Woodstock CEO helps turn around family firm
Patricia Miller, owner of Matrix IV in Woodstock, recently faced a vacation in Peru unlike most. It included a train derailment and two-day transportation strike.
While no one was injured, she eventually reached the much-anticipated Machu Picchu and other sites. The experience, it seems, wasn't unlike taking over her family business. It was a struggle that, ultimately, led to something great.
"Manufacturing is still very much a boys club, but I have been grateful to meet many talented men and women working in it," said Miller, 33. "I have found most of them to be very supportive of what I'm doing and being able to meet them all at the table."
That table has been a long time coming.
Miller is the granddaughter of Raymond Wenk Sr. of Crystal Lake, who founded Matrix IV in 1976 as a tool maker that later turned to injection molding. While Miller grew up around the business, she was never directly involved in it.
She carved out her own career. She earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Iowa, a graduate degree in legal and political theory at the University College London, England, and worked for a senator in Hawaii. She then jumped to Eli Lily, working in the Hawaii office and later at the Indianapolis, Indiana, headquarters as well as in Shanghai, China.
Afterward, she switched to a smaller, entrepreneurial company in San Diego, California, doing marketing for a biotech company.
That's when she returned home and visited with her family. Her grandfather's company was struggling and "it had no path forward," she said. "It didn't make sense to keep it going if there they were not reinvesting in it or moving it forward."
A major client had taken their work to China, and Matrix was suffering. Miller even encouraged by her grandmother to liquidate the company after reviewing its records.
Instead, when Miller returned to California, she began asking advice among some professionals and returned home again. She decided to acquire the company and move it forward, she said.
"It was like taking over a 39-year-old startup," she said.
She grew the workforce from 9 to 26 and plans to add more. She said has more than tripled its revenue in the past year.
"I've been pleasantly surprised," she said. "I didn't anticipate acquiring this company and didn't see myself as a CEO, but my mind and heart are completely behind it and I want to keep in business," she said.
Helping some boomers with tech
Paul La Schiazza, president of AT&T Illinois, which has its Midwest headquarters in Hoffman Estates, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and others are expected Monday in Aurora to work with people, age 50 and older, who want to learn more about their tablets and smartphones. It's hosted by AARP TEK, or AARP's Technology Education and Knowledge, which launched last year by AARP with support from AT&T.
Surprises planned at Tiques
Julie Abernathey, co-owner of Tattered Tiques in Lake Barrington, said her shop will feature a holiday open house on Nov. 11, when they introduce their holiday merchandise. "We at Tattered Tiques keep it all a big secret until it is all revealed that night," she said. "Last year, there was a line out front with people waiting in anticipation for the doors to open. We were pleasantly surprised to have the shop so packed all night."
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