Gina Kallick’s face brightens into a wide, warm smile. She’s full of energy and eager to engage everyone around her in conversation. Gina is one of the remarkable members of Next Act Fund, and despite claiming that she prefers the background, she becomes a focal point at many gatherings.
Get past Gina’s easy-going demeanor and you’ll find a highly successful entrepreneur and businesswoman who bought, led, dramatically grew and then sold a laundry-solution provider. She brings this wealth of experience to Next Act Fund members and entrepreneurs. Having thrived, despite challenges, in a male-dominated industry, Gina explains, “I appreciate some of the struggles that women experience with being able to get money.” She credits one visionary banker with believing in her and helping with loans when all the others either said no or offered unfavorable terms. Next Act Fund sat down with Gina to learn a little bit more.
Below are a few excerpts from our conversation:
Next Act Fund: In your business, did you work with many women?
Gina: There were not many women in my circle. I did not really know any women in business. After 10 years, I was asked to be on a couple non-for-profit boards, so I began to meet a few women, but not many. All my supports were men. That’s part of why I got so interested in Next Act Fund.
Next Act Fund: Tell us about joining Next Act Fund.
Gina: Last Spring, my friend Suzy Silliman called and said, “I joined this fund, and I think you should join.” Yvonne reached out to me, and I went to a gathering the next day and signed up. I wanted to be able to help entrepreneurs with both the financial aid and the experience. I think that’s really important. Having said that, I’d also like to increase my personal wealth.
Next Act Fund: What’s been the biggest surprise?
Gina: Honestly, the sisterhood of the group, plus the men! It’s the amazing people that I get to partner with as well. I’ve been on three due diligence committees, and I led the last one. I like seeing how we can help these companies. Sometimes it’s preparing them for a screening. Sometimes it’s just a coffee to talk. I didn’t expect I’d meet such interesting people. I also didn’t think it’d be so fun. It’s not just a boring meeting. I’m someone who likes to learn and grow. I wish I’d had some of these mentors when I was starting out. I think the networking opportunities for the entrepreneurs are really important.
The associations are also really valuable. As an example, I sat at a round table with a congressman on behalf of Next Act Fund. I’d never done that before. I was able to talk about the importance of funds and the need to support women businesses. We need to invest in our people, grow the talent, ideas and entrepreneurs. It really is exciting to be a part of this fund.
Next Act Fund: I understand you had some strong women around you before you owned your business. Tell me a little about them.
Gina: I am the oldest of 4 girls. I also had a very strong grandmother. I grew up as a dancer and an athlete doing fast-pitch softball. I do attribute my strength to that background. Fast-pitch is a team sport. You have to work together.
In my previous career, in retail, I had a fabulous mentor, Jan Wescott. I would listen and hold on to every word. She really pushed me even when I thought I wasn’t ready.
Next Act Fund: Anything else you’d like to share?
Gina: I have a son and a daughter. To be able to inspire high school girls, young women to have the wherewithal to make something happen is really important to me. I want to set an example for both of them. We have your back.