Kenzie Meyer ’18 and Haylee Ruestman’18 took the entrepreneurial route after graduating from the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State. Originally from Minonk, Meyer and Ruestman were convinced that Illinois State was the place for them.

Ruestman recognized her love for fashion when she began college. In her junior year, she switched to apparel merchandising with a business administration minor. “From there on, the idea of owning my own business didn’t seem so farfetched.”

Ruestman was passionate about fulfilling this dream and began researching what she needed to begin the buying process just before graduation. Working part time at Bath & Body Works, she turned her one-bedroom home into a women’s fashion boutique. In October 2018, White & Rustic Boutique had a storefront in her hometown.

Kenzie Meyer holding a mortarboard that says Adventure is out there.

Kenzie Meyer

Similarly, Meyer’s entrepreneurial dream was sparked at Illinois State. Meyer now runs a fast-growing day care business in Minonk. “I never thought about owning my own business, but I knew I wanted to work with children. I started babysitting at a very young age and was fortunate to be able to work part time at Katie’s Kids Learning Center in Bloomington while I attended ISU.

“My human development course work and the experience I gained while working at Katie’s Kids really helped me further my interest in working with children and got me thinking of owning my own business. As I approached graduation, it felt natural to come back to the town I grew up in, where I still had many contacts, to start my day care.”

Starting and managing a business requires passion and commitment along a journey that can be challenging. For Meyer, becoming a licensed day care provider was a lengthy process. Also, she had to hire talent because a growing business typically requires a larger team.

“With the responsibility of caring for children, it became necessary for me to find reliable people to work alongside me. Being a new business owner, I am still learning, but the main lesson I have learned is the importance of staying organized. There are many tasks to plan weekly, with two of the main ones being employee scheduling and meal planning/preparation. Since the number of children I have in my care changes often, I need to make sure I am following the correct teacher to child ratio. By staying organized, it helps me deal with the unexpected challenges that come up throughout the day.”

Haylee Ruestman

Haylee Ruestman

Crushing big goals does not come easy, and Ruestman is a testament to hard work and persistence.

“Honestly the journey has been a roller coaster of emotions with several high highs and low lows. Some days, I am in awe of the number of customers that support the business and myself. On other days, I think to myself, ‘What the hell was I thinking?'” she said. “Even with all the lows, I wouldn’t change a thing because I can look back and know that I put everything I have into this business to bring something back to my small community. Even with all the work that went into and continues to be put into White & Rustic, I am truly pleased and blessed with how the process has turned out.”

Staying organized, planning, saving for the rainy days, enjoying the process, and asking for help are some of the tips Meyer and Ruestman shared with aspiring entrepreneurs. Meyer recalled a time when she received help from a business class at Illinois State. The class adopted her business as a case study for their project. “They gave me many good ideas regarding advertising, pricing, licensing, marketing and much more. Although it may be intimidating thinking about starting up your own business, do not be afraid to ask for advice, as most people are eager to help,” she said.

Finally, Ruestman advised budding entrepreneurs to start as early as they can. “Time goes by quick, so you can’t sit back and wait for something to happen,” she said. “I honestly wish I would have begun the filing process sooner, so I would have been able to start selling items while in school and have the extra funds to save.  Work hard, be honest, ethical and stay true to yourself.”

We’re #Redbird proud of Meyer and Ruestman!