WOMEN IN BUSINESS: Jill Wyman pieces together a cherished family business

GRAYLING – Jill Wyman of Grayling loves her business, and the joy it brings her bubbles forth as she chats vivaciously about it. Twenty years ago she was a stay-at-home mom, but her children were getting older and she was looking for something to do. A long-time crafter and sewer, Wyman settled on starting a small quilt shop and transformed an old icehouse she and her husband owned into The Icehouse Quilt Shop.

With only $2,500 and no formal business training, she launched her endeavor. According to Wyman, 20 years ago in a small town, there weren’t a lot of resources to help a small business get started. Wyman attributes her success to good common sense, good customer service, good money management skills and a trusted CPA.

Over the past two decades, Wyman has seen a number of changes. For her, it was never difficult being a woman in business.

“Probably because quilting is mostly a woman’s business,” she says.

However, she has seen the number of women who work for companies that supply her shop with merchandise increase dramatically. She is delighted to see women gain acceptability and respect in the working world.

Wyman has seen the quilting industry in general go through a number of growing pains. She says that people not familiar with the business probably don’t realize that quilting is so big in America. Many quilt shop owners and teachers are branching out into fabric design and many are writing books and appearing on “how-to” television shows. Her own daughter is the author of two books on quilting.

In addition to watching the industry grow, Wyman’s shop has blossomed over the years. In addition to quilting supplies, The Icehouse Quilt Shop has branched out into home d├ęcor and gift items.

In 1995, Better Homes and Garden’s Quilt Sampler magazine selected The Icehouse Quilt Shop as one of the 10 best quilting stores in America. Unbeknownst to Wyman, several of her customers nominated her shop and it was selected from a vast number of entries. As one of the top 10 shops, The Icehouse Quilt Shop was asked to design and make a unique quilt. Wyman’s daughter designed “Northern Michigan Splendor” and the quilt still hangs in the shop today.

Soon, Wyman will pass the reigns to her youngest daughter who is buying the shop in January. She still wants to be involved to some extent and especially enjoys going to trade shows. In the meantime, Wyman and husband Dave will concentrate on the Hanson House, an 1883 Victorian home they have converted into a bed and breakfast.

Most of all, she wants to spend time with her grandchildren. “I want to be a grandma that goes on picnics, not a grandma that’s a workaholic,” she says.

Wyman says that if she had to do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing. “I have no regrets,” she says. “It’s been fun. Lots of fun.” BIZNEWS