February 26, 2020 4:00 am Published by

Episode 45:

Female Leader | The First Woman-Owned Distillery/Winery

Merrilee Kick is the founder and CEO of BuzzBallz and Southern Champion. She is a prominent female leader in the beverage industry and heads the only woman-owned Female Leader | From Teacher to Entrepreneur, with Merrilee KickDistillery/Winery in the United States. Merrilee’s journey from teacher to entrepreneur started with a master’s thesis project, and it culminated in a distribution offer, forcing her to lock down a business plan and produce the first order within a matter of months. Merrilee had to jump through a lot of hoops to get things in motion, but the fire lit by securing her first order kept up the momentum and enabled her to keep pushing forward.

Overcoming the Entrepreneurial Learning Curve

Entrepreneurship has a steep learning curve, especially when you step into an industry that is totally foreign to you. But learning how to run a successful business is only the tip of the iceberg. As a female leader in the beverage industry, Merrilee had to expand her technical knowledge which took a lot of time and energy. She knew how to make a mean cocktail, but she didn’t know packaging, she didn’t know production, and she didn’t know infrastructure. She had no choice but to figure everything out on the fly. But every challenge was addressed as she stumbled into it, and Merrilee refused to cave no matter how stressful things got. The same mentality still drives her today.

Just a Label

Merrilee is just as passionate ten-years-in as she was when she first started BuzzBallz, but it was never her mission to be a female leader in a male-dominated industry. As a matter of fact, Merrilee didn’t even know she had the only woman-owned distillery/winery in the U.S. for some time. Being a woman has made her experience in the beverage industry different, but not more difficult. And it has never bought her any business. ‘Woman’ is just a label, so Merrilee chooses to ignore it entirely. In doing so, she has been able to focus on what she loves and what has brought her immense success—manufacturing creative drinks for the beverage industry.

About Merrilee Kick

Merrilee Kick is the 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 cocktails called BuzzBallz, as well as spirits like rum, vodka, gin and bourbon, which are sold in 46 states and 7 countries in convenience stores, liquor stores, casinos, arenas and airlines. The company is family operated, and home to 100 employees in the Dallas area. The company causes are educational scholarships, environmental, and fighting human trafficking.

What You Will Learn:

  • Merrilee’s journey from teacher to entrepreneur
  • What inspired Merrilee to found BuzzBallz
  • The challenges of starting a business in a new industry and how to overcome them
  • What it’s like to be a prominent female leader in the beverage industry
  • How Merrilee has evolved throughout the growth of her company


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