Their Time Is Now: Meet NAWBO’s Woman Business Owner of the Year Finalists | Page 2 | NAWBO

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Their Time Is Now: Meet NAWBO’s Woman Business Owner of the Year Finalists

The theme of the 2019 National Women's Business Conference in Jacksonville, Florida is “Your Time Is Now” and it certainly is for three incredible entrepreneurial women who are finalists in the 2019 NAWBO Woman Business Owner of the Year Award, sponsored by Bank of America.

The annual award recognizes an entrepreneur who demonstrates overall business excellence and excels at strategy, operations, finances, problem solving, overcoming adversity and giving back to her community. These finalists, and ultimately the winner, will be honored and featured in a panel discussion during the awards gala on the final evening of the conference.

“Bank of America is honored to sponsor NAWBO’s 2019 Woman Business Owner of the Year award,” says Jill Calabrese Bain, Managing Director at Bank of America. “This year’s candidates were exceptional, which made it tough to pick only three finalists. We celebrate the success of Gail, Lynn and Merrilee—women business owners whose time and place is NOW!”

Hear from this year’s finalists before seeing them in Jacksonville:

MERRILEE KICK
BUZZBALLS/ SOUTHERN CHAMPION, LLC

Merrilee is CEO/founder of BuzzBallz/Southern Champion, the only woman-owned distillery/winery in the United States, located in Carrollton, Texas. BuzzBallz/Southern Champion makes ready-to-drink cocktail brands, BuzzBallz and BuzzTallz, as well as premium spirits brands (rum, vodka, gin and bourbon) sold in 43 states and seven countries in convenience stores, liquor stores, casinos, arenas and airlines. The company is family operated and home to 100 employees in the Dallas area. She is a winner of the 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award Southwest, EY’s Winning Women Award 2016 and many other accolades.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a woman business owner that’s impacted your success?

As an entrepreneur, YOU are the brand. Your brand should have your personality. Another critical thing is being able to explain what you do in five words or less, when talking to someone. If they are interested, you can give a slightly bigger explanation, but bottom line, it should be short, and tell everything. There are so many people who cannot succinctly tell what they do. Five minutes later, they’re still explaining and you have no idea what they do.

What are the three top things to which you attribute your business growth over the years?

1) Attention to detail.
2) Trusting my gut.
3) Being quick to pivot and take action.

How long have you been part of NAWBO and how has it positively impacted both you and your business?

I was awarded a NAWBO membership when I won an award from Enterprising Women in 2016, and ever since, I have been a member of NAWBO! NAWBO is a great way to network and we all know that networking is critical to building your infrastructure and your support system. I’ve found that women are very supportive and eager to help.

What are you most excited for as a WBO of the Year finalist for 2019?

Being awarded WBO of the Year would be such an honor. I’ve worked very hard to achieve success, but my team at work and my team of women at NAWBO (and other organizations) have helped get me here. I appreciate being considered, and would share it by giving back to other women as a mentor.


LYNN WEIRICH
BUSINESS FINANCIAL GROUP (BFG)

Before founding her own company, Lynn spent a decade managing the largest financial services firm in San Antonio, Texas. Today, she is president of BFG, a human resources consulting firm she co-founded in 1997. BFG helps business owners manage their back-office issues related to their most important asset: their people. Services include payroll processing, timekeeping, onboarding, training, HR information systems, personnel practices and procedures, employee handbooks, employee benefits, retirement plans and succession, financial and business planning. Lynn is one of three founding members of NAWBO-San Antonio. She has won numerous awards, including the San Antonio Business Journal’s leadership award.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a woman business owner that’s impacted your success?

Someone once told me that being in business FOR yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be in business BY yourself. I knew early on I wanted a partner. But I was also told to choose my partner wisely because it is like a marriage for business and divorce is not an option! 

My business partner of 22 years is a close friend and our business is better because we trust, respect and appreciate one another. He was a friend and colleague for more than 10 years before we formed our partnership, so I knew him very well. 

We’ve considered other partners over the years, but many situations didn’t work out because they weren’t committed to our partnership with a deep level of trust and accountability. As we think about succession someday, we are considering future partners. Six years ago, we added a third partner who brought a strategic area of expertise. Once again, it’s working because we know him, trust him and spent more than 10 years getting to know him and his philosophy and commitment to our partnership before the partnership came about. 

What are the three top things to which you attribute your business growth over the years? 

1) Always take the high road no matter how painful or costly it may appear at first. By putting the interests of others first, you never have to worry about the value proposition. Relationships can be strengthened when the other party can see demonstrated that you will always look out for them—no matter what.

2) Pursue ‘best fits’—always. Whether that’s a prospective employee, client or friend, seek relationships that can truly be win-win. This sets the stage for some remarkable relationships. When win-win is not an option, move away from those relationships. Certainly, this can be done a positive way that respects the dignity of others.

3) Do what you do best and avoid trying to be all things to all people. You’ll be happier and more productive.

How long have you been part of NAWBO and how has it positively impacted both you and your business? 

I learned about NAWBO in 1996 and attended a conference. I was so inspired and met so many dynamic women who wanted to be part of starting a chapter in San Antonio. With two other colleagues, we launched a Chapter in Formation in 1997 and became official in 1998. I have made lifelong friends through NAWBO and have learned from others’ successes and challenges along the way. The support for one another is very genuine and unique to NAWBO. And that is not just limited to support within our chapter. Many times over the years, I’ve reached out to members in other cities and always found that the NAWBO connection is deep and wide. 

What are you most excited for as a WBO of the Year finalist for 2019? 

First, I’m so humbled and honored to be in this prestigious group of finalists. And I’m grateful that so many of my NAWBO friends from San Antonio got together and nominated me. Best of all, many are here to celebrate with me! The experience of a National conference is powerful and I’m excited that so many of us will be here to share the experience together.


GAIL BECKER
CAULIPOWER

Gail’s career covers media, politics and business. She has held executive roles at Warner Bros., Edelman and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. But as a mom of two boys with celiac disease, she could find no pizzas that were tasty, nutritious and gluten-free. So, she left her corporate job and launched CAULIPOWER in Encino, California, with a mission to reinvent favorite foods one healthy meal hack at a time. In just two years, she has turned her idea into the No. 8 best-selling frozen pizza brand in the United States, launched CAULIPOWER tortillas and chicken tenders and created a $100 million-plus company.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a woman business owner that’s impacted your success?

Advice I learned from my father: Always build a relationship with your customer. Keep them at the core of everything you do. Building an organization around empathizing with their needs will separate you from the competition. In other words, to create a successful business relationship, it actually needs to be personal. 

What are the three top things to which you attribute your business growth over the years?

1) Developed category-changing products and leveraged our first-to-market advantage.

2) Found a unique voice that allowed us to speak to our customers in a different, authentic and approachable way.

3) Followed some classic industry rules, but also went against conventional wisdom and took more than a few risks. 

How long have you been part of NAWBO and how has it positively impacted both you and your business?

I’ve long admired NAWBO as an organization. As a member, NAWBO’s ability to be a force for good in encouraging female entrepreneurs is so important. At the moment, too little money is going to female-founded and female-owned businesses. I always say the best way to see more women-owned businesses is to support more women-owned businesses. NAWBO is that principle on steroids! 

What are you most excited for as a WBO of the Year finalist for 2019?

I am as humbled by being a finalist as I am every day about the fact that in just two short years, we have been able to help millions of people lead healthier lives and spend more time doing what nourishes them. I never take anything for granted and I am deeply grateful. This honor is really a testament to the whole CAULIPOWER team. I could never have achieved all this without them. 

 

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