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CEA Biotech Winner: Pharma Firm In Growth Mode

By Audrey Elsberry, posted May 3, 2024
BIOTECH | Portrett Pharmaceuticals | Kimberly Lupo, CEO & Founder | Year Founded: 2021 | Employees: 4 (Photo By Aris Harding)
Kimberly Lupo started Portrett Pharmaceuticals after working in the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) industry for several years. 

She wanted to do something different with her company: Provide customer service beyond what was expected at other companies and offer a better work environment and mentorship for her employees. 

She started her career in 2007 as a laboratory supervisor for Metrics Contract Services in Greenville, where she found a start in the contract pharmaceuticals business – a path she continued with her own startup. 

After earning her master’s degree in business administration from Eastern Carolina University, she was ready to expand on the industry she loved. 

She took that love for her craft and started Portrett Pharmaceuticals in 2021. 

Lupo is a unique winner in this year’s crop of CEA category winners because she won in the Emerging Company category in 2022. She was only about six months into building Portrett at that time, she said. To be acknowledged that early on proved to her that her company had potential. The win also provided her exposure and connections within the local entrepreneurial environment, she said. 

Since her last win, Portrett has been growing, gaining clients and providing better capabilities to those clients, Lupo said. 

“Two years ago, I was just trying to survive,” she said. “Now that I am starting to get my feet under me; it’s really more of a growth mindset.” 

Portrett had about two clients in 2022, Lupo said. While clients come and go because of the nature of the industry, Lupo’s team has now worked on up to 12 client projects at once. 

Shifting to a sales mindset has been a challenge for her. 

“I’m a chemist,” she said. “I’m not a salesperson at all; I consider myself to be an introvert … But sales training and investing in sales training has given me confidence.” 

Her investment in sales training has paid off in two deals she’s landed in the past couple of months, she said. Connecting with people on LinkedIn and initiating sales calls led to those opportunities, clients she’s been working on securing for over a year, she said. 

In addition to growing her book of business, Lupo said speed and quality are two of the most important qualities of a good contract pharmaceutical developer. 

Portrett’s team has developed a unique process flow that allows them to cut their analysis time in half, she said. In her industry, that speed sets her company apart and saves her customers money, she said. 

They’ve also been working to perfect their standard operating procedures. The FDA requires a host of quality systems and documentation during the development and analysis process. Staying on top of those procedures keeps her competitive in the marketplace, she said.

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