LGW FEATURES MEMBER KRISTINA BOUWEIRI
April 3, 2017
Kristina Bouweiri is President and CEO of Reston Limousine, Washington DC’s premier chauffeured transportation provider and the 10th largest fleet operator nationwide. Starting with only five vehicles in 1990, Bouweiri diversified the business and grew it to a $26 million company today with more than 200 vehicles. As a woman in an industry traditionally dominated by male executives, Bouweiri has been committed to supporting women entrepreneurs over the years and is the founder of the monthly networking luncheon Sterling Women and co-founder of the annual Virginia Women’s Business Conference.
Recognized for her business acumen regionally and nationally, Bouweiri is an international speaker on topics ranging from startup success strategies to the use of social media in growing your business. Her recent recognitions include SmartCEO Best-Run Companies, Washington Business Journal’s Power 100 and Top Women-Owned Businesses in Washington DC, George Mason University School of Business Outstanding Leadership Award, DC Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year and International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award.
How did you become involved with LGW’s Signature Program?
I have been involved with leadership programs for a very long time and was the Loudoun Chamber representative on the Leadership Loudoun Board for two years. I have put at least 10 of my employees through Leadership Fairfax, Leadership Arlington, and Leadership Loudoun. I was waiting to do the class myself when my four kids were mostly out of the house so that I could commit the time. I was recruited for Leadership Greater Washington by Barbara Lang, Denise Hart and Lyles Carr!
Can you describe a truly special LGW Moment from your experience - a connection you made, something you pursued because of LGW, or a distinctive memory?
A distinctive memory for me was when I told my class at the final retreat that I was interested in a Board seat. I knew the competition was tough and I had just returned from a business trip in Europe so I was jet lagged. Without any notice, we had to pitch the class about why we should be chosen for the board. I was tired and did not feel as if I could come up with a good pitch, but somehow I won the board seat. I was overwhelmed with emotion and so touched that my classmates voted for me.
How would you describe LGW - the alumni, leadership, staff, and overall mission of the organization?
Leadership Greater Washington is one of the greatest organizations I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. When I received the list of my classmates, I read each bio and was so impressed with the level of education and accomplishments of the group. I love the fact that the industries are varied and include many non-profits. By the end of the program, we had all bonded in a unique way through our activities throughout the program. I tried very hard to get to know each classmate because each and every one is so accomplished! I enjoyed the leadership (especially Doug Duncan’s humor) and staff of LGW. Everyone works really hard and is engaged. I have really enjoyed getting to know the alumni and have noticed everyone is really friendly at the gatherings. I love the fact that each class thinks their class is the best - they are all wrong because Sweet Sixteen is the best! The mission of LGW is powerful. When you take 60 leaders and put them in a room and teach them about all the challenges our region faces, you will have a positive result. Each year, 60 additional leaders are educated about the challenges, and together we can help to solve problems and find solutions. An added bonus is that we stay connected and can meet the alumni through many different events.
Can you give us some background and insight into your personal leadership path – including sources of inspiration and the most important lessons learned?
I lived all over the world as a child because my parents were in the Foreign Service. After graduating from George Washington University with a degree in International Affairs, I traveled back to Africa and worked for a non-profit that worked to uplift the status of women in the third world. After two years in Somalia, I decided that job was not for me. I came back to the U.S. and got a job selling advertising. While cold calling out of the yellow pages, I sold an ad to the founder of Reston Limousine. We started dating, got married and ran the business together for ten years. In 2000 we decided he would stay home with the four kids and I would run the business. Ten years later we divorced, and I bought him out of the company. My sources of inspiration have been other successful CEOs in our community. Through networking, I have surrounded myself with successful people and turn to them for advice. I belong to Vistage, a CEO membership organization that helps me learn and grow. I also serve on the board of the DC Chamber of Commerce and many other organizations. My most important lessons learned have been diversifying my market, which is why I added buses to my fleet many years ago; embracing technology; and hiring the right people!
Tell us something most people might not know about you.
I was born in Japan, and I speak Portuguese! I went to boarding school in Swaziland with the children of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu!
How do you envision the future of the region? What about LGW’s role in that future?
I believe the future of the DC region is strong because we are in the nation’s capital and as a result are somewhat recession proof. Between government, the universities and private companies we will always have a strong economy. As a member of the transportation industry, I do worry about traffic and lack of infrastructure! I am hoping our leaders can meet the responsibility of working on improvements that will impact our quality of life! Leadership Greater Washington should always push to bring the area’s challenges to the forefront. The program has an excellent history of keeping folks engaged even after they graduate!
How does your efforts and leadership at your current organization impact the future of the Greater Washington region?
Because I run the largest limousine and bus company in Washington, I can impact the future by offering solutions to move people in groups and take cars off the roads. Our biggest niche is providing shuttle buses to connect buildings, campuses, parking lots and more! Moving people in groups is the most economical way to get around. We would love to be a part of the solution and help the region consolidate some of the buses they have in order to be more efficient!