. It is still a good-old boy network in some cases, the hunts, the late-night outings, and those will always be a part of the industry and as females, sometimes those activities just don’t fit with us.
What advice would you have for other young professionals who want to be successful in this industry?
Kristin: Be flexible when opportunities present themselves, sometimes you have an idea of what you want to do but you can’t plan everything. We’ve had our own plans but situations have shaped our ideas/plans in a different direction. Sometimes things we didn’t think we could or should do have become very key parts of the success of our business because we were able to adapt and make changes.
Tanhee: Ask questions. Take advantage and learn from your peers and those who have been in the industry longer than you have. Day to day responsibilities can be all-consuming, but taking the time to learn what others do will help you be more diverse in your knowledge and ability to take on other roles. People take notice when you are curious and show an interest in learning, and those impressions we make on people can open doors for opportunities. If you have an idea, voice it. Not everyone will agree with you or think it is a good idea, but take ownership of what you are passionate about. If you believe in it, pursue it, the rest will take shape as you go along.
Kristin Hatch is the founder and co-owner of GeoKimika Oil & Gas, a chemical consulting and testing company that provides on-site support to E&P companies and service companies. Before founding GeoKimika Oil & Gas in 2016, Hatch held various account management roles in the technology and medical sectors. Kristin holds a BS in political science from the Sam Houston State University.
Tanhee Galindo is the chemical advisor and co-owner of GeoKimika Oil & Gas. She is responsible for the business field operations, which include providing on-site fluid testing and technical support to E&P companies and service providers. Galindo has more than 10 years of experience in development, testing, and deployment of oilfield chemistry in the field. She has held technical, managerial, and sales roles for companies such as BJ Services, BASF, and Rockwater Energy. She is the treasurer of the SPE Gulf Coast Section Women in Energy Committee. Galindo holds a BS in biology/chemistry from the Sam Houston State University and patents related to fracturing fluid additives.
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