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.

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Media Contact
Sheba Khodadad, PR
6 Degrees Deep

Merrilee Kick and BuzzBallz/Southern Champion provide $5,000 in Science Scholarships

Helena, MONTANA, May 16, 2018 – BuzzBallz/Southern Champion, LLC, and CEO Merrilee Kick awarded four of Montana’s top-ranked high school science students with their annual Science Innovator Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes students who demonstrate curiosity, a strong work ethic, and outstanding skills in leadership, teamwork, and communication.

Capital High’s winners for 2018 were Hannah Dreesbach (1st Place, $1,500) and Elliott Pryor (2nd Place, $1,000). Helena High’s winners were Mariah Thompson (1st Place, $1,500) and Nathan Kynett (2nd Place, $1,000). The scholarship honors 2012 Montana Teacher of the Year Tom Pedersen of Capital High who has dedicated his career to innovative science instruction.

The scholarship was created to honor Kick’s parents, Gil and Marilyn Alexander, both retired science teachers from Capital and Helena High Schools and founders of the Montana Learning Center. Merrilee Kick, a 1981 graduate of Capital High, cited her own interest and reliance on science as a beverage company CEO and personally congratulated the winners, writing,
“You can be what you want to be, and with focus and determination, you will continue to make the environment and the world a better place.” The Montana Learning Center, located in Helena, provides professional development resources for Montana teachers and student enrichment programs all year round as well as an annual STEAM summer camp for grades 1-12.

About BuzzBallz/Southern Champion:
BuzzBallz began in 2009, by the edge of a backyard pool in between a pile of papers to be graded and, of course, a cocktail. Merrilee Kick was a high school teacher working on her master’s degree when she realized she was on to something big. The poolside drink sparked an idea that would revolutionize American cocktail culture and shake up the liquor industry in more ways than one.

Fast forward to 2018, Kick has successfully created one of the fastest growing ready-to-drink brands nationwide, with distribution in 42 states and seven international countries. She has also expanded her business’ portfolio to include premium spirits and wines under the name Southern Champion, one of the only women-owned distilleries in the country. Based out of Carrollton, Texas, Kick’s family owned and operated facility continues to prosper with a team of creative, dedicated people who share her vision. We hope you join us on our journey! Cheers from our family to yours. To learn more about BuzzBallz/Southern Champion, visit http://www.southern-champion.com/.

Media Contact:
Sheba Khodadad, PR
6 Degrees Deep

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

Carrollton, TEXAS, May 6, 2018 – EY announced today that Merrilee Kick is a finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 Award in the Southwest region. The awards program recognizes entrepreneurs with a commitment to innovation, achievement and growth for their business and community. She will join other finalists at the awards gala on Saturday, June 23, 2018 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, where regional winners will be announced.

Merrilee Kick

Kick, who has been a finalist for the award in previous years, said the honor recognizes her humble beginnings in the liquor business to becoming a leader in the marketplace. “From the beginning, my focus was to grow a family-oriented business and make great tasting products. In addition, as a result of my scientist parents, it is important to me to be environmentally sound. We grew this company into making global brands with global audiences, and we are very proud of that accomplishment,” said Kick.

Media Contact:
Sheba Khodadad, PR
6 Degrees Deep

Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Whiskey Wins Gold at 2018 World Spirit Awards

BAD KLEINKIRCHEIM, AUSTRIA March 25th, 2018 – Southern Champion was awarded 5 winning medals for their spirits at the 2018 World Spirit Awards in Austria. Gold medals went to XIII Kings Vodka, Pelican Harbor Light Rum, Pelican Harbor Black Rum and Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Whiskey, and Andrew John’s Gin scored a Silver.

The industry expert judges hailed Southern Champion’s spirits for their strength of character, smooth aromas, balance and superior taste. Founded by former skier turned spirit evangelist Wolfram Ortner, the WSA judges still rate spirts in competition according to Ortner’s scoring system, which includes two categories for fragrance, two for taste, and a fifth for harmony.

The WSA is dubbed the “World Championships” of spirits by industry insiders. Only 450 spirits from around the world reached the official tasting in Austria where medals were awarded. Southern Champion’s five wins at this year’s WSA attest to their passion for making some of the world’s finest spirits, enjoyed by consumers and expert judges alike.

Sheba Khodadad, PR
6 Degrees Deep

Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Whiskey Strikes Again at MicroLiquor Spirit Awards

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – January 19, 2018. For the third year in a row, Southern Champion, home of Buzzballz, makes a huge statement at the MicroLiquor Spirits Awards in November 2017 with its own spirit lines.

Triple Gold medals were awarded to both Andrew John’s Gin and Pelican Harbor Light Rum for their exquisite tastes and standards of excellent quality. Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Whiskey and XIII Kings Vodka both left the awards with Gold medals. Pelican Harbor Black Rum received a Silver medal.

Andrew John’s Gin won a Gold medal in the packaging competition for its sleek, clean bottle that portrays an upscale earthy, grass-like essence. XIII Kings Vodka received a Silver medal in the packaging competition, while Pelican Harbor Light Rum and Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Whiskey both left with Bronze medals.

The MicroLiquor Spirit Awards is the World’s Premier International Spirits Competition for small and emerging brands. The competition brings in hundreds of different brands from around the world to compete for the top medals, specifically, a triple gold medal. The MicroLiquor Awards recognizes the triple gold spirits based on extraordinary taste and the highest standard of quality and excellence, and receive the highest recommendations in the competition.

One of the world’s most distinguished agencies for alcohol beverage package design, Flowdesign, is responsible for judging the packaging competition. The competition is based on brand concept, logo and brand identity, brand story, graphics, typography, style and legibility, and overall design among other things.

The MicroLiquor Spirit Awards is the world’s first spirits competition for small brands. Stealing some of the top honors, Southern Champion is coming home with bragging rights and nine new medals.