Merrilee Kick, CEO/Founder of BuzzBallz, Southern Champion, #1 Ready-to-Go Cocktails
A Wine Wanderings Exclusive Interview
About Merrilee Kick, CEO/Founder and BuzzBallz/Southern Champion
Merrilee Kick is the CEO/Founder of BuzzBallz/Southern Champion, the only woman-owned Distillery/Winery/Brewery combination in the United States. The Carrollton, TX, company makes ready-to-drink cocktails called BuzzBallz, as well as spirits like rum, vodka, gin, bourbon, and some private label brands. The products are sold in all 50 states and 21 countries. The company is family owned/operated and home to over 250 employees in the Dallas area.
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Merrilee Kick is a winner of the Dallas Business Journal’s 2019 Most Admired CEO Award, the 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award Southwest, EY's Winning Women Award 2016, Winner of the Enterprising Women's Award 2017 and 2020’s Top 20 Award, Winner of the WPO’s 50 Fastest companies, Ranked in the Top 50 DFW Businesses by D CEO Magazine in 2021, Winner of the Top Women in Grocery in 2020, Winner of the 2020 Nielsen Brand Growth Award for Product of the Year Award-Spiked Beverage (BuzzBallz), and Winner of the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas Woman’s University.
Merrilee has a BS/BA from the University of Montana, an MBA from Texas Woman’s University, and she is currently attending the OPM Program at Harvard Business School.
You asked me about my AH-HA moment [in spirits business]. I think one of the biggest things was that one time, when I really realized that we were going to make it work. Because there were always doubts and money issues. Can we make this work? Will it fail or succeed? We went to a trade show. My son and I, Alex and I, went to a trade show in Las Vegas, and it was called the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, the WSWA. And we went there. And we brought our little BuzzBallz containers there. We had a little 10-by-10 booth and showcased our stuff. And overnight, we had 15 new state contracts, and distributors that wanted to sell our products. So that was the first time I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this really may work.’”
About the Interview: Founding, Concept, Success, Growth
I am so pleased to interview Merrilee Kick. I previously wrote about her firm, BuzzBallz, in the May 2020 issue of PrimeWomen Magazine 2020, a piece titled “Distilleries Switch to Hand Sanitizer Production,” that addressed how distilleries pivoted to help hospitals and first-line healthcare workers during the Pandemic. But in this interview you will learn a lot more about Merrilee Kick. She has a special story about how she, previously a high school teacher, earned her MBA, came up with a concept, then made and marketed it on a shoestring, creating a huge success. The firm has experienced 60% year-over-year growth and has gone from one employee in 2008 to 250 presently.
In the interview Merrilee talks about how the firm was formed, Her AH-HA moment in the spirits business, and about her fast-growing and new-entry products.
Click on the YouTube Video link above or download the .pdf transcription of our discuss. See below.
Click the right-hand bar and “Download.”
BuzzBallz – A Product Review
I decided to put some BuzzBallz products to the taste-test. Below are my rankings and comments for the Top 3 BuzzBallz tasted. Watch for the new “Biggies” packaging which at 1.75 Liters each can serve 8 people or the BuzzTallz in cans at 375 m. The Chillers are the wine alternate using wine instead of spirits.
Where can you get a good $2.99 Margarita? Nowhere except at Buzzballz. This is a great example of a tailgate ‘Rita. I recommend your preparing some salt-rimmed Solo cups for this party. Made of Tequila (Jalisco, Mexico), blood orange, agave, and lime, this is a vibrant tart/sweet Margarita.
This is a perfect prepared cocktail for the Bailey’s Irish Cream-on-the-rocks lover. Made from vodka, orange wine, cream, and other natural flavors, it's a very smooth cocktail. Watch the 295 calories!
Let’s call in the summer sun with this Colada. Perfect for your boating or beach outing. Made with premium run, coconut cream, pineapple, lime juices, and natural flavors.
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