For small business marketer Debi Burrows, the timeless narrative of the hard-working entrepreneur is one that has deeply influenced her life. Originally from Western New York, Burrows watched her Sicilian father grow his small businesses, determined to provide for his family. This part of her life resonated well with her and contributed to her journey in becoming the Founder, Head Storyteller and Strategist of Penguin Suits Inc., an award-winning marketing firm in Boerne. She is devoted to helping the business owners in her community to grow their small businesses with marketing strategies tailored for their diverse needs. Today Penguin Suits serves businesses ranging from one-woman shops to multi-million-dollar industry leaders. Burrows shares her thoughts on championing and empowering women in the Hill Country, while altruistically supporting others with the belief that everyone has the potential to succeed.
On her mission to empower other women in business:
I first arrived in Boerne as a new mother in the 1990s, having just moved to Texas from Western New York. Something spoke to me when I found Boerne after driving the highways for days trying to choose the location of our new home. I met several fellow New Yorkers who also settled in Boerne, and it immediately felt familiar and comfortable.
Once I settled in with my newborn son, I started Penguin Suits (named after an outfit I made for him) with a mission to service the needs of fellow entrepreneurs by providing big advertising ideas on a modest budget. These small business owners, including many women, are makers and doers: clothing, artists, movers, other products and services that can be developed at home and used to support a family lifestyle.
As our Head Storyteller and Strategist, I have spent decades encouraging women to follow their passion when starting a small business. Following one’s passion to success is worthy of recognition. I have observed that the most limiting factor for women is that they don’t believe in themselves. I have always said that we should never allow anyone in our lives to feel as though they can’t do something.
Our business has continued growing over the years because of a strong need for marketing. Everything is a marketing call–I coach women and other business owners and remind them that they are marketing all the time, whether they are in the office, their home or out in the community. The phrase I always use with my clients is, “If you’re not going to say you’re the best, who is?” It fulfills me to own a business that can be the cheerleader for others.
On entrepreneurship and small, family-owned businesses:
I have a unique perspective on entrepreneurship and small, family-owned businesses. I grew up in a family with parents who owned small businesses, and I watched them struggle with parts of their business they did not understand, such as marketing. That struggle has always stayed with me, as it has given me the determination to succeed and the drive to offer marketing services that are accessible to smaller businesses. Additionally, as a woman who raised a family while growing her own small business, I feel it is important to mentor other women business owners, both in the office at Penguin Suits Inc. and out in the community. It feeds my soul to watch a fellow business owner grow, especially in a smaller town like Boerne–when one business benefits, we all do.
On giving back in Boerne:
At Penguin Suits Inc., we support our fellow businesses in the Hill Country by buying local and using local services whenever possible. We also work hard to make the marketing strategies of larger businesses available to smaller businesses with appropriate rates and manageable packages, so that our services are accessible to our clients, no matter the budget.
Outside of the office, I give back to a variety of organizations that I believe in, such as the Boerne Community Theatre, Dress for Success San Antonio, Career Gear San Antonio, Angels All Around You and the 100 Women Who Care. I have a passion for the arts and education, so I volunteer with the Hill Country Council for the Arts and Boerne Community Theatre. I work with students at the University of Texas at San Antonio to provide a project for their PR class each year. I attend classes and make myself available to the students for meetings and questions. I also teach a quarterly class on marketing for business owners at Alamo Colleges Workforce Center of Excellence.
On her personal female hero:
I have always identified with Lucille Ball, not only because of our shared hair color, but because of her tenacity and innovation in her industry, even in the face of constant adversity. Her story keeps me pushing to do my best and remember all the women in history whose courage paved the way for our present-day opportunities. If we don’t pull each other up and support each other through the ups and downs as women, who else is going to do it? Lucy always said it best, “Be positive. Be humorous. Be who you are.”
This profile was (Em)Powered by Penguin Suits.
Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.