Saluting women in business1/8/09

Women impacting Williston

Jan. 8, 2009

This week is Women’s Self Empowerment Week. To highlight the occasion, the Observer is profiling four women who have created names for themselves in Williston.

Ginger Morton

Bead Crazy

Six years ago, Ginger Morton, 52, was “looking for something to do with the rest of (her) life that was fun.”


    Ginger Morton

A trip to help a friend in Minnesota nudged her toward realizing her goal. Morton’s friend owned a bead store, and they enjoyed going there “every single day” during Morton’s visit.

“You should open a bead store in Vermont,” her friend suggested.

An accountant “by education, trade and previous experience,” Morton decided to research her friend’s suggestion. She even attended a course in Maine for those interested in opening a bead store. After being convinced the idea was a solid one, she sought financing, but found the effort fruitless. Neither banks nor the Small Business Administration would loan her start-up funds.

“If I’d been a man owning a sporting goods store, I don’t know if it would have been different,” she said. “But being a woman certainly didn’t help.”

She moved ahead with her plans anyway, self-financing the endeavor with only a third of the $90,000 in inventory she has today. Bead Crazy opened in the Taft Corners Shopping Center more than five years ago, and is a success story, offering beads and handmade jewelry, as well as beading classes and parties for kids and adults.

Her advice to other women who want to start a business: “Do your homework … and go for it if it all adds up!”

— Marianne Apfelbaum, Observer staff

Jill Lang

Williston Food Shelf

Finally, Williston has its own food shelf.


   Jill Lang

It started with an idea and a need, said Jill Lang, president of the Williston Community Food Shelf. Back in the spring, Lang decided the town needed its own spot where residents could pick up food when times became hard.

By rallying a community to action and collecting food and monetary donations, Lang started the food shelf over the summer and found a temporary home for the nonprofit organization at Maple Tree Place.

Lang said she’s proud the food shelf was able to get started in only a few months time and is proud of the community’s backing. She acknowledges there will be difficulties in the future.

“Our biggest challenge is still finding a permanent place for the food shelf in town,” Lang said.

She said the success of the Williston Community Food Shelf comes from the large numbers of volunteers who have given their time stocking shelves and helping families cope through the hard economic times. They’re the real heroes of the food shelf, she said.

— Tim Simard, Observer staff

Cayce Ludwar

Williston Jazzercise Fitness Center

Cayce Ludwar says her “silent” business partner in the Williston Jazzercise Fitness Center had a tremendous influence on her, both personally and professionally.


   Cayce Ludwar

“From a very young age, I have worked and watched my mom work to support our family,” she said. “She taught me the importance of getting up every morning, putting both feet on the floor and going to work. More importantly, she gave me the foundation to grow into the woman, business owner and mom I am today by letting me fly and never setting limits on myself.”

Ludwar’s working life soared to new heights about three years ago when she purchased the local Jazzercise franchise. She has guided it to unprecidented success. “It is a platinum-status center, one of the most elite of all franchises worldwide,” Ludwar says.

Williston Jazzercise has over 300 members and a staff of more than 25 — all women. The center offers 60-minute workouts fusing “dance and muscle toning movements choreographed to today’s hottest music,” Ludwar said.

Her mother’s example has set the tone for how she conducts her business, with community service being a top priority.

“We support organizations that are close to our hearts as a center and organizations that directly impact the lives of our members,” Ludwar said. “I can absolutely say that I have a job that I love, and one that is so very rewarding.”

— Marianne Apfelbaum

Kathie Cooke

Paper Peddler

“I want to create the old general store feeling,” said The Paper Peddler’s ambitious new owner, Kathie Cooke.


    Kathie Cooke

Cooke’s energy and enthusiasm for the store she purchased one year ago is evident. She gushes about the store’s eclectic inventory and praises her all-female staff. “Everyone who works here has a passion for what they are doing … they love the store,” she said.

Located in Maple Tree Place, the 25-year-old business now boasts gifts, candy, cards, stationery and collectibles.

“I maintain affordable products, but with quality,” Cooke said. “I like having U.S.-made and Vermont-made items, and go for uniqueness, too.”

Cooke’s husband saw online that the store was for sale and brought it to her attention.

“It hit me that this would be kind of fun…and here we are!” said the 51-year-old former tax practitioner and volunteer EMT.

With business holding steady — “It’s going great … Christmas was awesome!” — Cooke, who cites Oprah as an inspiration, encourages others to follow their dreams. “Don’t be afraid of a challenge. Being a woman doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” she said. “If you have a passion for something, you can succeed.”

— Marianne Apfelbaum