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Courtney Wright: “No matter what you do during the day, the one thing that matters is closing sales”

If I’m going to take care of my team, I need to first take care of myself. That starts with getting plenty of sleep. I have 50 families to protect. If I get sick, we won’t be in a good place. I work out 5 times per week, take lots of supplements and adhere to […]

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If I’m going to take care of my team, I need to first take care of myself. That starts with getting plenty of sleep. I have 50 families to protect. If I get sick, we won’t be in a good place. I work out 5 times per week, take lots of supplements and adhere to every single COVID-19 rule like it’s my job. If I get sick after all that, well, then it’s meant to be.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Courtney Wright.

Courtney Wright has the equation for success — stay curious, listen to feedback, fail a lot, and make time for friends and family. This Lake Forest College graduate founded CDW Merchants, the leading provider of 3D visual retail displays and e-commerce gift packaging for the nation’s top retailers, which she sold in 2016 to a global billion-dollar company. Shortly after, she bought Gemini Builds It! + Showcase Acrylics (F/K/A Gemini Moulding) a 50,000 square-foot manufacturing center in Elgin, the industry leader in framing and acrylic, of which she is currently CEO.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am the product of an entrepreneurial household. Both of my parents were entrepreneurs and I tell people that I come from the hardest working family who make their own luck, because it’s true. From an early age I learned what production was. I started selling holograms at age 7 and had a rocking Girl Scout cookie business. I’m originally from Rhode Island and moved to the Chicago area to attend Lake Forest College, and never left.

I am a lifelong businesswoman and I love being in the thick of it. I still love to walk the production floor and talk to my team in the trenches to get ideas on how we can do better. I’ll hop in one of our delivery trucks to better understand what our drivers experience, as well as our delivery clients. I need to be “in it” if I’m going to lead it. I’ve always been like that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Make your own luck.” People constantly tell me how lucky I am. Yes, I came from a happy two-parent household and am part of a family that is the best on the planet, and I am so grateful for it. I don’t have a trust fund or family money. My parents taught me that the act of “grinding” is what it’s all about. I took that lesson and put it in practice, getting up every day at 4:30 a.m. for the last 35 working years of my life to “grind.”

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Zig Ziegler and Brian Tracy. I first heard them when I was 22 and they got me to focus on writing down goals and measuring progress. I am a big believer in what gets measured, gets done.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

Prior to the Pandemic, we were focused on what we did best — framing and acrylic to display and preserve life’s keepsakes at a museum-quality level. Our work was meant to be put on display, whether it be for an exhibit, a business office or in a family’s home. Most of our work revolved around presentation versus preservation and putting that on display for all to see, in person. We worked in a world that was accessible, physical, present. Then that world shut down, literally.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

In February 2020, I pivoted our acrylic fabrication company to a national shield and sneeze guard manufacturer. After we sold over 10,000 shields in the first 60 days, we knew we were onto something! We’ve spent the last year evolving our distribution channels, e-commerce and marketing materials to support the growing PPE business.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

I was looking at Instagram and saw what was happening in Italy, which was the second birthplace of the virus. I saw shields and wondered what they were being used for. Suddenly I thought “we could go to the grocery store if the cashiers had something like this!” I called Whole Foods and Costco the next week.

How are things going with this new initiative?

We crushed it in 2020 and are now working on more permanent solutions for companies who want to go back to the office but need better-looking partitions and shields. A portion of how we handle our clients and associates will be the ongoing optics of how our facilities are kept and how they protect our teams from germs. Our partitions are critical to the demonstration of how businesses recognize the seriousness of the current virus as well as future viruses, and their commitment to protecting their visitors from transmission of germs.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Gene Faut. He is the owner of 3D Exhibits in Elk Grove, IL. He is one of my closest friends and part of my business bench. I often look to him for advice. In January of 2020, he asked me if I was taking the virus seriously enough. I listen to him. He is extremely successful and that constant concern and questioning from him were the impetus to our pivot.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

The outpouring of appreciation from companies like Costco and Whole Foods has been amazing. The managers are dealing with a large workforce that is very anxious. We have literally done installs same and next day to help the managers ease the concerns of their workers. It has been very rewarding. Our team has been AMAZING, jumping through hoops to make all of this happen for our clients.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. No matter what you do during the day, the one thing that matters is closing sales.
  2. If you create a culture, make sure client care is at its center, which will foster more sales.
  3. Have your associates understand how you make money so they can be part of the solution.
  4. Things take time and even though you may be anxious for results, have realistic expectations.
  5. Lean into being afraid and just do it! Some of our best opportunities have come from me saying “sure we can do that” and then praying our team could make it happen!

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

If I’m going to take care of my team, I need to first take care of myself. That starts with getting plenty of sleep. I have 50 families to protect. If I get sick, we won’t be in a good place. I work out 5 times per week, take lots of supplements and adhere to every single COVID-19 rule like it’s my job. If I get sick after all that, well, then it’s meant to be.

I also told my team that I won’t stand for drama. I make it a point to surround myself with people that energize me. We have to focus on what is important and what is going to get us to the end, together.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would like to encourage people to get back to what’s important as a family unit. Focus on, embrace and celebrate the small things. Get back to basics. Make the education of children a priority and encourage and foster their advancement. Eat dinner as a family as often as you can. I know many families who re-established this traditional ritual during the pandemic, and I sure hope they continue it after it’s over. It’s about quality, not quantity, and you need to start small.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

John Warrillow. He is the founder of the Value Builder System and host of Built To Sell Radio. I am obsessed with deals and transactions. He has a HUGE following and creates weekly podcasts that gives insights to entrepreneurs on how to structure their companies for the ultimate value. I would love to have coffee with him and soak in the lessons he has learned from all of these smart people.

How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/geminibuildsit/

Instagram: geminibuildsit

www.geminibuildsit.com

www.showcaseacrylics.com

www.courtneywright.co

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