NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — After the strawberry honey glaze of sunset sky dissolved into night, and guests grabbed for dessert squares, NLA board director and mother Deena Papagni took the stage to introduce one of the industry’s most accomplished CEOs, Kristina Bouweiri of Washington, D.C.’s Reston Limousine.
Before giving up the stage to the GCLA Vehicle Expo’s keynote speaker, Papagni shared some background about Bouweiri. Bouweiri was born in Japan, lived on three different continents, and received a degree in international affairs at George Washington University. She worked in Somalia and Kenya to help uplift the status of women in those countries. After a round of applause, Bouweiri elegantly took the stage and continued where Papagni left off.
NLA board director Carrie Peele with Kristina Bouweiri. Peele, along with board directors Deena “Expo Diva” Papagni and Rich Azzolino helped represent the NLA at the GCLA event.
She explained that she returned to the U.S. after her non-profit work and took the only job she could find — a 100% commission-based advertising sales job. It was through this job that Bouweiri met her future husband, William Bouweiri, in 1991. She cold-called him with a pitch to do advertising for his five-vehicle limousine company, Reston Limousine. Soon the two were working together and Bouweiri led the company’s charge into the wedding market.
With her natural knack for planning events, Bouweiri cold called brides and received work for about 40 weddings per weekend during that first year, including her own marriage to William. That number eventually rose to 100 weddings per weekend, and the company grew along with it, reaching 150 vehicles to become one of the top 20 largest limousine services in the nation.
Those first years of growth included the integration of buses into the Reston fleet, which Bouweiri described as a “moving advertisement for your company.” Her first two shuttle bus contracts resulted from people seeing her bus and knocking on the door with contract proposals. After winning several government contracts, Reston Limousine diversified into corporate, hospital and university shuttle work.
Not only did Bouweiri transform Reston Limousine into the company it is today, she did so while sustaining a healthy marriage and raising four children.
“As owners, we tend to do too much,” she said. “One thing I learned during my second decade in the industry that I wish I’d learned in my first decade is that you have to hire great people and delegate more of the things that keep you in the office, such as reservations. Owners shouldn’t be doing that. You should be out there networking and developing relationships. If you’re worried about the expense of additional employees, think about how much your time is worth. You need to delegate certain tasks and make time for your family and personal life.”
Reston Limousine tripled in size because of networking, Bouweiri said. She saw explosive growth when she began attending networking events, chamber and industry events, and got involved with different charities.
People are paramount
Bouweiri said the secret to running a successful company is having the right people who are passionate about their work. Employees are just like anything else — you get what you pay for — so she advised to hire the best people and pay them what they deserve.
Every employee needs to be able to answer any and all questions a client may have. “Somebody at your office has to be able to quote rates after hours,” she said.
Lucky to be here
“Each and every one of us is lucky to be here, lucky to be in this industry,” she said. “It’s people who are behind our success, and we need to give back to the community.” Bouweiri has been involved in numerous charities, especially those which assist children’s causes such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the International Children’s Festival, among others.
“I didn’t do [charity work] for attention, but we ended up getting nominated for the Ernst & Young award,” she said. “We hadn’t handled something like that before, so we hired a PR firm to help us out, and what a great help it’s been. We won the award and I learned the power of public relations.”
She suggested operators pick a charity they’re passionate about and give back, especially during slower seasons when the vehicles are just sitting around.
— Michael Campos, LCT assistant editor