WPO Member of the Moment: Merrilee Kick

Merrilee Kick Member of the Moment GraphicMerrilee Kick
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.

Connect with Merrilee:
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WPO Member of the Moment: Amanda Puppo

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Amanda Puppo
Owner & CEO, MarketReach, Inc.
Industry: Marketing & Sales
WPO Chapter: New Jersey V: Princeton
WPO Member Since: 2013

What inspired you to start your business? 
I enjoyed – and was good at – cold-calling. Weird, right? I know.

How has being a WPO member helped your business?
WPO has provided support, help in decision-making, members to bounce ideas off of, like-minded women, and authenticity in supporting successes.

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended?
I most enjoy the monthly meetings, and have missed less than four in six years. Even when I had my boy, I showed up with him to the meeting when he was three weeks old.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
Recruiting the right people is difficult, and retaining them requires weekly attention from all layers of management. Also, a 4:00am wake-up often means you don’t get back to sleep.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
There’s so much. But I guess what comes to mind is, “Hire fast, fire slow.” Most of us have trouble practicing that concept, but it’s such a good one.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Have enough money early on to really invest into your idea. Practice frugality until you know the idea will scale with the investment. But once you know, go all in and hire all the right people (including a salesperson – even if you’re pretty good at sales). Hire an operations person and marketing person, and outsource payroll and accounting.

Connect with Amanda:
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Addressing employee financial challenges with financial wellness programs

Employers can help improve the productivity and engagement of their workforce when they support the financial wellness of their employees.

Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck,1 with more than half having less than $10,000 in savings.2

When people are not financially well, they are more stressed and less productive.

As a group, women often face even greater financial challenges than their male counterparts. The causes are many, including:

  • Longevity risk. Women tend to live longer than men—five years on average3 —so they need to save more to generate retirement income for a longer period of time.
  • Work-life balance challenges. The responsibility for housekeeping and caregiving often fall to women, even for those who also work outside the home. As a result, women tend to accrue fewer years of paid work and lower career earnings.4
  • Increased debt. Women are carrying more debt in retirement, and at older ages, than they did in the past.5 If debt continues to grow with age, women will have to divert more of their retirement income toward it.
  • Singlehood in retirement. Women are more likely than men to be single, and they need to plan for their retirement accordingly. In 2017, among Americans 65 and older, 70% of men were married compared to just 46% of women. Thirty-three percent of women 65 and older were widows.6
  • Higher healthcare costs. Medical costs generally increase with age. Because women tend to marry men older than they and live longer, they’re at greater risk of depleting their retirement savings from paying their spouse’s health and long-term care expenses.7

Employer-sponsored financial wellness programs can help employees respond to these risks and challenges. Programs can be tailored to address the specific needs of employees and can combine education, guidance, tools, products, and services, including:

  • Budgeting and debt management tools
  • Emergency savings accounts
  • Calculators for identifying adequate 401(k) contribution rates
  • Information on claiming Social Security benefits
  • Options to buy life insurance, which can help replace income in the event of a working spouse’s premature death, or provide money to a surviving spouse in retirement
  • Access to annuity products that can help provide guaranteed lifetime income and a well-designed retirement savings account to achieve a financially secure retirement

The Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) has partnered with Prudential (The Prudential Insurance Company of America) to launch a customized financial wellness program for members and their employees. To learn more, or if you’re interested in participating in a live demonstration of the Financial Wellness Center, please email wpo@prudential.com

Watch a short video highlighting Prudential’s financial wellness solutions.

1 American Payroll Association, Getting Paid in America Survey, 2016.
2 Prudential Financial Wellness Survey, April 2014.
3 Mortality in the United States, 2017, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db328.htm, retrieved January 15, 2020.
4 Society of Actuaries, “Women and Post-Retirement Risks,” 2018.
5 Prudential, “Closing the Retirement Income Gender Gap: The Opportunity is Now,” 2017.
6 Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “2017 Profile of Older Americans,” p. 3, 2017.
7 Society of Actuaries, “Women and Post-Retirement Risks,” 2018.

 

 

Financial Wellness offerings, including access to any third-party referrals, are provided by Prudential Workplace Solutions Group Services, LLC (“PWSGS”). PWSGS is an affiliate of Prudential Financial, Inc. PWSGS is not a licensed insurance company, does not provide insurance products or services, and does not provide financial, investment or tax advice. The Financial Wellness offerings are made available solely for general financial education purposes.  Individuals should consult appropriate professionals when making financial, investment and tax decisions.

