BuzzBallz CEO Merrilee Kick is someone who trusts her instincts. She’s also someone who is not afraid to jump. A former Plano ISD teacher, she operates one of the country’s largest women-owned distilleries in Plano. She has been called a force of nature, a woman who took an idea and fought to make it reality.
Kick is also someone who makes headlines. In November 2018, she spoke with Local Profile about expecting the unexpected. She’s discussed her company’s rapid growth and its number one pre-mixed, single serve cocktail with the Dallas Business Journal, and shared her toughest challenge with D Magazine: “Trusting your instincts and believing in your decisions is key. You won’t always know if you’re making the right decision or not. But your gut will tell you, ‘Don’t take the chance’ or ‘Do take the chance.’ And you’ve got to jump on it.”
Trusting her instincts, for example, led Kick to purchase 40,000 masks from China at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak before the government started recommending people wear them. She had them shipped to the U.S. “so that my employees would have them,” she recently told Local Profile.
At Local Profile‘s 17th annual Women in Business Summit in 2018, Kick discussed her company’s success. She recently joined us as our guest speaker for “Local Leaders,” a live interview series that broadcasts at 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays on Local Profile’s Facebook page.
In the Local Leaders live interview series, Kick shares several leadership insights, including trusting your team to learn and delegate, knowing when it’s best to let a team member go, and understanding that leaders listen.
“Listening is important, and so is understanding what the root cause of the problem is,” she says. “Sometimes what they’re upset about isn’t really the root cause of the problem it’s really something else that you did two weeks earlier,” she says. So, I think it’s really important to find out where did it start, and what things were said … you can’t unsay them. You can’t undo them. But what you can do is set a path to go forward and and work together on not making those things happen again.”
Other key takeaways from Kick’s interview include:
- We were going through a recession at that time, 2008-2009, and I thought, What survives in good times and bad? So I was trying to think of things that were recession proof and booze was one of those items.
- One of the things I did was I went to a trade show with my sons, and that trade show happened to launch our brand. That was one of the like really special moments when I thought maybe we’ll make it. And I’ll never forget the time when we were at Caesar’s Palace, the first time. We had a little 10×10 booth and we were showcasing our bus balls to distributors around the United States. … Overnight, we had 15 new states that wanted to launch us, which was one of the tell-tale moments where we thought maybe we’ll make it. It was really an exciting time.
- Failure was not an option because if I failed, I would have lost every penny of my savings and not just, you know, a cushion. If I lost everything, I would be sleeping in my car. I was like double down chips in. Everything in and go for it and failure isn’t an option. I think when you have that survivalist instinct, you have to make it work because failure isn’t an option. You do work harder. It’s not just a luxury business that you started that you have backup and somebody who will bail you out. It’s pretty much sink or swim.
- There’s a lot of people on the team that, although I could do some things, they do it better. They’re experts at it, so the hardest thing, I think for me as an entrepreneur, is to delegate that. I am that micromanaging fool, but at the same time I really am enjoying seeing these people thrive. They get in. They know what they’re doing. They push the limits, and they are the ones that are building this company now; so they’re scaling it in a way that I couldn’t have done if I just kept control over it myself.
- I think this is part of growing up in my early 30s, I realized that I needed to trust my own instinct instead of living my husband’s life or living my life for my kids. I had to trust my own instinct on what I thought was right and what I thought was wrong. For example, the CDC [at first] said, Don’t wear masks, just doesn’t work, not gonna save the masses for the healthcare providers. I’m like, “No, I’m gonna look at what China’s doing.” They’re all wearing masks out on the street. They’re all taking their shoes off before they come in their house. They’re all washing their hands. They’re all keeping social distancing. They’re not going to bars, you know all these things. I went out and bought 40,000 masks from China, and had them shipped to the United States so that my employees would have them because my fear was even though the popular thing to say was, “Oh, you don’t need a mask.” But it’s not for you. It’s to protect someone else.