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All along, Susan Meeker planned to go into business for herself. This just wasn't the business she had in mind.
A month after graduating from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor's degree in social sciences, Meeker ditched her longtime goal of launching a non-medical care service for the elderly and opened a women's clothing store last spring in her adopted hometown of Lander.
"This isn't what I was planning to do, it just kind of happened," Meeker says with a laugh.
It may not have happened without a healthy dose of support from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC).
With its main office located on the UW campus, the WSBDC is part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Wyoming Business Council. The WSBDC helps to strengthen Wyoming businesses and create economic growth by providing management assistance, educational programs and helpful resources for Wyoming small businesses and entrepreneurs.
"When I first got the idea to do this, I had never owned a small business or worked in retail so I really didn't know anything," says Meeker, owner of In My Window, located inside the historic Baldwin Building at 306 Main St. "The WSBDC, and specifically (Region 6 Director) Margie Rowell, was able to provide me with a lot of advice and direction and they answered every question I had about opening a business in Wyoming.
"If you don't have someone with that type of knowledge helping you, you probably won't make it."
Six months after opening her shop -- and despite lean sales in October and November -- Meeker says she's successfully meeting her target revenue goals. She believes a new addition to her inventory, Trollbeads, will help spur future sales.
Made from the highest quality raw materials -- including sterling silver, 18-karat gold, Italian Murano glass, natural pearls and precious stores -- Trollbeads is a unique jewelry sold at just seven stores in the Cowboy State. All Trollbeads bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings come with a lifetime warranty.
In My Window is the only Trollbeads vendor in Fremont County.
In addition to women's clothing and jewelry, In My Window also carries women's accessories and lingerie and has refinished antiques on consignment.
While she never planned to be selling blouses and purses upon graduation from UW, Meeker says she's happy to help fill a crucial niche in the Lander retail scene.
"As I went through school, I wanted to open a non-medical care service for the elderly. That was the plan all along," says Meeker, who has lived in Lander for the past 14 years with her husband, Greg, a state environmental engineer. "But I've been a stay-at-home mom since my son (Clay) was born eight years ago and, as I got closer to graduation, I realized that I couldn't start a business like that and drag him along with me."
Now, Meeker says, Clay walks to the shop each day after school, does his homework and helps out with simple chores such as breaking down boxes.
And, sometimes, Meeker does a little homework of her own.
"It's nice to know that anytime I have a question about doing business in Wyoming, I can always call Margie and she'll be able to answer my question or point me in the right direction," she says.
The WSBDC also offers low-cost educational forums and one-on-one counseling at no cost to participating businesses in areas such as planning, management, marketing, and finance. The WSBDC has regional offices throughout the state. For more information, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Web site at www.wyomingentrepreneur.biz.
Rowell is the regional director for Fremont County. She can be reached by phone at (307) 857-1174 or by e-mail at email@example.com.