Women in business: truck-driving, selling wine and guiding investments

Edward Jones Financial advisor Jana Williams’ career path has been interesting, to say the least.

Edward Jones Financial advisor Jana Williams’ career path has been interesting, to say the least.

The one-time Coca-Cola truck driver-turned-inventor-turned-author has finally found the job she loves, working with people and helping them manage their money for retirement and other purposes.

“You just get so attached to your clients,” Williams said. “I love being able to help them reach their goals for retirement.”

Years back, after winning “Miss Congeniality” in the Miss Redmond competition, Williams started helping other contestants do their make-up and then worked for five years as contestant coordinator with the Miss Washington pageant. From there, she started working for Coca-Cola, driving trucks, because she wanted to be in sales and at that time, the drivers were often the ones doing the selling.

“I was the only female driver who lasted five years,” Williams said. All the heavy lifting and moving soda later led her to invent a product called the Stable Stack, which helps keep product in place while using a hand truck. Delivery drivers at Coors, where her father works, tested it for her, and she recently had it patented.

From Coke, Williams moved on to Arizona Iced Tea, where she was promoted three times in five years. That’s when she started investing with Edward Jones, and began to admire their methods and business structure. She went through training with Edward Jones and opened an office on East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast seven years ago.

A highlight for Williams was when she was a able to help an 82-year-old client who was receiving about $22 per month from her investments change things around and receive about $124 per month.

“I love to see the difference I can make in people’s lives,” she said.

To help make a difference for soldiers, her office has sent a number of care packages to Iraq. In addition to her work with Edward Jones, Williams has written a series of 11 children’s books with lessons, which will be published and available on Amazon this summer. She’s also the president of Kiwanis at Providence Point, and president of the Providence Marianwood Foundation.

A one-woman operation

Kirstin Greig, owner of Sahalee Realty, moved into the real estate business after working in service and sales. She realized that not only did she love the housing market, but that she could excel at helping people find exactly what they are looking for — and get it,. Finding it is just the first step.

“You’re selling your expertise and your skills,” the Sammamish resident said. “I’ve always believed that with real estate, the expertise begins with the contract. I believe that’s where agents set themselves apart.”

Deals can and do fall apart if the contract doesn’t protect the buyer and look out for their interests, so Greig said she has worked hard to gain expertise in contracts.

Sahalee Realty is a one-woman show — Greig does everything from showing homes to doing research to the work on contracts to answering the phone. She’s thought about getting administrative help, but likes the fact that she’s in on every detail.

“I really think in a lot of ways that is one of the advantages for me,” Greig said. “Because it is my name, I’m the one who’s ultimately responsible.”

Greig started out in real estate working for Remax for three years, then worked with Executive for about five years. She began to develop a niche helping clients buy investment properties, which was enjoyable but requires considerable travel. About two years ago, she started Sahalee Realty and has enjoyed specializing more in the Sammamish area.

“My bread and butter is going to be obviously investment clients,” she said. “But I’m at a point that I want to be giving back to the community.”

Like Williams, Greig said she enjoys helping others and wants to do more of that. She’s hoping to become more involved in the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, and also enjoys volunteering with the PTSA.

“Since my kids have all come through the Sammamish schools, I really feel that I owe the faculty of these schools,” Greig said.

She also volunteers with Operation Support Our Troops and Faith in Action, a Christian-based organization that provides companionship and assistance for the elderly.

Following a dream

Issaquah resident Jennifer Cunningham and her husband, Dan, had always wanted to open a business together. After helping some friends with their business for years, Dan got the idea in May of 2007 to open a wine store in Issaquah.

At the time, Jennifer was working as a customer service manager for a specialty gas distributor, and Dan was in outside sales of laboratory consumables. Dan kept his position, and it was up to Jennifer to get the business off the ground.

“This is my baby at this point,” Jennifer Cunningham said. “As in any venture, there’s always a bit of nervousness, but you can’t succeed without trying.”

WineStyles, in the Issaquah Commons shopping complex on Gilman Boulevard, had its soft opening last week. The grand opening and wine tasting will be June 21. Meanwhile, Cunningham is working to fill out the store’s stocks and select quality wines that she thinks customers will love. The store will host wine tastings from 6 to 9 every Friday, and also offers a wine club.

Asked what type of wine is most likely to grace the Cunninghams’ dinner table, she was hard pressed to give any one answer. Dan loves Chardonnay, while she enjoys shiraz and Old World wines.

“We have somewhat different tastes,” she added.

WineStyles is a chain of franchise stores, and the Issaquah location is the sixth store in Washington.

“I like the concept — it simplifies wine-buying, and makes it warm and welcoming,” Cunningham said. “We’re very excited.”

The walls of the store are lined with huge racks, divided into categories. On the red wall are “fruity,” “mellow” and “bold” sections; the white wall has “crisp,” “rich” and “silky.” Other categories include “bubbly,” “nectar” and “If you insist” — which includes wines over $25 (a large majority of the wines are under $25). Each category has a description including types of foods those wines would pair with well.

“I hope that people embrace the concept like we did,” Cunningham said. “We’d just like to see people enjoy coming in.”