Women who are moving their businesses and communities forward

Women who are building their own small businesses in the Upper Peninsula are connected by one thing--their passion and drive to do what they love. Here, we profile some of those women.
Entrepreneurs who have the get-up-and-go to start their own business--that's what innovation and economic growth is all about in small towns and rural areas like the Upper Peninsula. 

Luckily, we have lots of small business owners who have that drive, including these women. Each has followed their dream to create a business that's a reflection of their goals and passions.

Allie Brawley Sherman has been building her yoga business, Northern Life Yoga, in Sault Ste. Marie for the past few years. It started from two motivators: A love for yoga, and the desire to return home to her native Sault after years spent living in New York City and elsewhere in the country.

"I started practicing yoga in 1999 when I was working in Manhattan," recounts Brawley Sherman. "My mom suggested I try a yoga class to find peace of mind from the fast-paced New York City lifestyle and I have been a dedicated yogi ever since…proof that mothers do know best."

When she returned to Sault Ste. Marie in 2010, there was a distinct lack of yoga studios in the area, so she started Northern Life Yoga, and has seen nothing but expansion since. Pretty soon, she moved into her own studio and expanded the class offerings.

"After initially sub-leasing space in another studio, I launched my own place, Northern Life Studio, in 2011," says Brawley Sherman. "My family and many of my students all volunteered time to clean and renovate a beautiful space that I share with other instructors as a way to offer even more healing arts classes to the community."

Not that starting a new business is ever easy--in the beginning, Brawley Sherman was busy completing a 200-hour training in how to teach yoga in San Francisco, in between trips to the U.P. to lay the groundwork and research how to start her business. She did it with the support of a family experienced in small business, as well as a "day job" that still gives her flexibility in scheduling.

"One of the most uniquely rewarding aspects of returning to a small community is experiencing how life comes full circle.  It is truly an honor to have some of my former teachers plus my own parents in my classes--I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to a community that provided me with a wonderful upbringing. "

That circular nature of life is even more evident as, Brawley Sherman says, she's now able to weave both yoga and life in a small town into her daughter's upbringing in turn.

"Now my greatest joy is being able to share the practice of yoga with my 8-month-old daughter," she says. "Needless to say, my own yoga practice continues to evolve through a life for which I am very grateful."

In Marquette, two women are expressing their passion for style and art through two different small retail businesses. 

At Curious Cargo Antiques, part of the Third Street shopping district, owner Lana Lemire has turned a traditional retail location into something totally her own--and totally enticing to shoppers trying to stay on the sidewalk.

The shop has a heritage in retail, previously being the location of Dancing Bears, also an antique store which moved on to a bigger space elsewhere. Lemire stepped into the void left on Third Street four years ago, and for her, it was a labor of love.

"I had worked for an auctioneer in my twenties and had always collected antiques since I was a teenager, so it was a good fit," says Lemire. She had just moved to the area from Wisconsin, and had a background in sales. The choice was before her as to whether she would become an entrepreneur or keep working for someone else.

"It was either start my own business or continue my sales job selling heavy equipment maintenance supplies," she says. "I felt this would be more fun for me, and I had nothing to lose because I could always go back into sales."

Turns out, there's been no need for that, as the shop is still going strong with its signature mix of antiques, locally crafted items, gifts, and vintage clothing, as well as rehabilitated antiques Lemire creates.

"I get to find great historical pieces along with great rehab projects, and at the same time I learn more of the history of the Marquette area, which I find extremely rewarding," she says.

In contrast, you can't exactly call Boomerang Retro and Relics an antique store. Yes, there are amazing vintage clothes finds, and retro-styled housewares including pieces from the 50s and 60s that could be labeled antiques by virtue of their age.

But what sets Boomerang apart is the vibe--decidedly bright, decidedly new. It offers up both nostalgia for those remembering lost decades, and practical, usable items like furnishings, art and décor for the hip household of either the 1960s or the 2010s.

Owned by Jessica Shull, Boomerang is still in its first year of business on Washington Street in downtown Marquette, but if the buzz among local shoppers is anything to go by, it'll be around for quite some time.

Based on these women's examples, the old adage of doing what you love seems to hold true--and have meant success--for small business owners or entrepreneurs.

Kim Eggleston is a freelance writer and editor in Marquette, Michigan. You can find her on Twitter @magdalen13.
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