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The Lead Oct. 4, 2022: Women entrepreneurship in Kerr County is front and center

We revisit an important conversation from our small business shows last month.

Good morning, Kerr County!

The National Weather Service says confidence that we'll see rain in the coming week — or two — is probably a longshot. Sunny and warm will be the norm. The reality is that there will be more dry weather over the next two weeks. We can still expect those gorgeous — and cool — mornings but a warmup by the afternoon. Yawn.

On today's The Lead Live!

Today is going to be a mega show! That's the best we can say about it. We'll have Kerrville Mayor Judy Eychner and Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly on to discuss the recent developments at the Kerrville Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library. Also joining the show is the Kerr County Sheriff's Foundation to discuss their upcoming fundraising event. To cap the show, we'll have the Symphony of the Hills President Tim Summerlin and Conductor Gene Dowdy preview Thursday's season debut of the 2022-2023 season. Our usual cast of Texas Hill Country Advisor Andrew Gay and Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Julie Davis will provide us with respective updates.

Today's Events

  • National Night Out — Doyle School Community Center, 5:30 p.m. Information: The details: Visit the Doyle School Community Center for National Night Out with a live performance by The Time Bandits! The Doyle Community Center Pavillion is where you'll find the events, including flu shots by Peterson Health. Organizers said there'll be food, drinks, and a bouncy house.

High School volleyball

  • Canyon at Tivy, 6:30 p.m.
  • Brady at Ingram Tom Moore, 6 p.m.
  • La Pryor at Center Point, 6 p.m.

The Arts

  • KACC Exhibits — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: Three art exhibits. "Artwork by Phyllis & Doug Garey," "Kerrville Art Club Member Show," local artist exhibition and art sale, and "Quilts and Other Art Forms," local quilters exhibit.
  • 39th Annual Western Art Show and Sale — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: The Exhibition and sale will bring together more than 40 top Western Artists presenting more than 100 original works of Western Art.

Are you ready for the bucket truck rides? Here comes KPUB's big event on Saturday.

The Kerrville Public Utility Board (KPUB) is hosting a family-friendly event to meet our heroes in hardhats while we celebrate Public Power Week!

Please mark your calendars for Saturday, October 8, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., to join us in Louise Hays Park for a free community event!

This will be a free community event with family-friendly activities that will include taking a ride in one of KPUB’s bucket trucks, arc & spark demos, line worker tool displays, photo ops with our linemen, face painting and more.

KPUB will be providing free hot dogs, chips and refreshments on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as a free t-shirt for the first 100 attendees. For more information:

Kerrville City Council learns about PIDS, MUDS

In another meeting about abbreviations, the Kerrville City Council won't tackle short-term rentals (or STRs) on Tuesday during a noon workshop today. Still, they will discuss public improvement districts and municipal utility districts.

The City Council has tackled this topic previously, but this is a financing implement that some developers may want to utilize to build new housing here. The challenge is that these financing mechanisms have different regulatory components and management, and they haven't always been available to cities the size of Kerrville.

However, the MUDs can be important for development projects that may lay outside the city limits but within the city's extra-territorial jurisdiction. The utility infrastructure — water primarily — is connected to the city's service, but the costs are recouped by those who own property within the district. Ultimately, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates these districts.

With a PID, the city can create a special district designated for improvement. For instance, Fort Worth created a PID to improve, manage and promote the historic Stock Yards. Kerrville could use this to make a series of improvements to strengthen downtown and other parts of the community. However, the appetite for this kind of financing project may be limited for a City Council that fought through a bruising election to pay for a new public safety building.

More COVID-19 deaths

Kerr County's COVID-19 death toll continues to climb as the Texas Department of State Health Services reported another fatality related to the virus. The exact timing of the death is unclear because DSHS is no longer updating its spreadsheet of county-by-county deaths, but this is at least the fifth death since Aug. 23. The state's death toll is creeping up to 195, but there are far more Kerr County deaths.

While President Joe Biden declared the pandemic over, COVID-19 continues to hospitalize people. Peterson Regional Medical Center has not had a coronavirus-free week of admission since May 20. The intensive care unit continues to care for COVID-19 patients.

What drives Kerrville's female entrepreneurs

From left, Keri Wilt, Mindy Wendele, Anabel Medrano, Holly Secrest, Amber Thomason and Kristen Hedger.

Last month, The Lead hosted Small Business Week, and two days featured conversations with local business owners and entrepreneurs — all women. Longtime Kerrville resident and business owner Mindy Wendele led the discussion.

Wendele interviewed:

  • Holly Secrest, owner of Joanne Marie and Me Wine Boutique in Ingram.
  • Anabel Medrano, who owns La Escondida 1962, 1962 Barber Co. and is a real estate agent with Fore Premier Properties.
  • Amber Thomason, owner of a State Farm Insurance business.
  • Keri Wilt, co-owner of Kerrville's Grape Juice and successful short-term rentals.
  • Kristen Hedger, a vice president of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing.