Financial Wellness offerings, including any products, services or other solutions, described in this document are voluntary, individually-selected offerings. They are not part of any employee benefit plan, or any program sponsored or endorsed by an employer. 

©2020 Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities. Prudential, the Prudential logo, the Rock symbol, and Bring Your Challenges are service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide.

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Quality Control: Bad Content Does You No Favours

By Lisa Bragg, CEO & Founder of MediaFace & WPO Toronto IV Chapter Member

I hear it all the time: “people are hungry for content.” As the owner of a content company, I’ve probably said it more than once, myself. But let me clarify: people are hungry for goodsophisticated content.

Calling the volume of content released on a daily basis a “glut” would be an understatement. It’s a deluge, an avalanche. A new blog post is released every 0.5 seconds – to say nothing of videos, podcasts, Tweets, Instagrams, TikToks… And most of it is garbage. There’s a mix of human and machine work at play to make sure that the good stuff gets seen. Popular content is form-agnostic: there are viral short stories and viral chickpea curry recipes in addition to viral videos and Tweets. People still want what they consume to have meaning, and meaning still means that they connect with it, and can discuss and dissect that connection with other people.

Read more here.

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Black In Business: Celebrating The Legacy Of Black Entrepreneurship

By Ruth Umoh and Brianne Garrett, Forbes

African-Americans have played a profound role in shaping the U.S. business landscape. Technological innovations like the traffic light, automatic elevator doors and even caller ID all sprung from the minds of creative black luminaries.

To honor their business achievements this Black History Month, Forbes spoke to a number of founders, investors, activists, celebrities and experts on the black diaspora. What emerged from these conversation was a rich, complex portrait of black entrepreneurship, one that highlights the black community’s tremendous creativity, as well as a resilience that was born, in part, out of hardship and necessity.

Read more here.

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WPO Member of the Moment: Courtney Campbell

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Courtney Campbell
Owner, Campbell Creative

Industry: Branding + Design
WPO Chapter: Broward / Palm Beach
WPO Member Since: 2017

Tell us about your company.
We are a branding + positioning agency that prides ourselves on passionate, real work and lasting relationships. We partner with our clients to concisely and creatively communicate their brand stories to consumers across all touchpoints from print to digital to the built space. We create uniquely branded experiences at every turn for our clients, whether in their printed materials or in their physical spaces that we bring to life. We bring fresh ideas, strategic solutions and unique creative to each relationship. We go beyond traditional media. We break the rules. We find all of the ways that your brand will make people TALK. And then we get to work.

How has being a WPO member helped your business?
Being a WPO member has helped me elevate my game. The organization has given me the tools and resources I needed to convert a business I created truly by accident into a company I am running today with a clear vision, intention, and eye to the future.

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended? 
The Annual Conference is my favorite event each year. I love the opportunity to learn and grow combined with the chance to meet new people.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
As a woman in the advertising space, I have always been in the minority. From the day I first entered the space out of college to today, it is an industry where males continue to own the top roles. I never really saw this as a challenge per say, but rather a space I needed to learn how to outsmart. I learned how to stay feminine and true to myself but still win in the boardroom AND win over those coffees and cocktails. It was about relationships and the long game. I believed in my clients and to this day I only partner with brands that I am passionate about, both the company and what they are trying to bring to the world.

What inspired you to start your business?
I joke to this day that my business plan was “Don’t be homeless.” I moved to San Francisco when the bottom fell out of the market and I quickly found myself too qualified to get a job. Unemployable with a year lease and a life out my window I had dreamed of…Failure wasn’t an option, I’d just gotten here. So, I “Craigslisted” myself into a company. I started with small jobs, jobs that were quite frankly well below my skill set and I worked the market every day. The first year I broke even (which for me meant matching my salary from the year before). Every year after that I doubled the company year over year.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
You never know where opportunity is waiting. Sometimes, saying “yes” to the thing you think you are too good for opens doors and gives you access to things you never could have touched before. It proved to be quite true for me and something I always try to remember. The other piece of perspective it took me a few years to realize is that it isn’t about finding people in a particular industry or with a particular budget. Rather, it is about finding like-minded people… if you can find that in a client, you will win almost every time.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
That moment right before you think you are about to hit the asphalt, that’s the moment where everything can shift and true greatness happens.

Connect with Courtney:
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