Sometimes, despite careful planning, life often moves us to exactly where we are supposed to be. That was the case for Kristina Bouweiri, when a fateful phone call led her to become a successful business owner of a multi-million-dollar transportation business, Reston Limousine.
In 1991 during a career change, Kristina was working in a commission-based, cold-call sales job to make ends meet. During that time, she happened to call William Bouweiri, who offered her a job at his Virginia-based limousine business. The couple went on to marry and have children, while Kristina grew the business exponentially. Through strategic planning, wedding accommodations and government contracts, she successfully grew the business from $200,000 to $5 million in annual sales in the first 10 years. As time went on, Kristina eventually divorced her husband, bought him out of the business and led the company to even greater growth of $30 million in annual sales.
Today, Reston Limousine has 400 employees and provides limousines, cars, shuttles and busses in 13 markets. For Kristina, the key to achieving such a high level of success was staying informed and educated as a business owner. To do that, she restructured her business with a COO to manage the day-to-day operations, so she could focus on growth. “I started networking in 2001 and that is what has grown the business. By consistently networking, volunteering and helping other organizations grow, I’ve been able to place myself in a great position,” she says. “I’m growing my circle of influence.”
One way she does that is through her own monthly luncheon, Sterling Women, designed to support women business owners in the Virginia area. After 10 years of hosting the event, Kristina has hundreds of attendees every month and more than 14,000 women in her networking database.
She also looks to NAWBO for support and joined in 2002 after attending a powerful luncheon and CEO interview. “The moderator interviewed the CEO and I learned so much that I went to the events religiously. I loved that format, and in fact, they interviewed me later!” Kristina says.
As she continues to grow her business, Kristina recognizes the value in maintaining a strong network of business colleagues to give and receive support. “I think what NAWBO is doing for women in the community is really important. Women have unique challenges—we are parents, business owners, we are juggling a lot of balls,” she says. “Women need each other for support, especially as they’re growing their businesses. They need to be around like-minded women.”
As she looks ahead, Kristina plans to launch a driver training school for commercial drivers to improve the workforce in the field. She is also partnering with an affiliate network to provide cars to any city in the world. “Instead of treating other limousine companies as competitors, we make them strategic partners,” she explains. “There is always someone who is too busy, so we farm out work we can’t do to our partners. Now, other limo companies have become clients for us.”
What’s your #1 piece of advice for other transportation businesses out there?
“That’s easy: Invest in busses. Because of Uber and other technology companies, busses are the future for transportation businesses. I have friends who didn’t do that, and they’ve gone out of business. Group transportation is pretty recession proof.”