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As we open our season with the musical Little Women based on the beloved Louisa May Alcott novel, we were inspired by Jo March who followed her dreams to the career and life she wanted. So we decided to celebrate some local women who also had the courage and strength to follow their dreams. 

These are determined women who mean business.


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Meet Elise Miller, owner of Lake Country Bed Barn in Hartland.

Elise Miller is the co-owner of Lake Country Bed Barn, located in Downtown Hartland and a new location in Waukesha. Mattresses are in Elise's family, her father owns the original Bed Barn in Watertown, WI, that started in a barn on her family farm as a child. The Hartland location was opened shortly after the birth of her first daughter. 

Elise went to school at Carroll University and graduated with a degree in Elementary Education, taught for a few years, moved into the corporate world and then decided to open her own business to help give the flexibility and time she needed to raise her daughter.  After the birth of their second daughter, her husband, came to work at Lake Country Bed Barn full-time.  

Elise loves the opportunity owning a business gives her to raise her daughters, be more involved in the community and being able to work with and help it's residents. Elise organizes two events in downtown Hartland (Hartland's Neighborhood Night Out and Downtown Hartland's Sidewalk Sale), is involved with the Downtown Hartland Business Improvement District, Hartland Chamber, Waukesha Chamber and other various networking groups. 

[LCP]: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace or start their own businesses?
[ELISE]: Work Hard!! Always, take the extra step. Those who are organized, respectful, show passion and problem solved on her own are bound to do well!  When you start your own business it does not get any easier.  The hardest part when I started was getting myself on schedule and committing my time to my business.  When you don't have a boss dictating your time and tasks it is easier to push it aside and go do something else.  Although, if you really are passionate about what you do and why you do it you should be having fun while running your own business.  I have so much more to I could share, but I don't want to scare you away from starting your own business. I am no expert in business but I love to sit down with other business women and talk about our experiences, share advise and problem solve.  I always learn from those connections we make and am trying to improve.

What was your dream job as a kid and why?
I always wanted to be a teacher as a child.  I think because I loved a lot of my teachers!  As, I grew older, I followed that career path and went to college for Elementary Education.  I did teach for four years before moving into the corporate world and then starting my own business.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Honestly, I think the pressures on working mothers and how they are to balance their work and family.  The amount of maternity leave that is the minimum required in the United States ultimately leaves women a with some hard choices when those six short weeks are up and they are to return to work.  This what ultimately made me start my own business so I could be more flexible and I could be the primary care taker of my daughters.  As my daughters enter the work place and hopefully decide to be parents, my hope is that they will be in a place that they will continue to be supported after they have children.

What woman/women inspire(s) you and why?
I work very part time at the YMCA Pabst Farm and my immediate boss, Michele S, inspires me to be a better boss and and leader in my business and a better mother.  She is the best boss I have every worked with because she is always there and supporting you!  Even with tough conversations, she some how forms her thoughts and communication in such a way that everyone leaves happy and ready to make a change for the better.  She is a problem solver and ready for whatever problem you give her!

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
The biggest challenge I see for the generation behind me going to be trying to filter through the chaos of this very technical, social media driven life that we have and being able to make yourself standout. Those women who can make themselves standout by working hard, making real connections, and being truly empathetic to those you work with will be able to help them achieve the success they desire.  

Lake Country Bed Barn is located at 122 Cottonwood Avenue, just behind Beer Snobs and southwest of Lake Country Playhouse.