Kristina Bouweiri, owner and operator of Reston Limousine, one of the Washington D.C. area’s largest limousine and shuttle services, didn’t exactly plan to be a successful business woman.
“I call myself an accidental entrepreneur,” Bouweiri said.
The daughter of U.S. diplomats, Bouweiri grew up living all over the world and planned to follow in her parents’ footsteps.
She majored in international affairs at George Washington University and planned to work with a nonprofit aimed at improving the status of women in third-world countries.
But, after working for about two years in Somalia and Kenya, she decided that career wasn’t for her and returned home.
In Washington D.C., she took a 100-percent commission advertising sales job. And that’s how she met her future husband and her future career.
For her job, she cold called William Bouweiri, owner of Reston Limousine Service and sold him an ad. The two started dating, she began working for him and, within a year, they were married.
At that time, around 1990, Reston Limousine was a small business with five cars that served mostly corporate clients, Bouweiri said. She saw the potential for growth and today, under Bouweiri’s direction, the company has grown to include more than 200 vehicles and a diverse client base.
“I asked, why don’t we do weddings,” Bouweiri said. And soon, they did.
Next, she expanded the business by landing a government contract.
“I just kind of fell into that,” Bouweiri said. But she learned. And soon Reston Limousine had several contracts to transport employees of several government agencies in shuttle buses.
As a result of her efforts, Reston Limousine grew from a $200,000 a year business to $5 million within a few years.
Soon, Bouweiri had taken the lead in the business while her husband stayed at home with their four children.
Bouweiri’s marriage ended in divorce, but her professional success continued. In her two decades at the helm, Reston Limousine has grown into a $30 million a year business.
Over the years, Bouweiri has earned such awards as the George Mason University Outstanding Leadership Award, a spot on the Washington Business Journal Power 100 list and National Operator of the year.
Bouweiri says her success is the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of learning.
“My degree is international affairs,” she said, so she didn’t have any formal business education when she started out. “I needed to educate myself.”
She began by joining a business book club and says of the experience, “I learned more from the other women in my book club than I did in anything I read.”
When business slowed in the early 2000s, Bouweiri decided she needed a new approach.
“I started networking which is something that I’d never really done before,” she said.
She joined several organizations and spent several hours a week networking with other business leaders. It worked.
“I attribute a lot of the growth of my business to that networking,” she said.
In 2008, Bouweiri founded Sterling Women, an organization for business professionals in Northern Virginia. The group hosts monthly lunches aimed at providing an opportunity for men and women who don’t normally network to do so, Bouweiri said.
The group started small with about 40 women attending. Today it attracts more than 200 attendees to each event.
In her industry, Bouweiri said she often finds herself “the only woman in the room,” but that being a woman has never held her back in her career.
“Being a woman has never hurt me,” she said. “But what’s also been important is that I’ve had a lot of support.”
Bouweiri said she feels she could not have been successful without support at home, including help she had from her mother-in-law and a housekeeper when her children were young.
“To be successful in whatever their field,” said Bouweiri, “women have to have a support system. It’s crucial.”
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