Persistence pays: Julie Ingleman designs remarkable career

LAKE SHORE - After a fast-paced and demanding career, where she developed her own company and had corporate giants for customers, Julie Ingleman was exhausted.

LAKE SHORE - After a fast-paced and demanding career, where she developed her own company and had corporate giants for customers, Julie Ingleman was exhausted.

She was ready to leave the 15-hour days and working vacations. Her company, Ingelman's Designs, handpainted textiles, bedding, wallpaper and dinnerware. After 20 years of it, she was ready to be done. She took her time closing the company in her renovated turn-of-the-century office building in Hutchinson, giving her staff time to find other jobs. Closing the business, even though it was the right move, felt like a loss, she said. But, sitting in a boat in the middle of the lake, she knew it was the right decision.

However, when she found she was talking too much to the UPS driver, she realized she was struggling being alone after all those years working in a busy office. A two-week trip with a group of designers re-energized her.

"It just changed everything for me," Ingleman said. "By the time I came home I was so excited to work."

Then a friend she'd worked with before said he had a meeting at Walmart if she wanted to send anything. Ingleman said she didn't have anything to send. But she ended up putting three boards together with designs. One was an apple jack pattern with red and green gingham. It became the No. 1 selling design at Walmart. Ingleman had 4 feet of space in every Walmart store. Her design was used on dinnerware, clocks and table linens. It was the No. 1 pattern for five years at Walmart. And Ingleman did it without an office building or staff or overhead. It was all from her home-based business - Julie Ingleman Designs.


That was 25 years ago.

Trim, youthful and vibrant, Ingleman - now 66 - continues to work in her home studio. She still gets calls for that apple jack design.

Her competitive spirit was evident early. Growing up in Columbia Heights, she was a shortstop for the local baseball team for practices. But when it came to games, they wouldn't let her take part because she was a girl.

Early in her career, Ingleman packed up rolling cases filled with designs and ideas and set off for New York City. She set up interviews asking for five to 10 minutes time. When they showed her into conference rooms before the executives arrived, she filled the space. Idea boards were highlighted by texture - buttons, bows, fabric.

Taken aback by the presentation, the executives would say with some incredulity - "Who are you?" She told them she was just bringing a little bit of Minnesota. On her first visit, three of the four companies wanted contracts and the other wanted to buy her work outright. Her hotel room was $45 a night. She said she was inexperienced enough to think a girl from a small town in Minnesota could call up people she wanted to work for, get on a plane for her first visit to New York City and get work.

It was a different time. There were a small number of designers and a growing retail industry. Now she said retailers make cattle calls to look for ideas and designers have agents.

"It was fabulous," Ingleman said of the early years. "Retailers don't want someone like me anymore."

Early on, Ingleman had her sights set on designing for Dayton's. Instead she was given the offer of being the first designer at Target.


"I said 'I don't want to be at Target,'" Ingleman remembers. "I want to be at Dayton's." The man assured her that she wanted to be at Target.

"Someday," he said. "You will remember this conversation."

Ingleman had 5-6 different bed designs in Target plus designs at JCPenney and Sears.

Ingleman's company, based in Hutchinson, grew to employ 20 women. In her career, Ingleman designed for everything from 19 wallpaper books to bedding, housewares to Christmas paper, greeting cards to aprons and pillows.

Now, Ingleman works in her airy and organized studio. Designs printed on letter-sized paper hang from metal clips on a thin strand of wire across one wall. A art station is in one corner. In the center of the room is a work station dominated by large Mac computers. Next to Ingleman's chair is a cushion for her rescue cat, Sally. An expansive glass wall separates the studio from her husband's home office. It gives Ingleman the quiet she craves for work but allows them to be connected. Ingleman's days in the studio typically begin about 5 a.m. She still enjoys graphic design. She sends out 10 to 12 new design collections. Sometimes the ones she loves don't sell. Others she may think are just OK find buyers. And sometimes, designs that are seven years old are the ones in demand.

"Most of the time I have too much work," she said.

She has three to four primary customers at a time and usually three to five smaller ones. When a Brainerd company was looking at ways to celebrate 75 years in business, she came up with a year-long campaign, complete with time schedule, events, a book, video and commemorative memorabilia, save the date cards.

Ingleman's graphic design continues to go into books, including one on Madden's history, calendars and rugs.


Her family saved every nickel for years in order for her to be the first one in the family to go to college. She attended Gustavus Adolphus for a year, then married young and had two sons. When the marriage ended, Ingleman's sons were age 1 and 4. She was on welfare with no money for a vehicle or day care. She took a night class at Augsburg College. It was the college's first program for adult students. It was 1975. She graduated

summa cum laude. The first social event she attended at college was graduation. Then Ingleman moved to Hutchinson and there she would be part of starting two companies, one a collaborative effort with Lynette Jensen of Thimbleberries fame for a St. Nicole line of Christmas products. Ingleman said it was a wonderful start and later they each went out on their own, with Ingleman buying her out.

Now she still creates designs for manufacturers like Atlanta-based Homefires Rugs and works on local projects like the menu for Cowboy's restaurant.

She continues to enjoy learning new things.

"I love that first few hours of the creative process," she said.

She advises people if they have the ability to do it to give it at least three years to see if they can make it work. Ingleman said she was successful in business because she was persistent.

"I never gave up," she said.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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