Iverson seeks wilderness: From sand to snow, entrepreneur makes big change

David Fettig | Managing Editor

Published July 1, 1991  | July 1991 issue

It's a long way from Las Vegas to Shingleton, a small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (U.P.), and a long way from the medical profession to manufacturing snowshoes—but that's the journey, in a nutshell, of Anita Hulse, president and owner of Iverson Snowshoe Co.

When Hulse and her husband, a retired doctor, moved to Shingleton in 1986, their intention was to spend their retirement years preparing a business for their children. Three years after they purchased the fledgling snowshoe company, however, Hulse's husband died and she was left to carry on the business.

At about the same time her husband died, a large Eastern catalogue began carrying Iverson products—Iverson is one of just two all-wood snowshoe companies in America—and sales soon quadrupled from the year before. For a company with three on-site employees that cut, bend, shape, sand, drill and finish the shoes, the extra work was hard to manage.

"There are enormous problems with that kind of growth. We made a lot of mistakes," she says. "It got to be more than anyone could handle." Hulse also employs 20 others who lace the snowshoes at their homes.

Since then, Hulse and her two sons and one daughter, ages 23 to 31, have settled into a business that Hulse describes as "generating debt for eight months and paying it in four." She has four sales representatives stationed across the northern tier of the United States and into Canada, a country that is fiercely parochial about snowshoes, she says.

Hulse says the managerial aid of the Northern Economic Initiatives Center at Northern Michigan University in Marquette has been "invaluable." And it is in the area of business management where she says she has learned her most valuable lessons over the past five years: "I don't think you just wake up one day and say: 'I'm an entrepreneur.' You have to manage that business every day. You have to be disciplined."