Presentation of the Outstanding Woman in Business

Award to Diane Hendricks

as delivered by

Speaker Paul Ryan

at the

Independent Women's Forum 2017 Annual Awards Gala

November 15, 2017


Speaker Paul Ryan:

Hey!  What’s that?  Thanks. 

Hey, everybody.  How are you doing?  Mark Steyn – I read your books. 

Guess what I get to do?  I get to talk about Diane Hendricks. 

First, I’ve got some of my coworkers and my colleagues here in the audience, and I just want to give a shout out to great conservatives who are here in this room who are big supporters of IWF.  We’ve got – Ken Buck from Colorado, is here.  Ron DeSantis from Florida is here.  Bill Flores from Texas is here.  Gary Palmer from Alabama – go Wisconsin – is here.  Inside joke.  And Claudia Tenney from New York is here. 

Let me just say it this way, one of the coolest people I have ever known in my life, one of the most impressive human beings, one of the most impressive women I have ever known in my life, is Diane Hendricks.  We have been friends a long, long time.  We live in the same town.  Let me just tell you a little bit of Diane’s story and hopefully she will tell you the rest of it. 

I remember my first time meeting with Diane, I was a 27-year-old guy, I was a former staff economist and staffer, moved home, was thinking of running for Congress, I was in a nine-way primary in Janesville, Wisconsin, for the U.S. House of Representatives.  It was 1997.  I went to Perkins Family Restaurant with Ken and Diane Hendricks.  I was amazed that they even agreed to go to breakfast with me, and we proceeded to have this wonderful breakfast, just talking about ourselves, talking about our philosophy, our beliefs, our values, everything.  And after that breakfast, Ken and Diane Hendricks, risktakers that they are, took a risk on this 27-year-old guy in a nine-way primary running against state senators and all the rest, for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

And the story of Ken and Diane is a beautiful, magical story of the American idea.  Diane is from the best deer-hunting part of America, Buffalo County, Wisconsin.  She grew up in Osseo, went to high school in Mondovi – I’ve been hunting in Mondovi for years.  Diane’s educational career culminated with high school.  Ken was a roofing contractor.  Diane sold real estate in Janesville.  They would buy older warehouses and fix them up and rent them out. 

And I remember one of their stories, this old, kind of crusty banker in Janesville, kind of an old guy, you know, with cufflinks, which, in Janesville, nobody wears cufflinks.  There was a story on Ken Hendricks saying local entrepreneur Ken Hendricks, and it proceeded to talk about you know, the stuff he was buying and rebuilding, and all of this stuff, and this old, crusty banker calls Ken Hendricks in and says we don’t do business with entrepreneurs, as if it was some pejorative, some – so this is back in like, 1969, 1970, Diane?  And it was one of these old, crusty bankers that said we don’t like people who are risktakers, we don’t like people who do these things.  We are calling in all your loans.  

So, Ken Hendricks doesn’t sleep that night, Diane Hendricks doesn’t sleep that night.  So he goes down to Beloit, Wisconsin, finds a banker who said we’ll take a risk on you, you’re a good person, you work hard.  So, they carried their loans and to this day, Ken and Diane Hendricks built up a business from a roofing, contracting and remodeling firm to a company that Diane now has been running solo – Ken passed away a number of years ago in a tragic accident – to a company that is Beloit, Wisconsin, that is the employment base of Beloit, Wisconsin, that is the economic development engine and machine of Beloit, Wisconsin. 

And so, this woman who came from Osseo, Wisconsin, didn’t go to college, started a family, seven kids, seventeen grandkids, built a business with her husband, and then, on his tragic death, could have easily sold out, could have easily cashed in, could have easily just, you know, spent all her days, you know, in penthouses and mansions and whatever, she doubled down.  She doubled down on taking risks, on building her business, on growing her company, on hiring people, on creating new companies. 

Diane Hendricks’ business, ABC Supply, has 715 stores in America, $9.5 billion in sales, and she has 14,000 employees.  What is so impressive about Diane – and we all know her – I mean, she just hangs out in our town.  She’s our neighbor, our friend, our supporter, the philanthropist in town.  What is so inspiring and impressive about Diane is she is a true, real, solid, movement conservative.  

Diane Hendricks has the courage of her convictions.  She puts her money where her mind is.  She supports conservatives, and when people come flying at her, when she gets the grief, when she gets the flack, when she gets this stuff, she just brushes it all off.  You know why?  Because she knows who she is, she knows what she believes, and she believes in this country.  She believes in these values.  So, truly, one of the most inspiring and impressive persons I have ever known is this great and wonderful woman, Diane Hendricks. 

And, so, I want to thank the Independent Women’s Forum for thinking of Diane Hendricks, for emulating Diane Hendricks, for being inspired by Diane Hendricks, and for honoring Diane Hendricks. 

So, please join me in welcoming to the stage and congratulating the 2017 Outstanding Women in Business Award for the Independent Women’s Forum, Diane Hendricks.  Are you going to mention the bear hunting?