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Creativity pays off for Utahn

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Hydee Willis knows that following a passion can pay off.

At 6, she designed and sewed her own doll clothes. Today, she is president and CEO of Creative Expressions, a Murray-based provider of specialized embroidery, screen printing, advertising and promotional products.

In between, Willis was a wife, mother and legal executive secretary, but she loved sewing and design work. She left her legal career to design and make children's clothing and award-winning wedding gowns.

For a decade, she worked out of her home sewing such things as drapery for building complexes, school uniforms and theatrical costumes, as well as baby bedding and other accessories.

After taking a break to raise her five children, Willis founded Creative Expressions. The company started out monogramming clothing, and Willis planned to work entirely from home.

But after having trouble securing financing, Willis decided to move her business to a strip mall to give it a more professional cachet. From that 800-square-foot beginning, the company has grown to its present 22,000-square-foot facility with dozens of employees.

Willis has received national recognition for being one of the first in her industry to form partnerships and share facilities with related companies. At Creative Expressions, Willis' employees work with a screen-printing company, a graphic art studio and a design firm. Thus Creative Expressions can offer a wide range of marketing and promotional products and services.

Willis believes in sharing her expertise, and she walks the talk. She is president of the Salt Lake chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and serves on the Utah Micro Enterprise Loan Fund's credit committee and the Salt Lake Chamber Women's Business advisory board.