During an hour-long interview, Wendele asked the women about their inspirations, challenges and aspirations.

One of the keys of the interview was who each woman leaned on as they launched their businesses. Without support and guidance, the panel said their businesses may have failed.

Amber Thomason said that without the support of her family, she wouldn't have made it as a successful State Farm Insurance owner.

  • Amber Thomason: "I mean my family. My mom watched both my kids for me so that I could work extra hours, and I was like stressed about daycare because my kids were really young when I started and so, my mom was huge. My husband was huge. My dad was always helping out and so and really, I mean, probably the biggest person obviously is it was my husband at the time because he was like, you know what? If you want to do it like I'm here to support you and I had to go back and forth for six months every other week to training in Missouri and that's hard for a mom with toddlers."
  • Holly Secrest: "My mom. She passed away five years ago but always instilled in my sisters and me that we didn't need to depend on anyone and could do it. We just needed to go. She made us go to college and get that degree no matter what. She said, do not depend on anyone else but yourself. Yeah. And so, with her help and you know, her voice is always in my head every single day, all day, and then, my sisters were like, come on, you can do this. And then husband."
  • Keri Wilt: "Richard Ferris, the late great owner of Cowboy Steakhouse. When he heard the rumor that we were going to be opening a restaurant downtown, he invited Patrick and me into his office, and he showed us his books over the last 20 years, and he like had this line graph of like year over year over year. I found that to be probably the most beneficial thing as a business owner and as someone who was trying to grow something and build something, having someone you can talk to that's not just inside your head because I think I'm sure these girls are like, you know, you kind of get in your own world and you think I'm the only one doing this and to have someone each week that I could sit and have and say, hey, this is working for me."

As Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing moved toward opening a manufacturing facility in Texas, Hedger said she faced plenty of uncertainty — even though she grew up in Kerrville. There were plenty of challenges to overcome to get the North Dakota-based Aerospace business rooted here. For Hedger, Kerrville's underlying support elements helped make the move easier.

"What I found was just a community of kindness," Hedger told Wendele. "And gratitude is just inspirational to make you want to do even more. It propels you."

Anabel Medrano didn't let severe burns stop her from being a successful entrepreneur.

Medrano's challenges could have ended before she started after she suffered severe burns in a fire at her home, but that hasn't stopped her.

"I mean, obviously, I've been through a fire," said Medrano, who has overcome the fire and the surgeries and skin grafts that followed. "I've been through a lot of different things, and I say that anything big enough for me to be like, yeah, I'm stopping here like that, that's it. It's always just really popped up another thing like, alright, well, I'm not going to do it that way anymore. I'm going to do it this way because this is the obstacle, and it's not like, you know, how am I going to beat it? It's alright."

For many business owners, Thomason's challenges may sound familiar, especially recently.

"I would definitely say the biggest challenges have been employee training and recruiting," Thomason said. "I think that for my industry, I have a small team. We're really a tight-knit team, and we also have to be a highly certified team. So, there's not a whole lot of people again that grow up and say, I want to be an insurance agent and they go get their insurance license."

Holly Secrest said the unpredictability of her wine business can lead to some planning challenges.

The unpredictability factor of their daily work keeps Secrest on her toes.

"You never know what night is going to be the busiest," Secrest said. "Is it Thursday? Is it Friday? Is it Saturday? Who knows? Whatever we think like she said. Do you think Thursday is? No. That's Friday. But also like Amber said, keeping up with the times."

Keri Wilt, right, said she and her husband, Patrick, wanted to be in a small community, and to be connected to it.

In another part of the interview, Wilt said that smaller community roots and connections drove her and her husband, Patrick, to launch a business.

"We moved here craving a community," Wilt said. "So community was the first thing we wanted to be and be a part of, and when you go into owning a business with a mindset of community and being a part of it not an us versus them conversation."

Watch the full interview here:

Upcoming Featured Events

The Kerrville Chalk Festival,

Oct. 15-16, Kerrville City Hall

Kerrville Chalk Festival is a family-friendly art event for the Texas Hill Country. More than 65 artists create large-scale chalk drawings directly on the pavement. Kerrville’s downtown becomes a festive canvas for local and regional artists, as wells as invited guest artists from around the United States.

The Festival has live music, many free activities, food trucks, as well as wine and craft beer. It attracts an estimated 10,000 attendees annually. Read about the history of chalk art.

Held at Peterson Plaza in the heart of downtown, the event encourages tourists and locals to dine, shop, and experience the beauty and charm of Kerrville, Texas.

The 2022 beneficiary is Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center (KACC). KACC was founded in 1995 by a group of artists with a mission of providing a show place for local artists and to further the arts and culture in the community. The Center is comprised of sixteen affiliated groups representing over 500 artists and has three distinct gallery spaces. It attracts over 20,000 visitors annually.


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