Owner, Willow Haven Home Furnishings and Decor
Major in International Relations
by Cheri Siebken
Teresa Phillipson '96 can never be accused of following the easy path. She came to Knox in fall 1993 as a nontraditional transfer student.
"I was a single parent with a full-time job, commuting an hour to take a full load of classes. It was just too much." Going to Knox saved her the commute, and, as head resident of Post Hall, the money savings allowed her to cut back on work hours. An added benefit was being able to live on campus with her daughter. "She loved it here—riding her bike on the sidewalks around campus, hanging out in the library while I was doing research. Her birthday was during winter break, so we had a slumber party for 6- and 7-year-olds in Post Lobby."
After Knox, Teresa worked in agriculture, then moved into healthcare as administrator of Western Illinois Cancer Treatment Center, a position she held for 16 years. She's proud of the work she did there, adding service lines and helping patients maneuver financial obstacles to receive life-saving treatment. But the death of her brother and the lessons learned from patients made Teresa realize she didn't want to look back on her life and say "I wish I had . . . I was comfortable with what I was doing, but not excited anymore." Instead of following the safe path toward a comfortable retirement, she took her savings and opened Willow Haven Home Furnishings & Decor on Main Street.
"It's not a furniture store where you see row after row of the same thing. It's unique items," says Teresa, who carries custom and hand-made furniture, as well as pieces by local artists. "I really like to work one-on-one with customers, going into their home to help them create their own haven-their sanctuary."
Teresa considered opening her store in a larger market, but wanted to stay in her hometown and invest here. "I'm excited about downtown and the things going on here." And while owning her own business comes with its share of worries, she doesn't regret the path she's chosen. "I can't wait to get here. The days just fly by. I'm happy."