Greeley CEO headed to Washington as Obama family’s guest for State of the Union

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GREELEY, Colo. -- A Greeley grandmother and chief executive of a successful honey company will travel to the nation’s capital to watch President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

Ronna Rice, 71, will be a personal guest of first lady Michelle Obama. It's an exclusive invitation that makes Rice feel as lucky as her company's namesake, Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey.

"I thought it was a complete joke. Everybody jokes around here," she said.

President Obama will recognize Rice as a small-business owner during his final State of the Union speech.

"I am a Republican," she smiles.

But she knows political affiliations have nothing to do with it and everything to do with the growth of her family’s company over 90 years and five generations.

The company has grown from humble beginnings of door-to-door sales to exporting honey overseas.

No one is sure what Obama will say in his speech. But it's likely he'll talk about an Asian trade deal to make it easier for small companies like Rice's to expand their businesses into Pacific Rim countries.

Already,  the company has export sales of about $500,000 to Asia. Rice credits her family for the growth.

"We have worked as hard as the bees," said Julie Lordemann, Rice’s daughter and the company’s chief financial officer.

Her husband, Mike has also worked at Rice’s Honey for three decades. Julie Lordemann will join her mother in Washington starting Monday.

"I just want to watch my mom’s face and watch her and see what she does when she meets Michelle and President Obama," Lordemann said.

Rice is one of 23 guests and the only one from Colorado, sitting with some of the most powerful people in the free world.

"I'll probably be the one looking around at all the people instead of paying attention," Rice said.

It's a bucket-list experience about as sweet as it gets.

"I got married at 18. I have known nothing but the honey business. That's all I've known. And so to be honored like this it’s really awesome," she said.

The State of the Union speech will air live on FOX31 Denver at 7 p.m. Tuesday.