The founder and president of KoreL Design Tiles, Kang came from a “male favoring” Korean family that was living in Dubai, also a patriarchal culture. “But all this fired me up all the more.” She graduated from Michigan State University and was working as an accountant. Thanks to a family connection, she began consulting for a Korean firm launching a U.S. tile business. Though that endeavor failed, Kang decided not to return to accounting.
“I’d learned a lot about the tile business. Not that anyone is passionate about tile at first, but I loved the fact that I could design new products in the building-materials industry. It was aesthetic: surfaces and finishes. But it was still construction, and I wanted to prove that a woman could do it.” Kang, 43, scraped together her savings, and by 2005 she had designed and manufactured her first line of glass tile. Her timing was perfect: KoreL Tile stepped into the market just as demand for the lustrous, dimensional look of glass mosaic tile was beginning to explode. KoreL was the first tile company to sell online, through a partnership with Costco.com, and today her tiles are shipped to all 50 states.