By Isabel C. '17—

On Wednesday, I job-shadowed the owner of local small business Northwest Printed Apparel, Julie Howard. I stayed at her building, along with my classmate Yunhao, from 9 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon. I’d known Julie a little from last year, when we went to her to make shirts for our Pi Day fundraiser, but I hadn’t really spent any lengthy amount of time with her. I was pleasantly surprised to find the day engaging and enjoyable. I learned not only about the specifics of T-shirt making and the pros and cons of different methods, but about the challenges and benefits of running a small business where you are in essence the only employee.

I also learned a fair bit about Julie herself, a former army major who retired after her son was born premature and with a rare brain malformation that hampered his balance and trunk stability, to found It’s a Preemie Thing, her first company. It’s a Preemie Thing, devoted solely to custom shirts based around common experiences of parents of premature children and the children themselves, soon expanded into Northwest Printed Apparel when the demand for other topics rose. She’s a wonderful woman, firm and capable—and full of stories about her now 6-year-old son, who I discovered was not only blisteringly smart but had a hilariously sarcastic sense of humor. (Meeting her dog, Prescott, was also a high point in the visit.) All in all, this was one of the most positive and interesting experiences I’ve had in a while. I’d love to go back and visit again, or even work for her, sometime soon.