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President, Buzzballz/Southern Champion LLC
Industry: Alcoholic beverage manufacturing
WPO Chapter: Platinum VI
WPO Member Since: 2017
The COVID-19 pandemic was escalating and the need for hand sanitizer was exploding. WHO and the CDC waived the necessity to pay for a permit (and taxes) to manufacture it. WPO Platinum VI member Merrilee Kick had the raw materials and necessary equipment. Her company, Buzzballz, is the only woman-owned distillery/winery that makes alcoholic beverages. Initially, her employees insisted the company donate it to hospitals and labs in need. Other requests poured in via word of mouth and LinkedIn — — firefighters and police, airlines, supermarkets. When the Air Force and Army came calling, she learned the government can’t accept donations. So she had to sell it and turned her original business model on its head. To meet demand, the company is working around the clock, providing daily free lunch to employees and paying for their healthcare.
Her advice to other entrepreneurs:
- Refinance debt to save money — hers went from 4.79% to 3.25%
- Get lower rate on your line of credit
- Take out your entire line of credit, in case your cash dries up. Save and don’t spend it, if you can. You will have a nest egg to be able to pay your employees, if need be.