Lee Ann Maxwell, Vixen Vodka

Lee Ann Maxwell describes her entrepreneurial journey as going “from the beach to the shelf.” In 2010, she and friend Carrie King decided to turn their casual girls’ vacation chats about a vodka brand for women into a serious startup. By the end of 2012, bottles of Vixen Vodka could be found in stores near their Atlanta homes.

It wasn’t long before the business grew beyond Georgia. But what initially seemed like a blessing became a burden. The company was scaling too quickly for Maxwell to keep up, and grappling with individual states’ liquor laws was a daunting task. So she decided to scale back, focusing instead on building a loyal, local customer base. Maxwell and King began to use the free time they regained to speak to area women’s groups about entrepreneurship and female leadership.

Today, Vixen Vodka is again considering branching out, but in other ways — for example, by adding makeup and apparel to the brand. And Maxwell says that growing it has given her something special: It allowed her to become her own person. At one time, her marriage, which ended amicably, and being a mother overtook her own interests in business and finance. But now, she is her own enterprising woman with a loving support network around her. “I am who I was supposed to be — not at the expense of being a wife and mother, but in addition to it.”