Christie J. Lawler: Valuing Brands with Marketing, Support, and Transparency

Christie J. Lawler established CJL CONSULTiNG in 2009 as a means to keep involved in her work while pursuing her MBA. Christie assists clients as the Founder and Owner of CJL CONSULTiNG, producing beverage marketing and training programs for national hospitality and entertainment companies including Alamo Drafthouse, American Social, Arcis Golf, Flagship Restaurant Group, Galaxy Theatres, Palisociety Hotels and Red Pebbles Hospitality.

Christie worked in national sales before launching CJL, calling on several of her current clients. She had fallen in love with the food and beverage sector as a teenager when she realised she was making lifelong friendships at work. She had the opportunity to work as a national account manager, selling several globally leading beverage brands to hotels, restaurants, and entertainment chains for the better part of a decade. She recalls, “When I went back to my consulting side by re-engaging in CJL full time, I had an amazing roster of supporting colleagues that have helped me not only grow the company but inspired me to start our nonprofit side.”
Christie J. Lawler established CJL CONSULTiNG
Describe who you are as a person, inside and outside of the workplace.

Outside of my career, I am a wife and mother. My husband is the rock at home who supports both my career and company as I jet around the country and enjoy amazing experiences and adventures. Our sons are the absolute biggest success stories of both of our lives, and we get to live our dreams because he is a retired Air Force Officer who is now enjoying life as a stay-at-home Dad and community volunteer. Because of his sacrifice, I get to focus on building my company and non-profit foundation. When I am home, my favorite activity is watching my boys play baseball. I try to never miss a game, because our little men shine on that field and what makes them happy brings me immense joy and pride.

In my work life, I absolutely love the career that has afforded me the opportunity to build my own company, launch my own product line, and create a foundation that serves the future female leadership of our industry. I absolutely love my work and it fills me with so much joy and passion. I adore my team members and feel so blessed to have them join me on this adventure. My company embodies my personal ethos of giving back; sharing joy and helping others achieve their goals.
Tell us about CJL CONSULTiNG.

CJL is a national beverage marketing agency. We specialize in emerging national chains (typically under 100 locations) and our goal is to help these new brands become more profitable and consistent in their operations, so they are poised to grow and scale. CJL also houses The WITI Group and JAB MiXOLOGY. The WITI Group is our 501(c)(3) organization that I founded in 2018, and we have grown to more than 80 female leaders across the country that are known as our Mentor Members as they share the vision of creating a brighter future for the women coming behind us in this business. JAB MiXOLOGY is our product line that I created in 2020. JAB stands for “Just. Add. Booze.” And is a line of six different infusion blends that create spectacular cocktails at home or behind a bar in two simple steps. Each blend is a mix of herbs, spices, roots, fruits, flowers, and veggies that are an easy and fun way to make dynamic cocktails—even for the novice home bartender.
What has been your biggest learning since becoming an entrepreneur?

The biggest thing I have learned is that there is so much I never knew I could learn. At the beginning, I had to learn web design, accounting, local tax filings, certification steps, and those are just the first few I can name. But with each new thing I had to understand, I became more appreciative of all the experts out there, and now that we have a larger team, I no longer have to live the “solopreneur” life. That doesn’t mean I sleep any more than I used to, probably less these days. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I wanted to work for myself because I was tired of hearing others tell me that what I wanted to do was too hard or impossible. Nothing motivates me more than being underestimated.
How do you motivate people to go the extra mile?

I respect them. I respect their time and their lives. We offer unlimited vacation time as a company so that we can all enjoy our lives because of our careers and not despite them. I want to treat my teammates the way my best boss ever treated me and the exact opposite of my worst boss. And I have. I ask them for guidance and input constantly. I trust them because they are brilliant and have skills that I don’t possess that I can learn from just by being in their presence. I ask them what they want and then I follow through. I love surprising them, and I love listening to their dreams and goals. I simply want to be a really positive part of their career journey. And I support them. I have their backs and want to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
What gets you up in the morning? What motivates you?

This is assuming I go to sleep. Once you bartend, you’re a night owl forever (IMHO). On the nights I actually get to sleep at a somewhat human hour, typically my boys or a phone call wake me up. But the second my feet hit the ground, I am running full steam with alarmingly large amounts of coffee, a large smile, and a ton of enthusiasm for what the day will bring. I love what I do so much that I am willing to do it at any hour of the day.

But to truly answer the question, making an impact is my biggest motivator. And not just the larger societal impact, but the one I have on my boys. They understand what I do, and they see how hard I work. They are proud of their mom, and that brings the ultimate joy. I am raising men who will hopefully seek out the empowered, strong women that come across their paths in life and support them to go further.
What does “performance culture” mean to you?

I am almost certain there is some specific definition, but I think it is completely subjective. To me, “performance culture” is the way in which you treat and motivate those around you. And not just from a leadership perspective, but peer to peer. I am so lucky to have found the most incredible and talented people to help me on this journey. So I want them to love and respect each other as much as I do each of them. You get what you give, right? So, I give as much as I can because I want them to know how much they mean to me.
Kindly describe how you will specifically know what success looks like for you.

I believe that success is completely internal. It’s not a benchmark, but a feeling of pride. I enjoy such success because of the amount of love I have in my professional and personal life. It’s not a dollar figure, but a sense of peace and happiness. Not that there aren’t hard days, but when there are so many good ones, it’s hard to remember the bad ones. It took me a long time to reach this point of personal peace and pride. And I worked hard to get here, overcoming a ton of seemingly impossible hurdles along the way. But I am grateful for the challenges I faced. They made me so much stronger, more resilient and grateful.
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