Deb DeWilde enjoys all aspects of sewing, knitting and embroidery! She views alterations as being focused on engineering, and she finds quilting to be more about the creative process. Whether it’s a creating a quilt from scratch or adding in the final stitches, the creative element is what keeps Deb hooked.
This pursuit of creativity led Deb to open Need’le Little Retreat, a small business located in the heart of downtown Wisconsin Rapids. The business held their first retreat in September 2017. The retreats are basically a group of family or friends checking into the historic five-bedroom home for a weekend to spend time together and focus on a project. One favorite activity of past visitors is sewing late into the night. Similar to other rental properties, the kitchen is fully stocked with dishes, utensils and appliances. The home also boasts a large deck with a beautiful view of the grounds, a cozy living room, a roomy sunroom and a workroom.
The workroom features 12 individual workstations specially designed with drop down table tops to allow for single surface sewing. These same stations can be converted to one solid surface for scrapbooking and other crafts. Because the lower story features a longarm sewing machine (which is commonly used to sew together a quilt top, quilt batting and quilt backing), the business is very much geared toward the fiber arts. However, scrapbooking and wool-hooking enthusiasts love the space as well.
THE OPEN SEW AND EDUCATION
In addition to retreats, the business also offers open sew days, quilting classes and needlework workshops for locals to enjoy. Participants have access to design walls as well as cutting and pressing stations and Deb’s expertise! She is happy to offer guidance or a second opinion on a design. She welcomes and encourages questions about whatever a client might need. Her current offerings include classes focused on creating an expandable tote or a quilted clock. Some of the upcoming quilting classes highlight a two fabric bargello as well as floating and overlapping Dresden plates.
With so much to offer, it was not surprising the business took off like gangbusters! Deb retired from her full-time job at the Department of Transportation in April 2018, when Need’le Little Retreat got so busy she could no longer juggle both. However, that type of success wasn’t always easy to find.
In the early days, simply finding a location for the business proved to be a challenge because so many candidate homes were zoned in residential areas. Deb had previously worked with SCORE, an organization that assists entrepreneurs with business plans, and after she found the perfect location, the next challenge was to find an organization to help develop a website. A friend advised Deb to meet with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-Stevens Point where she met Melissa Meschke, Center Director and Business Consultant.
“Melissa has been invaluable to me,” Deb said. “She is encouraging and knowledgeable, and she makes me feel like family. I still contact Melissa and she still checks in with me on an ongoing basis to help with any new developments.”
Marketing was always a struggle for Deb, too, but Melissa offered suggestions on how to reach out and network. Melissa also helped Deb with reviewing contracts and other business mechanics such as invoicing and structuring time.
Accomplishments with UW-Stevens Point SBDC:
- Contract review
- Time structuring
Deb is thrilled with Need’le Little Retreat’s current operation but hopes to add more workshops as well as basic and longarm sewing classes. She is even considering a teen summer camp. In the summer of 2020, she and her ever present husband Gary, along with her many daughters, plan to completely re-side and paint the exterior of the house in keeping with its historic look and feel. Next year, they want to focus on re-establishing the gardens. The plantings in the outdoor space were a huge focal point of the home at one time and Deb hopes to restore that aspect with the possibility of using the grounds for photography and a garden walk. The future looks very bright indeed for this booming small business!