Three smart and savvy Austin women whose businesses hit it big in San Antonio and beyond
The Hill Country tugs at the sleeves of two of Texas’ most magnificent cities, Austin and San Antonio, and creative people can’t help being inspired by the natural splendor of Central Texas. In this issue, we celebrate three creative and hard-working Austin women whose entrepreneurship and innovative spirit inspire us. With business ties to San Antonio and beyond, these women started small but went on to do big things.
executive vice president and co-owner of Twin Liquors
Please tell me a little about Twin Liquors and how long it’s been in business.
Twin Liquors is a third-generation, family-owned-and-operated wine and spirits business that started after Prohibition. This year, Twin Liquors celebrates its 77th anniversary. The third generation of owners has expanded the business from a small store in 1982 to a successful company consisting of 75 locations across 13 counties in Central Texas. The company consists of retail sales and wholesale distribution to bars and restaurants. My brother, David Jabour, and I are co-owners.
Twin Liquors has locations in both Austin and San Antonio and in other cities throughout the United States, right?
Twin Liquors has a unique and well-respected reputation throughout the United States. It has been nationally recognized for its substantial community involvement, knowledgeable team members, outstanding customer service, conveniently located stores and extensive selections of fine wines and premium spirits from around the world.
That’s impressive! But how did you get started?
In the early 1980s, I realized that an unmet market existed for providing the consumer with fine liquors and wines. I took on the challenge of exposing consumers to, and providing them with, a variety of fine wines and liquors, despite the belief held by most retailers at the time that consumers would never buy premium wines and spirits. I wanted to create an atmosphere where women and men could come in, feel comfortable and learn about wine and spirits. Education has been a core principle from day one, giving associates and customers the opportunity to taste and learn.
What is your overall business philosophy that drives your company?
My philosophy is to provide outstanding customer service along with product knowledge and education. I believe that an educated staff can teach consumers to feel confident with their wine and spirit selections. I believe it is equally important to provide tastings in the stores — much like fragrance samplings at a cosmetics counter. I wanted to bring the department store ambience to the wine and spirits industry.
That’s a great idea — I’m sure customers respond positively to that.
My desire was to appeal to the female consumer during a time when this industry primarily focused on the male consumer. Similar to the fashion industry, Twin Liquors brings the latest and greatest products available on the market. The vision was and continues to be to expand the business in order to serve its communities in every possible neighborhood with personnel that share my brother’s and my passion and sentiment for the consumer and the industry. The inception of this dream launched in 1982 with one small store. The philosophy ultimately fueled Twin Liquors’ exceptional growth.
Can you point to a moment when you got your first big break or when you first realized you’d reached a level of real success?
The icing on the cake was when I received the Texas Businesswoman of the Year Award from the Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2010/2011. The TBOY Award celebrates remarkable Texas women who personify professional excellence, recognizing their outstanding accomplishments and contributions. The honor put me among subsequent winners including Southwest Airlines President Colleen Barrett and Shell Oil President and CEO Lynn Elsenhans.
What then would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
Philanthropy is an important piece of what makes me feel accomplished. Twin Liquors donates to more than 500 charities every year. It began with the American Heart Association, which holds a special place in my heart because of the loss of my eldest brother, Ralph, who passed at the age of 35 from heart complications that developed from rheumatic fever. Every cause is important.
That’s wonderful. It really makes customers feel they’ve a close tie with a company, doesn’t it?
Being able to give back to the community is the best part of being a retailer in Texas. It is about connecting with our communities. Twin Liquors has neighborhood locations, and this enables us to connect with and know our neighborhoods. It is all about the people.
So with all success, there are also often difficulties and hard choices. What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
I would enjoy spending even more quality time with the special people in my life. Life is precious, and it is important to live each and every day to the fullest. From the loss of my eldest brother, I have learned that time and relationships are extremely important.
That’s so true. Please tell us more about your family.
I have been a single mother since 1994, giving undivided attention to the loves of my life, Michael and Joseph, my two sons. They are now 22 and 20 years old. There is a very loving and caring bond between us that developed from being a single mom when they were very young. It was always important to have strong communication and share quality time together, no matter how busy I was growing a business. My sons are my priority, my pleasure and a blessing.
The origination of my family is my fantastic mother, Helen Jabour, who instilled in me great hospitality and manners, as well as how to truly care for others. Theodore Jabour, my father (Twin of Twin Liquors, deceased 2009), loved people and could immediately connect and care for everyone. I also have my brother, David Jabour, his wife, Sylvia, and their three children, Raphael and Gabrielle (twins) and David Michael, the youngest. Family is the root of what makes you understand community.
So what’s the best advice you ever got?
My mother and father instilled in me at an early age to always take care of the other person.
Twin Liquors offers lots of great products — do you have a favorite beverage?
Sparkling wine — which, of course, is affiliated with celebration. Each day is a celebration. Each day is a gift and should be celebrated. Each day is a new day to find meaning in whatever crosses my path and each and every person that I meet. I do not take life lightly. Enjoy each day no matter what challenges come your way. There is a reason and lesson to be learned in each challenge. Life is like the many bubbles in sparkling wine, always rising to the top. Each of us has a purpose. Connect and make things happen.
Tell us a little about why you love San Antonio so much, which you obviously do, and why it’s a good match for Twin Liquors.
San Antonio is an exciting community and has welcomed us with open arms. As a young girl I remember hearing my father say, “San Antonio and Austin will basically be one city as population grows.” I feel it has definitely happened.
founder and CEO, Kendra Scott
Kendra Scott has highly successful, popular stores in both Austin and San Antonio. Tell us about your stores and where the Kendra Scott brand all began.
Our Austin flagship location opened in 2010 in the heart of Austin’s SoCo district [the shops, restaurants and clubs along South Congress Avenue just below downtown Austin and Lady Bird Lake], and it was always my dream to open more stores. With nine stores [including those in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas] and many more on the way this year, it is so incredible to see my dreams come true. While our flagship store still maintains its original look and feel, our new stores, including our two San Antonio locations at the Alamo Quarry Market and the Shops at La Cantera, are incredibly modern-looking, and we put the “Kendra Scott” touch on practically everything, from the Danielle silhouette lighting at our Color Bar™ to the custom gold medallion handles on our drawers. There is so much attention to detail that goes into every one of our stores, and you can especially see that at our newest location in San Antonio.
Please share a bit more about your exciting company and how long you’ve been in business.
Kendra Scott is an American accessories brand inspired by my personal experiences, travel and sense of community. We are known for our kaleidoscope of beautiful jewelry, infusing hand-cut stones with intricately etched metal silhouettes that are both fashionable and fun. We also encourage our fans to play designer with the Color Bar™, an innovative, one-of-a-kind experience that allows jewelry customization with endless possibilities available in-store and online.
I launched a mini-jewelry collection in 2002 with just $500, and today it is a multimillion dollar brand with nine namesake storefronts and is sold at renowned retailers like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. A passion for great design, dedication to innovation and a strong social media presence are our building blocks for creating a unique and engaging lifestyle brand across all channels, including retail stores, wholesale accounts and e-commerce.
That’s quite impressive — to start with $500 and build all of that. So tell us, how did Kendra Scott get started?
The start of my company was a mix of fate and my own brazen tenacity. My family was facing hard economic times, and at the time I was pregnant with my first child. Rather than panicking about our situation, I took it as an opportunity to turn my passion into a business. I took $500 out of our savings and created a mini-jewelry collection, promising to double the money. With my newborn son in a Baby Bjorn and my jewelry in a tea box, I went door-to-door to local Austin boutiques and sold out of my first-ever collection. Months later, I received a call from a Dallas buyer who wanted to represent me. With her help, I landed my jewelry in a renowned New York City showroom, and the brand took off from there.
When did you first realize you’d made a real success of the Kendra Scott business?
The opening of our flagship Austin store in the heart of SoCo was a true highlight in my career. Having a Kendra Scott boutique was a dream I’ve had for years, and though I knew Austinites would love and support it, I could not have imagined the immense immediate success of the store. The prosperity we experience at the Austin store is the fuel that drives our store openings, like the eight other locations we currently have and the many more to come this year and beyond.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
My three children are my biggest accomplishment. When asked what I do for my job, I always say that I am a mom first, a CEO and designer second. My boys are my absolute pride and joy. From my newborn son’s first “coo” to my 12-year-old’s acing his math test, the things they do make me beam with pride.
Tell us what you love most about Austin and why you call it home.
Austin is my home base because of many reasons, the first being that it is such an incredible city in which to raise a family. The sense of community and family here is just unbelievable. Austinites embrace and support each other in everything, and that’s a perfect environment to raise children in. There are also just so many wonderful activities for families to do together, especially outdoors, and my boys and I love that. The other is because Austin is a perfect place to start a business, and I truly believe that this city gave us our wings to fly. I feel so lucky for my business to have its roots here in Austin. While Austin is a growing city, it still has this laid-back, homegrown quality that cannot be found anywhere else. I believe I have been able to grow my brand globally because I started in a place that is so supportive of local businesses.
Yes, it certainly is a supportive community. Many Austin women are finding success in business there. What woman do you most admire?
My mom. She is such an inspiration to me every day. She truly is a remarkable woman.
Since you have a whole brand concept that has been inspired by your own personal style and that bears your name, tell us a little about your style.
Being a designer immersed in the fashion world, I always pay close attention to trends, so I love to incorporate fashion-forward pieces into my look. I am also a mother, with oodles of soccer games to attend and carpools to participate in, so I tend to keep the staple pieces in my wardrobe pretty classic. I love to experiment with color, especially pairing unexpected hues together with my vibrant jewelry.
What’s the best advice you ever got?
The best advice I ever received was to not be afraid to ask for help and that doing so isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
Your two Kendra Scott stores here have found such success in the Alamo City. Why do you think San Antonio is such a good fit for your business?
I’ve always admired the rich, unique culture and stunning landscape of San Antonio. The overall vibe of the city fits perfectly with my bold, colorful designs. I’m excited to share our unique in-store experiences with the incredible women of San Antonio.
president and owner of AlphaGraphics ofNorth Austin and San Antonio
AlphaGraphics, that’s a name we’ve seen before in both Austin and San Antonio. Where are your branches located?
We’re located in North Austin near the Domain on Braker Lane and in San Antonio off Interstate I-10 West across from USAA.
How did you get started?
AlphaGraphics is a franchise business, so I actually took over after the business had been built up. I bought this business seven years ago: Jan. 1, 2007. Today we have 14 employees and locations in both cities. Prior to AlphaGraphics, I had been CFO (chief financial officer) at a private securities trading company where I was soon promoted to CEO (chief executive officer). But all my life, I wanted to own my own business, and when I saw this one for sale, I decided to buy it. At the time, I didn’t know a thing about printing, signs or graphics. Most of what I learned was from on-the-job training.
So what service does AlphaGraphics provide?
We deliver commercial and quick printing, signs, large format color, books, brochures, other business printing needs and core marketing services such as direct marketing, ePub documents and mobile apps. All of our work is personalized to the business to help them promote their business, from a branded mug to a mobile “app” or even their signage.
What would you say was your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment would have to be being a single woman and adopting my two sons, James and Ben, from an orphanage in Kazakhstan 11 years ago. At the time they were ages 4 and 6. In Austin, I learned about Kidsave, an international nonprofit company that serves as an advocate for orphaned children from Third World countries. Each summer they bring 600 to 700 kids over to the USA to live with host families to help those kids find a forever home. People meet these kids and learn that, by no fault of their own, these kids live in horrible circumstances and need a home.
I had a photo of a boy that was supposed to stay with me, but at the last minute he was denied the chance to visit the USA. So I went to Kazakhstan to adopt him, sight unseen. While there, I also came to know another boy in a different orphanage in the same town, and I adopted him, too. The first time the boys met, I introduced them as brothers, and since then we’ve been a family. I spent a month over in Kazakhstan adopting them. Today they are typical American teenagers. My eldest son, James, attends Marine Military Academy in the Rio Grande Valley. Ben, my youngest, attends Austin High School. Our two dogs, Gracie and Peyton, are part of our family, too.
What do you love best about Austin?
It’s such a laid-back community, with all the wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities and the arts wrapped up in one.
What do you like best about San Antonio?
I love doing business in San Antonio. The sense of community is really strong there. Although it’s larger than Austin, it has more of a small-town feel to it. People are genuinely friendly and are pleased that AlphaGraphics is there to help them grow their business. San Antonio has a special place in my heart for another reason. Although my sons were adopted formally in Kazakhstan, I readopted them in the USA at the San Antonio courthouse. San Antonio is a special part of my family’s story for this reason.