In its 25 years in business, Reston Limousine has a long history of supporting charitable causes, with a focus on organizations that help children with illnesses. This is a cause close to my heart, because for the first five years of my marriage and my business, I could not get pregnant. I was working 16 hours a day, seven days a week and answering the phones from my house in the middle of the night. The doctors did not find anything wrong with me so they just kept doing procedures on me and nothing seemed to help. Finally, in 1996 I gave birth to healthy boy girl twins. I was so overcome with joy that I felt a deep desire to give something back in appreciation. As a limousine company we project an aura of wealth and luxury, and so we are always fielding requests for donations – both monetary and in kind. We decided early on that we would focus our corporate philanthropic mission on children’s medical charities.
A few years later, we were in Detroit for a holiday and I saw that a local Lebanese baker had won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. My husband at the time was also a Lebanese entrepreneur and I thought that he deserved to win that award. I hired a PR firm (Myers Public Relations) to submit a nomination on our behalf. As the president, Marion Myers, got to know the company she said she would be applying for many other awards as well. She said we could get a lot of PR for all the community service and charity work we were doing. We told her that we weren’t doing it for awards; we were doing it because of our own personal struggles with infertility or five long years.
That year we did not make finalist for the Ernst & Young award, but we were recognized with many more accolades over the years including Washington Business Journal’s Philanthropy Awards for CEO Leadership in 2009 and SmartCEO’s Circle of Excellence Award in Philanthropy in 2010. As a result of all the publicity about our corporate philanthropy, more and more charities started asking us for money and/or in-kind donations. We were so honored that we were being asked to donate to so many worthy charities that we started handing out gift certificates left and right. Six months later, during the month of December, nearly every reservation was paid for with a gift certificate! We learned the lesson then that you cannot give out so many gift certificates or the clients can utilize them all at once and the company can lose money.
We also have expanded our community contributions to extend beyond financial donations. As the company grew, I was offered board seats either on the chamber boards or other groups. Today, I sit on the Board of Directors, Advisors or Trustees for the following organizations: Loudoun CEO Cabinet, Loudoun Education Foundation, Dulles Regional Chamber, Route 28 Benefactor, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, DC Chamber of Commerce, SmartCEO Magazine, Inova Loudoun Foundation, Enterprising Women Magazine, Fairfax 2015 (The Police & Fire Games,) 100 Women Strong and the George Mason University School of Business Dean’s Council. As a director in these organizations, I am expected to give my time – and my talent for fundraising!
For the George Mason University School of Business, I co-chair the Women in Business initiative. As part of my responsibilities, I plan five events and fulfill the mission of helping the students, alumni, staff and business community come together to learn, grow and network. For the Loudoun Education Foundation, I chaired the Agnes Meyer Excellence Awards Gala twice and raised more than $20,000 annually for the foundation to give to the teachers. For Inova Loudoun Hospital Foundation, I sat on the annual gala committee and helped encourage other members of the business community to attend the gala and or become donors. Reston Limousine also offers $15,000 in in-kind services annually to Inova Hospital (mostly to enhance their fundraisers) and has partnered with other local businesses, most often with Fortessa, on bi-annual fundraisers to raise money for local charities.
Beyond fundraising, one of my proudest contributions to the community has been to mentor and empower other women in business by sharing my experiences and business strategies. I am on the board for the national publication Enterprising Women, and I attend an annual board meeting in Florida where I participate on a panel as part of the educational component. In years past, I have been part of panels on social media, marketing and how to grow your business in an economic downturn. As a result of my work with Enterprising Women, I was asked to get involved with the GlobeBusiness Summit for Women. I have taught seminars in China, Turkey and Greece, and attended the conference in Paris; I’ll be attending this year’s event in Brazil in May.
However, I truly enjoy more direct relationships and partnerships with local women entrepreneurs and professionals, particularly through the monthly networking lunch I founded six years ago, Sterling Women. This event showcases women in business in our local community and features one hour of shopping followed by a great lunch with a dynamic speaker – typically an entrepreneur who runs a local multimillion dollar company or a professional whose talents and skills have earned her national acclaim. This lunch has been so popular that the concept has been licensed and duplicated in four additional cities. There was no venue like it that focused on showcasing women in business and helping them grow their businesses, and it has spawned other groups with a similar concept.
By: Kristina Bouweiri