Laura Bianchi Eikenmeyer owns Refractory Service Corp, a key supplier to ArcelorMittal facilities. Laura, along with her brother Jeff, took over the family business in 1995 and now employs approximately 60 employees that supply precast shapes, tundish furniture, dams, baffles, deltas and more. The company is more than 50 percent female-owned and received the Women-Owned Business Certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Refractory Service Corp. is the only refractory supplier owned by women.
Laura’s father started the company in 1979 while working as a bricklayer at ArcelorMittal predecessor company Inland Steel. One day, he received a complaint from a customer about a product they received from a supplier and he thought, “I can make that better.” And he did. He continued to work at the steel mill while starting the refractory business out of his basement.
Laura never envisioned herself taking over the business. She graduated from St. Mary’s of Notre Dame with a degree in English and communications. Right after, she got married and moved to California for her husband’s job, where she attended Pepperdine University to receive her master’s in communications. From there, she attended Loyola University of Chicago and received a doctorate in educational psychology. “I thought I wanted to be a professor of psychology. However, I realized I just liked working at the family company - it made me more comfortable.” One of her favorite parts about work is the atmosphere, where everyone feels like extended family.
As unique as Laura’s background is, she believed it prepared her for owning her own business in a male-dominated industry.
“My educational experience helped prepare me to work in the steel industry with all men,” Laura explained. “Everyone has been respectful and given me a chance. It’s empowering.”
Refractory Service Corp’s partnership with ArcelorMittal dates past Laura’s time. “My dad was doing business with ArcelorMittal for various plants. We have a very good relationship with ArcelorMittal and are appreciative they gave us chance since we are a smaller company. Our openness to try new things and to innovate together creates mutual value.”
According to Cathy Wriston, plant buyer, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, supplier diversity is a strategic business proposition for ArcelorMittal and demonstrates our commitment to being a sustainable company. ArcelorMittal’s customers are dependent on the reliability of our internal supply chain to ensure they can meet their sustainability goals. “Having a diversity program allows ArcelorMittal to provide an opportunity for minority, women and veteran-owned businesses to participate in the company’s procurement process,” she added.