DAVISON TWP. — Beth Kendrick said after opening her own business, she wanted to find a way to offer support and guidance through networking with other women in business.
So Kendrick, the owner of Kendrick Sports Training, 8467 Davison Rd., and her sister-in-law Kenzie Tallman, came up with Women’s Lunch Wednesday with the Davison Area Chamber of Commerce.
The semi-monthly luncheon networking event began in 2023 with about 20 women and those numbers have more than tripled in the past year.
Most recently, the group met on Jan. 31 at Kendrick’s facility and offered professional businesswomen a chance to talk, network and hear from others who wanted to share their stories.
“So to see all of you here…it’s heartwarming to see you all supporting and being here and wanting to learn from each other,” Kendrick told the group. “It was my whole vision for women, networking and leadership in business.”
She said she thinks she can learn from the group and vice versa.
Jessica Brown, owner of Wayfinder Travel Group in Davison and president of the Davison Area Chamber of Commerce, called the Women’s Lunch Wednesday Kendrick’s “brainchild” and praised it as a “fabulous event.”
She said Kendrick recently became an ambassador for the chamber and in doing so wanted to make the Women’s Lunch Wednesday bigger and better.
“It perfectly aligns with the chamber’s goals of growing community connections, not only here in Davison but all across the county,” Brown said.
The speakers for the Jan. 31 event were Jessica Duby, owner and operator of Blonde’s Bottle Service, LLC; and Elizabeth Williams, director of development for the United Way of Genesee County.
Duby, a former downtown Flint bartender, said her business is a mobile bar which can be hired for weddings, parties and other events in this area, around Michigan and even outside the state.
When asked to be a speaker at the luncheon, she said she asked herself what she had to say to a group of other professional women.
“What’s my journey,” Duby said. “What kind of advice can I offer. I have two things. One is trusting your journey…the other is knowing your strengths and actually diving into them and understanding why you are naturally good at what you do.”
She said her journey began working as a bartender while going to the University of Michigan-Flint to become an elementary teacher.
When she finally graduated and went to work as an educator, Duby said the reality then set in.
“I was making more money part-time at the bar than I was as an educator,” she said. “So, that was my initial heartbreak.”
With that realization Duby said she came up with a different plan. With the connections and relationships she had made bartending downtown she found other side bartending gigs while she was working as a teacher.
She was eventually offered and accepted a position as lead bartender for events at the Flint Farmers Market which, combined with teaching, gave her the means to continue pursuing her dream of being an educator.
When COVID-19 hit, all those events were suspended, Duby said, adding for her it was then back to the drawing board.
Because people were still able to gather in small groups during the pandemic, she said she was able to get outdoor bartending jobs.
Working at these small gatherings made Duby decide she wanted to remain in control of her journey and where it was going, rather than working for someone else.
Duby said Blonde’s Bottle Service was born during the pandemic and the company explored ways to expand its mobile bartending service.
She and her husband acquired an old horse trailer which they renovated it into a mobile bar.
“That wasn’t my plan,” Duby said. “That wasn’t where I saw myself going,” “When I was growing up I knew for certain I was going to be an elementary teacher.”
When those plans changed for her, Duby said she had to adjust that process. She said she now celebrates the best times in people’s lives at weddings, baby showers, birthday parties and anniversary parties.
“I feel like that’s a great feeling,” she said.
Also featured as a speaker at the luncheon was Elizabeth Williams, director of development for the United Way of Genesee County.
Williams told of her journey which involves family and personal struggles which eventually led her to a successful career and life as a wife and mother.
“I believe all professional journeys are intertwined with our personal journeys,” Williams said. “This shapes us into who we are and who we want to be.”
She said looking at the audience she could see women who are all striving to be better, wanting to empower other women and who work tirelessly to balance all of the roles they play daily.
“At the end of the day sometimes we still feel we haven’t given enough,” Williams said. “Trust me, you are always doing enough. And don’t forget, you can’t pour from an empty cup…continuously refuel yourself.”
She said everyone has their own story about how the twists and turns of life have moved them in different directions.
Williams referred to three words a friend of hers reflects upon: real, radical and raw – which she uses to describe her own story.
She said she was born to an affluent Flint family in 1981, her father a financial advisor and her mother a program elementary teacher.
A week after Williams was born, she said her father was diagnosed with testicular cancer and he and her mother spent a great deal of time away, dealing with his illness leaving Williams to be raised by grandparents the first year of her life. She said her sister was born five years later.
At the age of eight, Williams said her life was changed when her best friend was killed in a car accident while on his way home from baseball practice.
Her mother, who had her own struggles, eventually left the family to live abroad with a new husband.
“One month later (after her friend’s death), my mom left,” Williams said. “My perfect family was destroyed and my life was shattered.”
She said this made her the “poster child” as the kid from the divorced family as she entered the third grade without her best friend or her mom.
After her father remarried the family moved to Goodrich and started a new life there.
Throughout the rest of her youth she said she dealt with living in a blended family, reconnecting with her mother and involvement with a crowd at school she identified as “the Troublemakers” which led her to some bad decisions in life.
After graduating, leaving the “bad crowd” behind and going to college, Williams said she met a new group of friends who helped her “fill so many empty voids.”
“They understood me. They truly accepted me,” she said. “And they wanted me to win. I am very thankful for this group of women who helped me up, helped me understand life and loved me unconditionally.”
After college she met her husband and was married. Just three weeks after their wedding, Williams said he mother passed away.
The couple had their son, Max. She has worked for the Hurley Foundation as development officer and most recently as director of development for the United Way of Genesee County.
“Being a working mom is, and has been, a challenge,” Williams said. “I don’t think anyone can prepare for it. Being constantly pulled from being a great mom to a solid employee while also balancing every other aspect of life.”
She said one of the keys to success for her has been surrounding herself with like-minded women who wanted to make a difference through involvement in organizations like Flint Woman’s Forum, various chambers and Junior League.
“I don’t let my past define me,” Williams said. “It has molded me into a compassionate, positive, energetic woman who aspires to lift up others, believe in myself and continue to make our community the best for present and future generations.”
The next Women’s Lunch Wednesday will be held May 22. The time and place are yet to be announced.