Though it may not be something she recommends to her clients, Brenda Blisk, Founder and CEO of the Blisk Financial Group, paid part of her college tuition with money she won as Miss USTA: That’s the Unites States Twirling Association for those of us who can barely catch a Frisbee. She also won scholarship money from beauty pageants, competing in homemade dresses, and was once Miss Warren County Fairest of the Fair, Tennessee. When Brenda wasn’t twirling her way to an education, she traded the baton for a pitchfork, helping out on her family’s dairy farm in McMinnville, TN. So how does a farm girl become a top financial advisor? “A farm is really a family business,” Brenda tells us in her McLean office. “You have to organize, schedule, make a profit and learn how to help others. Business was a natural direction.”
Seems like the lessons she learned amongst the four-legged are paying off. Brenda was recently named one of Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors and was honored at Smart CEO’s BRAVO women in business awards July 25.
Blisk didn’t learn everything on the farm. She began her career with Prudential Bache, started her own practice in Dayton, Ohio, and moved it to Washington in 1988. “I wanted to sit on the same side as my clients. Because we are independent we can hold money on many different platforms.”
Brenda with cards and snapshots from her loyal clientele. “We have helped plan weddings, purchased first homes, and paid for grandchildren’s college tuition. There is nothing more rewarding for people than creating a legacy.”
Brenda’s advice is “pay yourself first.” Before you put money towards the myriad of life’s expenses, put something away for yourself and for the unforeseen. Brenda’s own unexpected circumstance came in 1987 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It was the same year Mrs. Reagan was diagnosed. I found a lump and three doctors told me to come back in a year.” Luckily she didn’t heed their advice, as it was in fact malignant. “My husband was in the military at the time. I told a young Navy doctor ‘even if it’s nothing, let’s get it out.’ It turned out that behind the first lump was another lump.” During her battle with cancer, Brenda moved her practice to Washington. “I would undergo radiation treatments over my lunch hour and come back and meet with clients.”
The year before she was diagnosed with cancer, Brenda and her husband decided to adopt a baby. “It was a real concern if they would allow adoption because I was a breast cancer survivor. We had to get special letters from the doctors.” The baby became available in January ‘88 when Brenda had just finished chemo. “She came to us at six weeks old and I couldn’t hold her with my right arm.” Today, that daughter, Laura-Marie, is at George Mason, channeling Venus Williams on the tennis team.
Brenda with colleagues Jim Williams and Blen Fisseha. Behind her is a family portrait.
Brenda serves on the women’s committee for the annual gala benefiting the Lombardi Cancer Center, where she has been closely monitored since 1988, and celebrated 20 years of survival this summer.