“Your voice DOES matter. Your experiences DO matter. And speaking up WILL influence public policy.” —Lisa Fullerton
When Lisa Fullerton cashed in her retirement in 2000 to become a franchisee with Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Cinnabon, she anticipated success. However, she never imagined her advocacy efforts would help to shape not only her own business, but other women-owned businesses as well. In fact, she had never considered advocacy until her personal banker introduced her to NAWBO in 2013.
“Initially, it didn’t make sense how business owners had any influence on governmental affairs or public policies,” Lisa admits. “It seemed like a classic case of David and Goliath, where David fears he can’t win because the giant is too powerful. Why would anyone subject themselves to that?”
Lisa’s view on advocacy quickly changed after joining NAWBO San Antonio at the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) Small Business Day at the Texas State Capitol. “That’s when I realized that people who know nothing about our businesses can legislate and regulate them,” she recalls. “I was motivated by the opportunity to share my testimony with anyone who was a change agent.”
Soon after, Lisa became the Chair of Public Policy for NAWBO San Antonio and began successfully advocating for women-owned businesses at the city, state and national levels with the support and credibility of NAWBO backing her.
Locally, Lisa was appointed to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s Paid Sick Leave Advisory Commission, where she advocated for small and women-owned businesses that could be adversely affected by the highly complex paid sick leave ordinance. Her advocacy paid off when the Fourth Court of Appeals recently declared that city ordinance violated state law.
Lisa has made an impact statewide as well as an appointed member of the Governor’s Small Business Assistance Advisory Task Force. She testified at the Texas Biennial Legislative sessions in support of bills that would benefit women-owned businesses. One such bill passed in 2017 when only 18 percent of the bills made it to the Governor’s desk.
“Quiet leadership, modesty and high integrity are all part of Lisa’s natural style and ability to be respected by everyone,” says LouAnn Wagner, president of NAWBO San Antonio who nominated her for the Advocate of the Year Award. “By staying focused on policies that are good for women-owned and small businesses, she has garnered support from the bipartisan business community. As a result, she has a greater voice to create transformative progress.”
Case in point: During the recent business shutdown due to the pandemic, Lisa spent long hours working with legislators like Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Chip Roy (R-TX) to help them better understand the gaps and shortfalls in the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. As a result, the bi-partisan PPP Small Business Enhancement Act was passed, which allowed for broader interpretation of the program and broader rules for the funding received by women and small businesses.
Lisa has stayed true to the course, even while serving as president and CEO of A Novel Idea, LLC, which consists of six franchise locations and approximately 45 employees—many of whom have stayed with the company for nearly 20 years.
However, her efforts don’t come without challenges. Despite testifying at the capitol five times in the past two legislative sessions, SB14 (which would ban Texas cities from creating rules for businesses around labor laws) was killed in the 11th hour when several opposing legislators walked out of the capitol to avoid a vote.
“Through my position as NAWBO San Antonio’s Chair of Public Policy, I was asked to become a member of the NFIB Texas Advisory Council and was appointed to the Governor’s Small Business Advisory Task Force,” she says about the move. “Through these collaborative positions, I have a responsibility to implore Texas Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session to resurrect this bill. It’s important to stay engaged and fight the good fight.”
Lisa encourages other women-owned businesses to speak out as well. “By NAWBO giving me the nudge to stand in the gap for our members, I’ve been asked to join boards that have elevated my voice and my influence,” she shares. “It’s been an honor.”
Considering Advocacy? Lisa’s Words of Wisdom
“Recently, our NAWBO San Antonio President LouAnn Wagner was asked to speak about a bill that directly impacts her trucking business. She agreed to be featured in an industry video and was asked to testify on behalf of the bill that would prevent frivolous lawsuits for truckers involved in accidents—lawsuits, which have escalated in the past 5 to 10 years. This legislation impacts every business that has products or goods shipped and transported. Although she was nervous about testifying, the bill passed in the State House of Representatives, the Senate and was signed into law by our Governor. Her experience brings us back to the fear that David can’t beat Goliath. But small businesses do have a voice in establishing or modifying public policy. Your voice DOES matter. Your experiences DO matter. And speaking up WILL influence public policy.”
Representing Those Who Can’t or Won’t
Lisa says that as business owners, we tend to withdraw from conversations that could negatively impact our business. “We tend to downplay the negatives for fear it looks like we aren’t successful by admitting we struggle. I’ve learned to be more vulnerable and find that people respect that more than if I only shared success stories. I’ve had people tell me they appreciate me speaking out, because I represent those who can’t or won’t.”