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  • EY Announces Merrilee Kick of BuzzBallz/Southern Champion Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2018 Award Winner in Southwest Region

    Dallas, TEXAS, June 26, 2018 –  EY announced Merrilee Kick of BuzzBallz/Southern Champion received the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2018 Award in the Distribution and Manufacturing category for the Southwest Region. Kick’s award was presented at a special gala event on June 23 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. She joins 11 winners from other industries, all chosen by an independent panel of judges including past award winners, leading CEOs, investors and regional business leaders. Kick and 11 other winners will be profiled in the July issue of D CEO magazine.

    Kick was honored to receive the award and to be recognized for her passion, success and dedication as a CEO and community leader. “It’s very gratifying because it’s coming directly from top business leaders who understand what it means to grow and operate a company,” said Kick. This fall, Kick will be the subject of a Plano Profile interview and a featured speaker at the 17th Annual Women in Business Summit on September 28.

    Since 1986, EY has honored entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, spirit of innovation and discipline have driven their companies’ success, transformed their industries and made a positive impact on their communities. Now in its 32nd year, the program has honored the inspirational leadership of such entrepreneurs as:

    • Howard Schultz of Starbucks Corporation
    • Pierre Omidyar of eBay, Inc.
    • Jodi Berg of Vitamix
    • Robert Unanue of Goya Foods
    • Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn
    • Andreas Bechtolsheim and Jayshree Ullal of Arista Networks
    • Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani
    • James Park of Fitbit
    • W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. of Marriott International, Inc.
    • Lonnie Moulder and Mary Lynne Hedley, PhD, of TESARO, Inc.

    The Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award recognizes entrepreneurs excelling in innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Kick is now eligible for the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards, the winners of which will be announced at a gala on November 10 in Palm Springs, CA. The awards are the culminating event of the Strategic Growth Forum®, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

    Founded and produced by EY, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are nationally sponsored in the US by SAP America, the Kauffman Foundation and Merrill Corporation. In the Southwest Region, sponsors also include Colliers International, Haynes and Boone LLP, RHSB, Marquee Event Rentals, Smith Frank & Partners, D CEO Magazine and SocialStrategy1.

    About BuzzBallz/Southern Champion
    BuzzBallz, LLC was founded by Merrilee Kick in 2009. A high school teacher at the time, Kick was having some difficult family issues and was determined to help her family have a better life.  She started pursuing her master’s degree to start that transition. One evening, while she was grading papers by the pool, she had an idea for her MBA thesis project that would revolutionize the liquor industry: BuzzBallz® ready-to-drink cocktails, packaged in colorful, plastic, ball-shaped containers. She got an A on her thesis project, but there was still one problem — she didn’t have money to start the business — so she pledged cows as collateral from her parents’ ranch, along with a home equity line of credit, giving her enough collateral to qualify for an SBA loan. The company bootstrapped and quickly rocketed to success, winning over fans from Spring Break beaches to international spirits competitions. Today, BuzzBallz has distributors in 42 states and seven countries. At the same time, Kick has expanded the business portfolio to include premium spirits and wines under the label Southern Champion, creating the only combined woman-owned distillery/winery in America. The family-owned and operated business is still based in Carrollton, Texas, driven by Kick’s vision and dedicated team. To learn more about the Southern Champion family of brands, visit http://www.southern-champion.com/.

    About Entrepreneur Of The Year®
    Entrepreneur Of The Year®, founded by EY, is the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, chosen from an independent panel of judges including entrepreneurs and prominent leaders from business, finance, and the local community. The program makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global awards program of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries. ey.com/eoy

    About EY
    EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

    EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

    This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member of the global EY organization that provides services to clients in the US.

    For more information, please visit ey.com.

    Media Contact
    Sheba Khodadad, PR
    6 Degrees Deep

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