Online Exclusives

QC With A Female Twist

By Ellen Wuagneux | May 21, 2008

Debra Cherney's microbiological services firm offers solutions for customers' quality assurance, technical support and consultation needs.

Since its founding in 1989 by Debra Cherney, Cherney Microbiological Services has provided its clients with precise, customized microbiological testing and associated services. As a diversified supplier, the company offers customized turnkey solutions for customers' quality assurance, technical support and consultation needs.

Cherney Microbiological is a testing lab that specializes in product and environmental testing for routine and harmful bacteria. Cherney also coordinates several proficiency programs designed to help participants improve accuracy and precision within their own laboratories. In addition, Cherney conducts many special projects and studies specifically designed with clients' needs in mind. As an example, the lab conducts shelf-life stability studies or customized microbial inoculation studies to test client formulation of product prototypes.

The firm is one of the state's only contract laboratories specializing in microbiological testing and technical support for companies manufacturing dairy, paper, meat, vegetable, cosmetic, personal care and industrial cleaning products.

The company began operations in the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce Small Business Incubator Complex in Green Bay, WI. Cherney Microbiological expanded at that location several times and became an anchor tenant. "The irony is not lost on me," commented Ms. Cherney. "I do think it's somewhat ironic that a lab that specializes in testing for pathogenic bacteria started in a business 'incubator.'"

The business grew steadily thanks to a strong customer base in the dairy and nonwovens industries until the company moved from the business incubator in December 2000 to a newly built, state-of-the-art facility on Green Bay's east side. In the last two years, the company has experienced a 21% and 39% increase in revenue.  

Ms. Cherney attributes its growth to its dedicated, technically competent and experienced employees and a loyal and diverse customer base. She also credits the organization's strong marketing efforts and many client referrals for sustained growth. Situated on three acres of prime real estate, Cherney Microbiological Services has ample space for future expansion and is already planning an addition to its corporate office and testing facility. The company employs 34 full-time people, many of whom are women analysts and biologists with college degrees.

One of the select few woman-owned businesses in the science-based industry, Cherney Microbiological Services is a member of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The WBENC requires businesses to complete a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The process confirms that the business is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a woman or women. In the state of Wisconsin, only 63 businesses are certified as a Women's Business Enterprise, only five in northeast Wisconsin. Ms. Cherney is a degreed microbiologist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been working in the field for 24 years. She serves as the first vice president for the Wisconsin Laboratory Association and represents the private sector as a board of directors member of Advance-Green Bay Area Economic Development.

Within the nonwovens industry, Cherney Microbiological has assisted many of its clients in developing test methods, procedures and documentation. "Many of the top brand names in consumer products now enjoy safer, more reliable products due to their relationship with Cherney Microbiological Services," said company founder Debra Cherney. "Our experience in review of production techniques and our attention to the most microscopic detail make us a strategic partner."

Among the materials the company works with are wet, dry or coated materials; substrates and process water; skin care products and tissues; infant/toddler products; surface wipes; anti-static, treated and specialty products; validation studies, sampling of equipment and environmental testing, air sampling/air quality. "From baby wipes to make-up wipes and dust mops, the nonwovens industry is one of the fastest growing market segments in the country," remarked Ms. Cherney. "When one product is converted to so many uses, the possibilities for microbial contamination are many. Is the product open to contamination from a production line, containers, human handling, or a substrate addition? Our expert investigators can help determine if it's product- or process-related by analyzing every step of production. More than collecting data from various points in the process, we provide possible explanations and help determine how to stop contamination and maintain a clean environment."

For more information, visit

Related Application: