San Antonio Women Following in Their Parent’s Footsteps
As little girls, many of us dream of growing up to be just like our mothers and our fathers. We will try on mom’s high heels and pearls, or learn how to tie a tie and play with dad’s briefcase. Many of us look up to our parents and their career success when we are young, and we hope that one day we can become a successful professional as well. Most of us grow up, discover our own interests and forge our own paths, but a few of us will bravely follow in the footsteps of our parents, learn from them, shadow them, and eventually take the reins of the family business, securing and progressing the legacies and traditions that create a foundation for a dynamic family of industry. The following women weren’t necessarily the pioneers of their family’s company, but with their determination and experience are taking their businesses boldly into the future.
Insuring Her Mother’s Legacy
When Lauren Culp walks into the room, you can feel her youthful exuberance, and you will be charmed by her beautiful smile and her enthusiasm to meet you. She is friendly and welcoming, and you can tell in an instant that she is also incredibly savvy and intelligent.
The oldest of three, Lauren is Shirley Crandall’s only daughter, and in her early years working for mom didn’t go so well. She was fired from her first summer job at Crandall & Associates, because she told her mother that she didn’t want to alphabetize and file client documents any longer. Crandall wisely let her go to find employment elsewhere, so she could find out what life in the workforce was really like. Lauren worked for a flooring company and a physical therapy clinic while in high school, before she went off to Texas A&M. She eventually returned a little wiser and ready to learn from her mother, who had built one of the most dynamic boutique insurance agencies in San Antonio.
Crandall started her insurance agency in 1987. The agency dealt solely with employee benefits and she was a one-woman show for many years. In 1991 she incorporated and became Crandall & Associates, a full service, multi-line insurance agency.
Lauren began working for Crandall & Associates remotely for two years while she was living, in North Carolina. She analyzed and assigned age ratings to prospective clients and organized employee statistics and information for growing companies that wanted the agency to handle all of the benefits offered to their employees. When Lauren returned to San Antonio, she eagerly joined the business, acquired her insurance licenses and is currently working on obtaining her Certified Employee Benefits Specialist designation through the Wharton School of Business.
Lauren states, “I love finding ways to help companies keep their expenses down. The cost for benefits packages rise 30% a year on average, and it’s my job to strategically assess their current program and advise and educate employers about changes and options, so that they can take care of their employees, while continuing to make a profit.”
As Lauren takes on a more active role in running the agency, her mother, Shirley, isn’t slowing down, but rather, transitioning into a very active retirement. “Everyone wants to be Shirley Crandall,” Lauren states lovingly about her mother, and although she respects and is incredibly proud of the company that her mother has built, Lauren has her own goals and ideas of how to take Crandall & Associates into the future.
Over the years, Lauren has discovered that their clients want more from the agency. “We have always offered advice and consulting to the small companies that we insure, and they trust us.”
While Crandall built the agency into the success it is today, Lauren has bigger aspirations and intends to use her mother’s success as a foundation to grow the company even further. Eventually, she would like to expand Crandall & Associates’ services to include compliance management, Human Resources Consulting, Financial Planning and Investment Options for employees who work for the companies that they insure. She is a dynamic young lady working hard to secure the legacy that her mother began over 30 years ago, and is looking forward to making a name for herself as she does so. There is no doubt that Lauren Culp, with her determination and contagious energy will achieve these goals, and take her mother’s company to the next level.
Enhancing the “House”Hold Name
Leesa Harper-Rispoli never had any intention of following in her mother’s footsteps. Instead, she followed her father’s career path into education. He holds the moniker as the longest running Superintendent of South San Antonio ISD.
Rispoli went into education and advanced her career from teaching high school to earning her master’s in Education and Special Education from Texas A&M and Our Lady of the Lake University. She became a Special Education administrator and ultimately an Academic Dean for Northeast Independent School District. However, in 2005 she decided to change her career path and accepted a position with her mother’s Coldwell Banker Real Estate firm in the accounting department. Eventually, she took over the property management department where the agency grew from 400 to over 1,400 properties during her tenure.
“I knew that I wanted to carry on the Harper legacy in real estate, so I attached myself to my mom’s hip to learn the business. Mom was the driving force until she retired seven years ago. It has been one of the best rides of my life. I’m not trying to fill my mom’s shoes, I’m trying to fill her boots!”
D’Ann Harper Realtors consistently ranks in the top 2% of over 9,000 national Coldwell Banker real estate brokers every year, and the company is still growing. They have over 440 agents and nine offices covering Central Texas and the Hill Country. There is a family-centric culture at D’Ann Harper Realtors; you’ll find a cohesive and inclusive atmosphere within the company, which is rare in this very competitive industry. The agency screens prospective agents carefully to make sure that each individual will fit into their open and accepting culture.
Rispoli states, “We are here for our agents, and are not willing to compromise excellence. As a real estate agent, you are CEO of your own business; it is important to bring in the right people.”
Rispoli is easy going and friendly, and although she is at the helm of one the largest and most prestigious real estate broker firms in the country, sitting down to talk with her is like meeting a friend for coffee. She lights up when she talks about her daughters. Ashlee, 31, and Marlee, 24. Rispoli and her husband, also have one granddaughter and two Border Collies.
When asked how she plans to carry on her mom’s legacy and take D’Ann Harper Realtors into the future, Rispoli states, “My mother tells me, ‘Don’t do it like I did. Make your own mark, but only have one chief’.”
Leesa is very proud of D’Ann Harper Realtors Lone Star Living show on WOAI-TV. It highlights the agency’s best listings, along with segments about the local housing market. Another source of pride is the designation of their Global Luxury brand. D’Ann Harper Realtors was the very first Coldwell Banker Global Luxury office in the U.S. This offers the agency a unique way to showcase their portfolio of listings over $1 million.
Under Harper’s guidance, Leesa is poised to take the company forward. She states, “My mom has always been on the cutting edge. She expects evolution, and has taught me to give myself permission to explore. It is a privilege to carry on her legacy.”
Nacho Average Family Business
Growing up in the Liberto family, Megan MacDiarmid was always aware of the importance of her family’s place in the concessions snack industry. Her grandfather, Frank, created the concept of concession nachos in 1976. Megan is a fifth generation granddaughter proudly carrying-on the legacy of the Ricos name in San Antonio and around the world.
Founded in 1909 by Rosario Liberto, the Ricos brand has changed with the times and the market for over 110 years. Every one of us has enjoyed a Ricos product at some point in our lives. Whether a bucket of popcorn at the movies, a heaping pile of nachos at the ballpark, or an ice cold snow cone at a carnival, Ricos products have been there. Ricos is now in 57 countries around the world.
Megan is the oldest of three, and her uncle, Tony Liberto, serves as President and CEO of Ricos today. She never doubted that she wanted to take over the family business, and at 33 is positioned to take the brand into the future with an expanding product line and a vision to uphold the mission of providing “Fun Foods for a Fun World.” She speaks reverently of her grandparents and states that it was their influence that made her want to continue the Ricos legacy.
Her grandfather had a commanding presence and loved his role as the family jokester, charming everyone he met. However, it was her grandmother and her mother’s strong work ethic that shaped her into the woman she needed to become in order to continue the success of her family’s amazing business. “My grandma was my best friend. We had lunch together every day, and it was her love and support that helped me decide that I wanted to one day be the leader of the Ricos brand.” Her grandmother died in 2018 and you can feel Megan’s heartbreak as she talks about her importance in her life.
Megan’s career with Ricos began during summer breaks from college. She was in charge of quality control, testing snow cone syrups to make sure that they were heavy enough to reach to the bottom of the cone, but not too watery to create a pool. She was instrumental in perfecting the nacho cheese recipe. It was her job to test each batch of cheese sauce to make sure there was enough viscosity for the cheese to stay on the chips, and make sure the jalapeño juice didn’t overpower or separate.
“Quality is so important. I had to ensure that the Ricos name was never compromised.” She is still working hard to ensure this quality today.
Megan has two children, Wyatt and Scout. She stays busy juggling the demands of career and family. Her husband, Cameron, is a veteran with two deployment tours under his belt. They make a strong team that is sure to succeed in whatever they choose to tackle in life. Megan is strong, confident, warm and accessible. She loves to tell the story of her family and show off the incredible employee partners that have helped her family’s business prosper. It is a great company with a history of forward thinkers, and Megan is perfectly poised to take Ricos into the future with a spirit that the Liberto family has worked hard to achieve.
Not everyone gets the opportunity to carry on a family legacy, but we all have the power to create one for our own children. Sometimes it’s important to look into our past to take note on how those, who have come before us, made it happen, in order to formulate a plan on how to march into our futures.
By Meredith Kay
Photography by Jason Roberts