Leesburg, Va. - For a woman nearly 20 years in the business, Kristina Bouweiri had never seen anything like it before.
The phones were ringing off the hook the day after Election Day. The country had just voted in its first African-American president. Many, many parties were in order, and people, including Tinseltown celebrities, needed a ride to each.
“Inauguration week!” Bouweiri announced through a broad grin. “It was our biggest week ever.”
Born in Japan to a pair of exchange students, Bouweiri, 46, as she puts it, is a "woman working in a man’s business”: chauffeuring. She’s the president and CEO of Reston Limousine, whose vehicles are as common in this region as FedEx trucks.
Don’t let the name throw you. Reston Limousine is a Loudoun company. Its headquarters are tucked in the back of a gritty industrial park near Dulles Town Center, while Bouweiri and her family reside in rural Loudoun west of Leesburg.
Her husband, William Bouweiri, now retired from the company, founded Reston Limousine in 1990 with the help of a $5,000 tip he was given while driving for another company.
At the time, Reston Town Center was the company's home. Early clients included Exxon Mobil and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Bouweiri, who was working in advertising, met her husband around this time, and the two soon began dating. She then started working at Reston Limousine. They married in 1991.
With Kristina Bouweiri on board, the company grew quickly. In need of more space to park its expanding fleet, the couple moved the company to Herndon, then Sterling and eventually to its current home in Dulles.
"As the traffic in the area got worse," she said, "we got bigger."
In 2000, her husband retired to take care of the couple's growing family at home, leaving Bouweiri in charge of the business. Since then, revenues jumped from $2 million annually to $15 million in 2008.
In 2004, the Washington Business Journal named Bouweiri one of the 50 most powerful and influential women in the region.
Today, Reston Limousine is the 23rd largest limousine company in the United States.
Corporations and federal and state agencies account for 80 percent of the company's business. Major clients include George Mason University, Exxon Mobil, Fannie Mae and Marymount University. Proms and wine-country trips also have been profitable for the company.
Its 150 vehicles -- which include buses, vans, sedans and stretch limousines -- transport 5,000 people a day.
However, as it was for most other companies, 2008 was a struggle.
"Christmas was dead," Bouweiri said. "No one threw any parties."
But then came inauguration week. Writer Norman Lear called. He needed a driver, as did Hollywood starlets Anne Hathaway and Jessica Alba, legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin, and thousands of other people desperate for transportation.
"Our dispatchers worked 16-hour days," she said.
But, she said, everyone got where they needed to be without a hitch.
"I get a lot of attention because I am working in a male business," she said. "But man or woman, you have to surround yourself with the top talent. That is really the key. ... I don't do this alone."
Source: Loudoun Times